Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel

Our book club has been learning about the importance of regeneration, or the new birth.  We learned that parents often assume children have been born again based on a child's prayer alone and yet new birth is a miraculous event that bears fruit over a long term.  If fruit is not present in the life of the child as they grow and mature, it is possible that we have mistaken spiritual interest for true saving faith.
I also referred you to an important sermon series on understanding the new birth by John Piper that was pivotal in my understanding of what happens in salvation and in my own salvation experience in particular. 

Today I want to help with another resource that will help you to understand your role as a parent in explaining the gospel to your children and how they come to genuine saving faith.

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel by Sally Michael, Jill Nelson and Bud Burk

Part one of this book talks about preparing children for the gospel.  It uses the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) to explain how parents can sow tend and harvest the seeds of the gospel in the lives of their children.  One thing that was important for me to learn in this section was to understand the "soil" of my children's heart and how that affects the way the gospel is received. 
Most children are not yet "hardened" by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13), so they often respond to spiritual teaching eagerly.  They love to hear the stories of the Bible and sing songs about Jesus-many young children are even eager to pray to receive Christ.  Sometimes this is genuine saving faith, but often it is only a spiritual interest.  We need to discern the difference between spiritual interest and saving faith.  Spiritual interest may be a step on the journey toward salvation, but it is not salvation. (pg. 11)
One of the dangers of misinterpreting spiritual interest as genuine saving faith is that it can lead to spiritual neglect, or encouraging a child to live a life that is pleasing to God without the heart change that is necessary to do so.  "A parent who has presumed salvation may not continue to pray for the child's salvation or continue to encourage the child to trust in Jesus and instead treat the child as a Christian in need only of further sanctification." (pg. 12)  The solution?
The job of the sower is to keep the Gospel in front of the child- to keep sowing the Word of God upon every opportunity; to break up clumps of soil with discipline and training; and the water the seed with unceasing prayer. (pg. 12)
The section goes on to describe the growth in the faith of a child, based on approximate ages and stages and how the parent can be attentive to the needs of each stage.

Part Two of the book is on presenting the gospel to children.  Specifically it explains how the gospel that is usually presented to children is more of a "life-jacket" type of gospel rather than the true gospel of scripture.  Why is this an important distinction?
This changed gospel puts man at its center instead of God.  It presents a plan instead of a Person.  It seeks to comfort but not convict.  it is a message that calls for acceptance of Christ but not repentance.  it simply encourages acknowledging true facts rather than embracing and submitting to the One who is both Savior and Lord.  It enslaves men to works instead of freeing them to do good works.  (pg. 30)
What follows is a clear presentation of the important themes that children need to know and how to present them in a way that will be understandable to children.

Part Three of the book is perhaps the most practical as it is a devotional guide for families in 10 lessons.  This is a great resource for fathers to lead their families in as part of family worship or devotion time.  The devotions are short, clear and include helpful hands on illustrations that require little to no preparation time.  This is an invaluable resource for parents and children alike to clearly understand the gospel.  It will not only help you explain the gospel to your children, but probably also help you to understand it better yourself!

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel can be purchased from Children Desiring God in either print or electronic form.   You can also check out their other resources for parents here.

This post is linked to the Kids in the Word Wednesdays blog linkup at  Check out the other posts for more great ideas on keeping your kids in the Word!

The Pelsers


  1. That looks like a great book. I'm going to have to look into that one. Thanks for linking up with Kids in the Word at!

  2. Thanks for the Link Up, Amanda! I enjoy reading your blog!