The Preschool Years
The preschool years of a child’s life are important for building a spiritual foundation that will support the child throughout his entire life. Through concrete, literal teaching of who God is, who Jesus is, and that the Bible is true, we lay foundations which seed the gospel in the fertile soil of a child who is learning. Many neurological connections are being made in the preschool years. The church must be active to teach during these years so that our teaching helps to develop the preschooler physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
Ages four through seven are important in the formation of child. During these years the table for learning is set for the rest of this child’s life. It is during this time that the child begins to have the slight ability to think abstractly. Because of this, a child will begin to form a conscience. This conscience is usually able to recognize when he has done wrong and sometimes may even help him make right decisions before he chooses wrong. However, many children at this age are not yet able to accept personally responsibility for doing wrong (sinning).
Being a Child
Around the age of seven or eight, the conscience through the work of the Holy Spirit will begin pricking a child’s heart about the times that he does not do right. He will begin to realize that this does not please God and will take a personal interest in doing right. Sometime during these middle and older childhood years, God will impress upon him that he cannot undo what he has done. This will convict the child of his guilt and bring him to a point of salvation. Through this process the Holy Spirit is allowed to do His work in the life of a child.
It is easy to coerce a child into a decision to please an adult whether it is parents, pastor, teacher, or other people of influence. The key is to allow the Holy Spirit to do the work He needs to do in the child. Adults do not need to be a cheap imitation of the Holy Spirit in the life of a child.
Here are some tips when counseling children about salvation:
- Deal with each child individually. Children are unique and their signs of conviction are unique as well.
- Use terminology that the child can understand. Remember children are literal thinkers. Avoid symbolic language.
- Be conversational. Always ask questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response. Encourage children to express their own ideas.
- Answer questions honestly and leave the door open for further questions.
- Only answer questions the child asks. Allow children to be curious without assuming they are under conviction.
- Don’t rush a child. Wait for the child to indicate interest before making an effort to talk with the child about conversion.
- Use the Bible and rely on it. (Admit, Believe, Confess)
- Do not violate a child’s privacy. Having a child name his specific sins is not necessary.
- Avoid giving rewards. Children desire to please adults and receive gifts.
- Trust God to do his work. In His perfect timing the Holy Spirit will draw children unto Himself.
Use the ABC’s of becoming a Christian with a child:
- Admit that you are a sinner: Repent, turn away from your sins. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
- Believe that Jesus is God’s Son and accept God’s gift of forgiveness from sin. John 3:16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
- Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Romans 10:9-10 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.
Special attention needs to be given when a discussion with a child turns toward the act of baptism. Many children (especially younger children) directly tie becoming a Christian with being baptized. Many will come forward to “be baptized.” They say they want to be baptized to become a Christian or that they are not a Christian yet because they have not been baptized. The person talking to a child about becoming a Christian must make sure the child is not tying becoming a Christian with baptism. The two acts must be separated in many children’s minds.
The best way to handle a child who continues to bring up baptism is to discuss salvation only and stop at that point. Once a decision has been made – “Yes, I want to become a Christian” or “No, I’m not quite ready yet” – stop the conversation and pray. After the prayer, if the child has become a Christian, remind the child that he is already a Christian because of what you have already discussed. Then say, “There are several ways to let people know about what has happened in your life. You can tell people about it. You can tell your friends about it. You also need to come before the church and be baptized. Baptism tells people that you have given your life to Jesus. Even Jesus was baptized and He has asked that all people who become Christians get baptized.”