Teaching Kids About Salvation

Revelation

photo by Stuart Caie

A few weeks ago, my friend Sandra from Celebrate Every Day wrote a post about “asking Jesus into your heart” on The MOB Society. Her basic premise is that the term “asking Jesus into your heart” is at best confusing and at worse bad theology. She gave some great scriptures about salvation and discussed some good alternative phrasing and how to talk to your children about the most important decision they’ll ever make–becoming a Christian.

{Really, before you go on, you should go back and read her post. It will make the rest of this post make more sense. Plus, it’s a great post!}

Everyone jumped on the comments–discussing their concerns about how to talk to their kids about salvation. Here’s the comment I added:

I think the “ask Jesus into your heart” comes from Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” I know he doesn’t specifically say “door of your heart”, but the idea is that Jesus IS standing at the door of your life and waiting for your to invite Him in. So, although the phrasing can be confusing for kids, I don’t think it’s inappropriate. But there are MANY confusing concepts for kids…how can Jesus be here and in heaven? how can he and the Father be one? How can the HS be in our lives and is He the same as Jesus? How can He be God and be a baby in a manger? How did he heal people with a word? It’s the same questions adults have.

As a former Children’s Pastor (which doesn’t make me an expert, I’ve just talked to more kids/parents than the average bear), I think there is NO way to explain it w/complete clarity. Because if we admit it, WE don’t understand it all. We have a relationship w/God because we love Him and can’t live w/o him, not b/c we’re so smart and all our questions are answered!

We sometimes forget that GOD is the one wooing our kids. It’s not up to us to get all the words and theology right. It’s up to us to introduce our kids to His love and laws. God will woo them. He will convict them and if they say the sinner’s prayer, or jump up and down during a worship song and say, “Jesus, you are my best friend!” or quietly weep on their beds and say, “I need you, Jesus”, it’s the heart and the intent that Jesus hears and understands.

I want my daughter (4yo) to pray that “sinner’s prayer” but I also know how deeply she loves Jesus and how she wants to honor him. Soon, she will be asking me why and how and when she can make her relationship “official”. But as with any relationship, there is growth and development. As parents, we are to facilitate that with our kids and Jesus. And not “look down” on them because they are young–but to set them up to know and love and understand God!

{and you thought I was only wordy on the blog!}

After reading her post and writing my comment, I could NOT get the discussion out of my head. Because as Christian parents this really is our goal. All the Bible verses, crafts and games are nothing if our kids don’t place their trust in Jesus. All the sharing, gentleness and memorization are worthless if they don’t have a relationship with their Heavenly Father.

So, I told Sandra that her post got my head and heart pumping so much I want to start a series on Impress Your Kids about salvation. I’d like to talk about the specifics of salvation for kids–my “philosophy”, the hows and whens, the avenues and yes, the metaphors and object lessons to use.

But what I really want is to hear from you. How do you teach your child about salvation? What questions do you have? Do they have? What help can I give you when discussing this most important topic?

Please leave me comments, questions or thoughts below. And each week for the next few weeks, we’ll discuss ways to help our children do more than know ABOUT to Jesus, but to actually KNOW Him!

See the whole series…

Part 1: What Jesus Says About Kids

Part 2: Can Kids Be Saved?

Part 3: On THEIR Level

Part 4: Welcome Home

 

Comments

  1. Oh Amanda et al., your words are a God-send of encouragement. I have no doubt of my children’s love and belief in God but have recently felt an urgency in have my 7 y.o son make his relationship with his Savior “official”. We talk, play games, crafts, read, go to church, serve etc. etc. (you’ve peeked into our lives!) but it has to culminate into that relationship. I want him to “ask Jesus into his heart”, to “say the sinner’s prayer”, but as we’ve talked about it he replies “I just can’t”. I’m left in almost utter panic! I don’t want to push, I don’t want to make it harder than it is in it’s simplicity but understand the enormous implications if I confuse him. In prayer and anxiousness, I look forward to your upcoming posts!

  2. Bethany B. says:

    I would love to hear some suggestions!! My son is only 19 months so I’ve got some time, but it’s my number 1 wish for his life that He know Jesus the way I do or better. So far, we’re doing a short morning devotion, singing praise & worship songs, and prayers throughout the day (meals, bedtime, etc.), but I’d love to hear tips and thoughts from others on the subject.

    Thank you!

  3. I love this post and it’s dialogue. I agree with her post, in the sense that I too have struggled immensely with “asking Jesus into your heart”. I had a moment like her’s when I was five and later doubted my “prayer”. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I understood the Lord’s overwhelming capacity to love me. And I’m still learning it.
    I want my children to know they are sinners and the need for a savior and I don’t think it involves a one time decision when they are 5 or 6 at vbs.
    I first need to make sure that I’m seeking Him first. I cannot hope for my children to follow the Lord unless they are first seeing it our lives as parents.
    I’m looking forward to your series :)

  4. WHY does all this activity HAVE to end with your child asking Jesus in? Isn’t Jesus already standing beside your child, observing all of the things you do to observe and repeat the grace of god’s teachings? Would Jesus really be all that disappointed that you played games, spent time talking about the mysteries of the universe, served at soup kitchens and emulated good and helpful behaviors? Isn’t god smart enough to know who did what and sort it all out later? Why isn’t acting in the recommended manner enough? We always say to our kids that actions soeak louder than words. Stop pressuring your kids or they will rebel, not only againsy you, but god. You’re making the things you are teaching your children all about you and your own fears!

    • Jane Doe:

      I hear what you’re saying. Actions do speak loudly. And that’s why Impress Your Kids exists…to help parents do all the “things” to help woo their kids to the Lord. But God doesn’t just “sort it out” at the end. Jesus asks us to CHOOSE Him. He even says the door to heaven is narrow and only a few will get through it–even though many will try. (Luke 13) It’s not about the STUFF we do. It’s about the RELATIONSHIP we have. It’s not about the ACTIVITIES we’re involved in. It’s about how much our HEART is involved with Him. And that’s what I want to dissect in this series. In fact, the whole point is that I DON’T want to pressure my kids. I just want to know how to effectively show them that life with Christ is the best choice instead of letting them stumble through life w/o Him.

      If you’d like to talk further, please feel free to email me: amanda at impress your kids dot com

  5. Crazy! I have a post already done, and coming this month at MOB Squad about this- the importance of knowing the Gospel, so that we can clearly teach it to our children.

    I think it is important to know the gospel, just like we would know it if we were doing “evangelism”, and be ready to share with our kids, as we go, whenever there are opportunities.

    Our job is to teach them and model to them the gospel. (Deut. 6:7) Clearly, genuinely. All the while depending on the Lord; petitioning Him to draw their hearts to Him!

    I’ve heard it put that our job is to gather kindling. Sticks, twigs, bits of straw here and there- all preparing for the Holy Spirit to come and light it all on fire!

    • Katie–I LOVE that description of the fire! It’s exactly what Paul said, too–we are just planting and watering. GOD makes it grow! I think the sad thing is (and is one reason I started IYK) is that some parents don’t realize (or understand) they have been given the ability (and the command) to gather that kindling and to plant those seeds. They tend to just say “Well, I take them to church. I hope it sticks.” I so want to KNOW the Gospel so my kids will too! Thank you for the great comment!

      a

      • It IS such a great analogy! (Again, I did NOT come up with it!)

        It it such a great picture of our responsibility. We MUST take it seriously, and be as active as we can, all the while seeing that it is God alone that can light the fire!

        I appreciate your blog, and your heart for helping us teach our little ones the Gospel! (Plus, I don’t have the craft-gene, so I appreciate good (and easy) ideas when I see them!)

  6. Loved this post. I agree with you that there are so many complex concepts that are a challenge for kids (and us) to understand – why avoid the heart one? My 3yo is very intrigued with the concept of asking Jesus to live in her heart – though she’s confused about how He will get in – through her ears, through breathing, etc. I know it’s all being stored in her mind, and while the pieces don’t all fit together, a big picture is being developed (albeit only in part) as she grows. I’m just thrilled at her interest – and the “heart” illustration fascinates her, so I am definitely using it.

    Today we had a discussion about a toy she had accidentally broken. After I told her I couldn’t fix it, she wanted Jesus to come, because she knew He had the power to fix it. In tears, she kept asking why it was taking so long for Him to come. We had a long discussion about heaven and the whole controversy between Satan and God, and on her level, she really gets it.

    Another homeschooling mom was discussing discipline issues – and how there’s nothing we as parents can do about the heart (that’s up to God), but we CAN focus on behavior and making sure THAT is in line with God’s wishes.

    I so much disagreed – behavior is important, but I’d rather have a misbehaving child (which I do) whose heart is right (in gratitude, service, and submission) than a perfectly behaved child who, even subconsciously, thinks his actions are saving him.

    Now, if I could just get that behavior thing figured out… :)

  7. Oh, Amanda! I am so thankful that you are taking this on… I feel like I am such a loss b/c I was not raised as a Christian and accepted Christ much later in life – I have no idea how to “do” this with my kids! I’ve been making it up as I go…

    We are at a big place with Elias, too – he WANTS to share in the Lord’s table when we meet, but we want to make sure he really understands what is happening and that he is God’s before he does – and not that he just wants to have some bread and juice. That seems to be the current motivator, but it has led to some amazing discussions – like why we celebrate the Lord’s table, and how we remember Him and what He did for us then.

    We have also always talked about God living in our hearts, so we need to listen to God’s voice when He is speaking to us. So I feel like I cannot say “ask Him into your heart” – in fact, I think I did say that once, and Elias said “but He’s already here!” So I have emphasized instead that we need to made a conscious choice to live our lives for Christ – to let Him be the Lord of our lives and all our actions, knowing that His death was for our sins because He loves us so much – and that is how we know we will be His forever. When that conscious choice is made, I think we will see in it our kids – I’m praying it will be actually living their lives for Christ instead of just saying words… Elias has said “the words” (I am living for Christ! I want Him always in my heart!) but I am afraid again it was at my prompting, and there was no heart change in him. It was also a year ago or so, so he, as a new 4 yo, did not seem to completely understand what he was saying.

    But we talk about it constantly – living for Christ, the way God wants us to, choosing Christ in any situation, listening to God’s voice – and I pray that this combination and our continuous prayers will help them choose to be men after God’s own heart!

  8. Hey- thanks for this post! Really great stuff to chew on! Also, just thought I’d introduce myself… I’ve been reading your blog for several months. My hubby and I are missionaries in Thailand and I’m starting to preschool homeschool my 3.5 year old. So it’s really great to see what other moms are doing with their little ones!

  9. Amanda Cross says:

    I know this is an older post, but I was saying Psalm 27:1 with our 3 year old son. He asked, what is salvation? I wasn’t sure how to explain it rightly and also on his level. I said, if you fall down and cannot het back up and another person comes and helps you up…that is salvation. I also said that Jesus saves us because we are born in sin. I probably botched it all up. I would like some ideas for when he might ask again.

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] have been thinking about this Salvation series for two weeks now. And the more I think about it, the more nervous I get. I have never been shy [...]

  2. [...] all my thoughts on salvation for kids: intro, part 1, 2 and 3. and don’t worry, this is my last week of pontificating on philosophy and [...]

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