“What’s wrong?” I said, almost panicked.
The 7-yr.-old across from me had suddenly burst into tears as I asked him questions about sin—questions I had used dozens of times before with children who responded to gospel invitations in summer Bible clubs.
But this time was different. This little boy was literally sobbing with conviction over his sins. “Wow!” I thought. “I wish I were as sensitive about my sin as this child is.”
What an awesome thing it is to be able to help a child come to Christ!
In the last blog, we talked about how you can insert the gospel into almost any Bible lesson. But then what? Do you have kids “walk an aisle” and kneel at the front of the classroom? Do you bring a wading pool into your room and tell anyone who would like to be saved to jump into the pool so you can baptize them? What do you do?
After explaining the gospel in your lesson, you need to let the children know that God commands them to respond to the gospel. YOU are inviting them, but GOD is commanding them to respond. You can either tag this to the end of your explanation of “the way” of salvation, or you can save it as a parting application of your lesson.
You will probably develop your own method of asking children to respond, but a helpful method I’ve found is to have children first bow their heads and close their eyes. This helps maximize concentration. Next, you can say something like, “If you would like to trust Christ as your Savior, you can ask Him to save you right now. If you have questions about how to do that, please talk to me after class.” Then, toward the end of class, have your assistant lead the class in a review game or other activity, while you make yourself available at the back of the room for children to come talk to you about how to be saved.
Terminology is important as you invite children to respond to the gospel. To you, it might be old hat that “becoming a child of God,” “being saved,” “receiving Christ,” and “receiving eternal life” are phrases that all mean the same thing; but to children who are uninitiated in the art of “Christian-ese,” hearing all these terms can muddy the waters. Pick ONE phrase per lesson and use it consistently.
Also, pick one “response phrase.” By that, I mean, don’t ask a child to “trust Christ,” “believe on Jesus,” and “ask Jesus to wash their sins away,” all in the same lesson. Pick ONE phrase and use it throughout your lesson.
As a side note, avoid the phrase “ask Jesus into your heart.” This phrase confuses younger children especially, who wonder how on earth Jesus is going to fit inside their cardiac organ! I can’t tell you how many children I’ve talked to who are confused by this phrase. Besides, this phrase is found nowhere in the Bible! Try some of the more biblical phrases listed in the paragraph above. I think you’ll find that they’re actually easier to explain.
So there you sit, at the back of the classroom. You just told children, if you would like to talk to me about how you can trust Christ, I’ll be at the back of the classroom.” A surge of adrenaline hits you as a child stands up and walks to the back of the classroom. Now what?! What do you do?
Don’t panic! The first thing to do is ask WHY they came back to talk. They may have just heard you say, “If you want to talk, come to the back of the room.” Resist the urge to prompt them! Let them tell you why they came. If they can’t, then they’re not ready.
Next, find out what they understood from your presentation of the gospel. Ask questions that demand more than “yes” or “no” answers! If you sit there subconsciously nodding your head while you ask, “Are you a sinner?” of course the child is going to give the right answer! He/She wants to please you! So, ask questions that make them think. Here a few you could try:
- “What is sin?”
- “Who has sinned?”
- “What is the punishment for sin?”
- “What did God do so that your sin could be taken away?”
- “How did Jesus die?”
- “What happened after Jesus died?”
- “What do you need to do to be saved?”
At this point, bring out your Bible, if it’s handy, and show the children an invitation verse like Romans 10:13—“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Reiterate that there is nothing that anyone can do to save themselves. Only God can save sinners. Then ask them, “Would you like to call out to God to save you?” As silly as it sounds, WATCH YOUR HEAD AT THIS POINT. You’ll want to nod it. DON’T! Let the child wrestle and ponder the question for himself.
There is no magic formula for helping a person come to Christ. And the good news is that God can work despite our feeble or botched efforts.
Keep the gospel central!