Child Evangelism Fellowship has done a study which shows that most people who are now dedicated, committed Christian adults came to salvation between the ages of four and fourteen. This is important information for people who work with children.
It’s at about age four that the child’s conscience begins to develop. If someone has been teaching him about what’s right and what’s wrong since birth, then by the time he’s four years old he is beginning to internalize the controls instead of having to be controlled externally. He’s able to say, “I know that it’s wrong to hit and it’s right to share. It’s wrong to take toys; it’s right to help.” When a child begins to make those judgments, he is beginning to see that there are “rights” in the world and there are “wrongs” in the world. He can see that there is good and bad. He is starting to make judgments about his own feelings, his own attitudes and his own decisions– learning that what he chooses to do has consequences.
Around the age five, children begin to understand the difference between fantasy and reality, and by the age seven thy begin to comprehend symbolism. Because so much of what we talk about in the salvation message is symbolic, it’s important to take advantage of the special “a-ha” moments as they occur in thier spiritual development.
“A-ha, this is reality, this is fantasy.” “A-ha, I can choose between right and wrong.” “A-ha, my choices make a difference.”
All of these little happenings are sparks of understanding as children grow into the elementary years and begin to sense thier need for God. They’re now becoming aware that in order to hanfle some of the problems they meet in the outside world everyday, they need someone who is with them all the time.
“Mom’s not with me, Dad’s not with me, my Sunday School teacher’s not with me, so who can I trust? I need someone who’s with me all the time. I need someone who is wise. I need someone who can protect me and help me. I need someone who is strong.”
What they’re sensing is thier need for Jesus. They are realizing their vunerability. They’re realizing that Jesus is the only one who can save them.
If we miss these opportunities, these special moments in which we can share Jesus, we risk not being able to reach them again for some time. The teen years and young adulthood are a time of forging self identity. There’s a temptation to feel and act invincible. The danger is in beginning to feel that they are in control – “I can take care of this. I can handle this problem.” It is crucial to talk to them while the need for Jesus is very real.
Before you start sharing the salvation message with the children, you need to explore what the message means to you. The Bible says that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak. If what Jesus has done is important to you, it will come out. And it should come out with passion. When you begin talking about this with kids, they should see in your face and body language–hear in your tone of voice–just how important it is. “Now kids, everything else I say will never be as important as what I’m about to tell you.” Seeing this in you will be the one thing that truly communicates this message.
One Easter, I was teaching a group of kids about Jesus’ resurrection and I was relating the part about Mary going to the tomb and finding it empty.
“She goes into the tomb and nobody is there. She doesn’t understand. ‘Where’s the Lord? Where is he?’ She’s upset. She’s crying. Then she hears a voice behind her. ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ Mary turns around with tears flowing down her face. She says to the man she thinks is the gardener, ‘They took the Lord’s body away! Where is it? Just tell me where it is, I’ll go get it!’ Then Jesus calls her by name. ‘Mary,’ he says. Now she recognizes his voice. She says ‘Lord!’
As I told the story, I started crying. In the room there were two year olds and sixth graders and all ages in between. You could have heard a pin drop. I had to compose myself and blow my nose.
“Let me tell you why I’m crying. It’s because Jesus saved me. See, it was supposed to be me who died. It was supposed to be me on the cross because of the bad things I’ve done. But it was Jesus instead. Look at me standing here, whole. My feet don’t have nail prints in them. Jesus did that for me! It’s so wonderful, you see. I may seem clean on the outside, but inside my heart is dirty with sin. But Jesus took the punishment that I was supposed to have. He took my sins. Now I’m clean and pure and spotless.”
Kids need to see that this message is important to you. You have to reach inside yourself and realize what salvation means to you before you can tell kids about salvation, because out of the abundance of your heart, your mouth will speak.
© Karyn Henley Resources. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Karyn Henley Resources
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