Not long ago, a parent of one of the children in my ministry walked up to me after church and said, “My daughter was asking me questions about what it means to be saved. I don’t want to confuse her, so can I set her up an appointment with you this week? I’m sure you can explain it better than I can.” As a veteran Children’s Pastor of over 20 years, parents have asked me to talk to their kids about every conceivable spiritual question. I’m happy to help, but my answer is always, “No.”
Too often, parents and grandparents believe they aren’t qualified to impart spiritual wisdom to kids. Many parents are hesitant to take on the role of primary spiritual influence in their kids’ lives for several reasons:
• They’re concerned they won’t say the right words or they won’t be able to communicate in a way the child understands.
• They’re worried their child will ask them a question they don’t know the answer to—and then they’ll look stupid.
• They think theological concepts are just too hard to understand—for themselves as well as their kids—and aren’t willing to put in the time and effort it takes to shape their son or daughter’s spiritual life.
• They don’t want to fail at something so important, so they don’t even try.
I understand the hesitation. You love your kids. You want them to grow in their relationship with God, and you don’t want to “mess that up.” You don’t feel equipped to speak about deep spiritual issues on a child’s level. That’s the normal response of most parents and grandparents, but it’s completely off base. Here’s the truth: God’s plan is for parents to be the primary spiritual leaders of their children.
When my daughter, Ashton, was a little girl, Cherith and I began reading the Bible to her and praying with her. She asked lots of questions, and we had wonderful conversations. Then, one night, it happened. I was praying with Ashton before she went to sleep. She looked up at me and said, “Daddy, can I ask Jesus into my heart?”
I asked her what she thought that meant. Her answers showed me she definitely understood God’s love and forgiveness, so I led my daughter in the prayer of salvation.
It was an unbelievable experience! Cherith and I celebrated the amazing born-again experience of our daughter. I was on cloud nine! Over the next several days, I told everyone about God giving me the privilege of leading my own daughter to the Lord. I was present for the most important moment in my child’s life. It was one of the greatest joys of my life!
So now, when parents bring a child to me and ask me to lead him to Jesus, I explain the joyous opportunity they might be missing. I give them some pointers about how they can talk to their child about Jesus and pray together.
The gospel of forgiveness and eternal life is the good news that changes lives, but it’s also wonderful news that God wants to use you—a parent, a grandfather or grandmother, an uncle or aunt, or another loving adult—to be the primary spiritual influence in the life of the child(ren) you love. Pouring ourselves into young lives isn’t a grind. Far from it! The truth is that leading children in their spiritual development is one of the greatest joys in life.
It’s important to remember that your child’s response to the gospel isn’t up to you. We can’t make someone else believe. Our task is to be as loving and clear as possible, and then leave the results to God. In any conversation about God, there’s always another person present: God Himself! Before we talk to kids about God, it’s wise to talk to God about our kids. Here’s my prayer for them and for you.
Father, thank You for the precious children You have put in our care. We love them and we realize You love them even more. We ask You to open their hearts to understand the wonder of Your love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Use us to make it clear, and use Your Spirit to open little hearts and minds to grasp the truth. We ask, Lord, that these children will grow strong in their faith and become mighty warriors in Your kingdom! Continue to use us, Lord, to guide them, to correct them, and to love them every step of the way. In the wonderful name of Jesus, amen.
Now, you’re ready. You can do it!
Adapted from Talk Now and Later: How To Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics by Brian Dollar. Available from Salubris Resources.