Chances are your church is planning Vacation Bible School, Wonderful Wednesdays, field trips or other fun opportunities to engage the children of your church and community this summer.
Building relationships with children and families, outreach, and discipleship are all great reasons to consider hosting these kinds of events. As you plan and host these events, be sure that you are intentional about sharing the gospel.
Presenting the gospel to children is one of the highest honors and responsibilities of children’s ministry. As you prepare to share, here are five considerations that will make this presentation more effective.
- Ask open-ended questions.
A child’s commitment to become a Christian should be more than a raised hand in a group gathering or box that’s checked on a card. It’s important to see these indicators as a sign of interest in becoming a Christian and follow up individually with each child. Ask them why they expressed an interest in knowing more about becoming a Christian. Ask open-ended questions that allow them to express what they are thinking in their own words. These kind of questions permit them to respond honestly and in their own way and time. Assist them with vocabulary that may help them explain what they need to express. Avoid peer pressure and manipulative or fear provoking presentations. Never offer a physical prize for saying yes to Christ.
- Involve parents and family
Contact parents and allow them to be part of the presentation if they desire. Through contact with a parent, you may discover that a child who is not part of your church has already made a commitment to follow Christ. If so, help parents understand the need and responsibility to disciple their child. You may want to offer resources or training about discipleship with children. If parents are not Christians or are not actively involved in a local church, this may be a great opportunity for follow up with the entire family about the wonderful gift of Jesus and how your church can become a family ministry partner.
- Be prepared to share.
Train yourself and your volunteers to present the plan of salvation clearly and concisely. Understand that younger children have short attention spans and are quite literal — they see what you say. Sometimes using “church words” creates confusion and fosters bad theology. In the church we say, “give your heart to Jesus.” Think about the picture this creates in the mind of a child who thinks literally. It’s better to say, “make Jesus the boss or leader of your life” or “give Jesus control of my life.”
- Focus on belief not behavior.
Make sure the complete gospel is presented to a child and not just a list of dos and don’ts or platitudes about behaving well. The gospel requires a response to our awareness of personal sin and need for forgiveness. If children do not understand their own sin and responsibility for that sin, they are not ready to make a commitment to Christ. Honor their interest and encourage them to continue learning about Jesus. Never belittle or discount their interest or desire. Children’s ministry leader Art Murphy calls this kind of interest the “labor pains” before the arrival of the new birth in Christ. In truth, if you can effectively present the plan of salvation to a third-grader, you can clearly and effectively present this same message to anyone! For more information about presenting the gospel to children, download this free resource titled, “Sharing the Plan of Salvation with Children.”
- Emphasize ongoing discipleship.
If a child makes a commitment to follow Christ, understand that the task of discipleship is not complete. Meet with parents to discuss next steps for follow up. Be sure the child has their own Bible. Some versions that are kid friendly are the New International Version, CSB Big Picture Interactive Bible, and the “Hands-On Bible” (New Living Translation). It may be helpful to offer resources for new Christians that are available from LifeWay such as “I’m a Christian Now!” activity books and journals. To encourage the spiritual discipline of Bible reading, consider suggesting “Foundations for Kids: A 260-Day Bible Reading Plan for Kids” that includes explanations and applications of each day’s reading.
The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 requires disciples to make disciples through teaching (discipleship) and baptism (evangelism). What a joy and responsibility to be the messenger of Christ! Know that your faithfulness and preparation play a part in seeing a child and, perhaps their family also, come to know Christ for their entire life.
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