- Recognize that the message needs to fit the child’s understanding. In other words, your teaching or presentation methods need to be appropriate to the age and development of the child. Examples:
- Many kindergartners through second graders can verbalize salvation facts and concepts, but they may not fully understand them yet. Since children in these grades are literal in their thinking, deal with abstract concepts concretely. Ask questions and show pictures. Their responses to questions you ask can help you evaluate their grasp of what you are teaching.
- Many third and fourth graders are able to see that sin separates us from God. They can distinguish right from wrong. They can grasp the fact that God loves them and wants to forgive them and that God has provided the means for this forgiveness. Children this age are growing in their ability to comprehend abstract concepts, such as the idea of justice. They can more fully understand forgiveness and realize the significance of making choices. They also have a better comprehension of death and the meaning of the resurrection.
- Fifth and sixth graders can understand the sinfulness of the human race and recognize that each of us bears a part in it. They can comprehend God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice for us. These children can realize and admit both their need for forgiveness as well as their need to accept that forgiveness.
- Seventh and eighth graders can deal with the doctrine of original sin and that they are helpless to meet God’s perfect standard. They are able to accept responsibility for their own sins and understand that they can be accepted by God through Jesus’ death and resurrection. They realize they can have a personal relationship with God.
- Explain the basic facts of salvation. Use Scripture, and allow children to explain what is read in their own words. Use language children can understand, and don’t assume prior Bible knowledge. These simple but basic facts should be clear:
- God loves me (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9).
- I have done wrong, and this wrong–called sin–prevents me from having a relationship with God (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; Isaiah 53:6).
- Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sin (1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 7:27; 1 John 2:2).
- I must accept Jesus as my Savior to receive God’s forgiveness (John 3:36; Acts 13:38-39).
- When I do this, I become God’s child (John 1:12; John 5:24; John 10:28).
- God gives me a new and fulfilling life (John 10:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 1:3).
- Pray for the Holy Spirit’s leading. Only the Holy Spirit can convict a child of the need for a Savior. Some children know the plan of salvation but have never been convinced of their own sin and their need for Jesus to save them. Some lack knowledge; others have wrong ideas about what it means to be or become a Christian.
- Try to establish an open atmosphere in class so that children feel free to talk with you and other teachers anytime. Personalize the message, but don’t force children into making a decision they’re not prepared for. If they are not ready, allow them time to gain more understanding.
- Help children be sure of their salvation. Some children express doubts about their salvation or aren’t sure if they ever responded to an invitation. Listen to their doubts and fears. If you lead a child to Christ, ask what it means in his or her own words. This will give you clues about the child’s understanding.
“Most people decide what they will do about Jesus–either wholeheartedly follow, merely acknowledge, or ignore or reject Him–while they are young. Most children are bombarded with cues regarding their eternal condition and fate, and they develop a rather deeply held perspective on the matter prior to entering high school.”
Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions