I've learned a lot about sharing the Gospel with kids over the last 7-8 years... mostly from the times I've felt like I put my foot in my mouth or like I might have raised more questions than answers for a child. I'm so thankful that I can rest in the fact that the Holy Spirit crafts what a child hears when I talk to them about Jesus, because there were times that I was sure I had ruined the Gospel forever for a kid. I recently was thinking about all the things I've learned, and thought I'd share them with you. Whether you are a parent, a Sunday school teacher, or someone who works with kids full time, these are helpful to remember (and may be helpful in talking with any person who is new to the Gospel):
- Remind kids that Jesus has always been the plan. God didn't make a big mistake. He knew that Adam and Eve would sin, and He planned for Jesus to be the answer to our problem of separation from Him before the foundation of the world.
- Church words might mean different things to different kids. Even if a child can use a word like serve, baptism, or salvation in the correct context - it doesn’t mean that they understand what it really means. Sharing the Gospel with kids is much more difficult than sharing about Jesus with an adult or someone with a larger vocabulary. Take extra time to explain anything that might be confusing and leave word pictures and metaphors out. (i.e. "Asking Jesus Into Your Heart" see this blog: http://centrikid.com/2011/07/13/taboo-words/#.U31MA1zfa8M)
- Be available to answer questions when questions arise, but don’t force it. We don’t get to determine when the Lord is working to bring understanding to a child, even though we so desperately want to push them there sometimes. Just be there when they do have questions, but don’t be discouraged if they don’t yet. You aren’t responsible for their salvation. You are just responsible for teaching the Gospel. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
- Don’t disregard a child just because they are young. I have a friend who succinctly explained that Jesus had wiped her heart clean with a paper towel during nap time while she was still a preschooler. The Holy Spirit had moved and she responded.
- It’s okay if a kid doesn't know every piece of doctrine about Jesus. Of course, there are non-negotiables here, but with those things that aren't essential to them understanding and accepting what Jesus did for them, just encourage them to match their devotion to their knowledge. I had a panic attack in junior high when I suddenly discovered something new about Jesus that I had not known before I became a Christian. I was so worried that it was something I should have known before, and that I might not actually be a Christian yet since I didn’t know. My pastor did a great job of explaining that we’ll always be learning more about Jesus, and that’s how it’s suppose to be! When we decide to trust Jesus with our lives, we are trusting Him with every area… even those we don’t know to devote to Him yet!