Friday, June 10, 2011

Communicating the Gospel to Children

Let me start out by saying it is not my job to convert my children. There is no gaurantee that my husband and I will raise godly adults. It is the duty of Christian parents to teach and train their children according to Scripture in a Gospel-centered home. (The Gospel is simply the Good News for my bad news brought by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.  It is not limited to salvation, or even sin, but also the effects of sin.) It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict and save. I do not believe anyone can be convinced, debated, manipulated, scared, pushed or begged into a real relationship with the Lord. As parents, we can not be stumbling blocks, but stepping stones towards Christ.

My husband and I teach our children every night by reading Bible stories. The following book for children was given to us by my in-laws. The one on the left is the 4th our family has owned. The one on the right is what the other 3 look like.

Our children have combed these pages. Though we have found this book to be accurate, it does not give every story, or the full details of the stories it contains. So here's what my husband purposed to do since our first child was two years of age: It is his philosophy that we will let the Bible raise the questions for our kids. He reads the story nightly. I read on the nights my husband isn't home. He will ask the kids questions to see if they have grasped the information, and give them an example of how it applies to every-day life. The kids ask a lot of questions. Sometimes the answers are directly quoted in the Bible, so we'll further explain it or show it to them from the pages of Scripture. Now that our oldest is 8, we are starting to read more texts of Scripture and less out of the children's book.

The "training" comes when they need to be showed what to do or how to think. We hold out the "law" or the rules to our children. When they fall short, we show them their need for a Savior. Here are some practical ways we have made our children aware of their need during specific situations:

Mom: "you need to share with your sibling."
Kid: "I don't want to."
Mom: "Of course you don't. That's why you need Jesus to help you." or
"God shared His Son with us. Jesus shared His life with us. We have been given a great example, and God can teach you how to share."

Family Conflict
We seldom let our kids work out their conflict by themselves because God stepped into human history and taught us how to deal with ours. Once they have been trained, then I can say "talk to your sibling first and if you can't work it out, come to me."

We purposely use the language of forgiveness. It's okay for my child to say "I'm sorry" if she really means it. More often than not, the child is not sorry for their sin, only for the discipline they are about to incur. I can not make my kid feel any emotion that leads to repentance. But I can make them practice by admitting what they did wrong and asking for forgiveness. Example: "Would you forgive me for biting you? I shouldn't hurt you." "Would you forgive me for ripping up your drawing? I was being selfish, and it is wrong to mess up other people's things."

Defiance towards parents
After my husband had finished disciplining one of our children, I noticed the child stomp out of the room and mutter under breath, "I don't love you anymore." What did I want to do? Shame our kid for disrespecting Dad like that. What did my husband do? He got eye-level with the child and calmly said: "that makes me very sad. I want you to know that I will always love you. God loved me a long time before I loved Him."
Wow! What a perfect example of "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." It is God's kindness that leads us to repentance, and this father's kindness softened that kid's heart.

When they feel shame
One of our girls feels easily embarressed when she gets caught sinning. She will run away from us and bury her head in her bedsheets. We remind her this is what Adam and Eve did in the Garden. They hid because they were naked and ashamed. But what did God do? He covered them with animal skin clothes. "Sweetheart, you do not need to run away or be afraid of us. We love you and you're covered by grace."

One of our children is notorious for tattle-telling. The kid runs to me with that obvious whiny tattle-tale voice and says "____ did such-and-such." I reply "It sounds to me like your brother/sister needs Jesus just as much as you do. Do you think you are better than them?" Ahhh, yes, Jesus is the solution for self-righteousness.

Competing against one-another
When Kinley and Cade were toddlers, they would race in the living room. Cade became very frustrated, emotional, and upset because Kinley could beat him. I tried several solutions:
"Don't worry, when you get older, you'll get faster and you'll win a lot."
"Cade, you're good at other things. You can catch a ball, jump really high, etc, etc."
"Winning isn't important. Having fun is what matters."

None of that satisfied him. He can't have fun unless he's winning. It doesn't matter if he can beat her in other things, because he sees this one area where he just doesn't match up. It's that awful comparison game we all play with other people. A Christ-focus is the only solution.

"Okay kids. New game." I went to the other end of the living room and got down on my knees. I spread both arms out wide and said, " The goal is to get to Mommy." They both ran across the room with a lot of giggles. One ran into my right arm and the other my left, and it didn't matter who got there first because I swooped them up and tickled them until they were overcome by laughter. In that moment, I just displayed what Jesus did for us on the cross. Arms spread wide in self-sacrifice, bringing to us a new kind of race. Run, hop, crawl, or roll a wheel-chair to Jesus, because we'll forget about our physical limitations and be overcome by joy when we stop looking at each other and focus on the Cross. Christ is the cure for competition and comparison. I want them to imagine Him when they feel insecure.

When their Mommy loses it
I can make myself look pretty good when I'm teaching my kids about their sin. But they see mine too. I can will-power some self-control about 10% of the time. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, that percentage is way higher, but it is UGLY the moment I start walking in the flesh. In those times, it is important that I practice what I teach them.

"Mommy is tired but that is no excuse. When Jesus was tired, he didn't use his tone of voice to hurt others. Would you forgive me for yelling at you?" (I want them to know, it is not their fault.)

"Mommy is very frustrated. Now, your job as a child is to obey me. That is your responsibility. But it is my job to teach you in a way that honors God and I didn't do that. Would you forgive me for speaking angrily?" ( I want them to know they are not off the hook, but I will take 100% responsibility for my actions.)
My husband and I have been taught well. We didn't come up with this info on our own; there are many godly people who have influenced us. We pick and choose the ways we want to pass this important message to our kids; we don't always make the mark, but grace covers us too.


  1. Excellent post Tonya. I'm wondering when part 2 is going to be. I don't have kids yet, but you wouldn't mind if I were to borrow a few of your ideas in the future would you?

    On another note, I thought I'd share with you a blog I'm doing. Started it last year, dropped it, now I'm trying to pick it up again. It's called Portraits and Perceptions and it is at...

  2. Joe that is the most encouraging thing ever!!!

    I read your blog and tried to comment but couldn't post it. As soon as i figure out how to "follow" ppl it will be sooo much better. I somehow only managed to follow myself. I'm so lame!

  3. Hahaha! Only managed to follow yourself huh? Here is what you would need to do. On the right hand side of my blog, near or at the top, it should say "Followers". Currently as I type this, I have none. Under that heading you should see either a button that says "Follow" with the words "With Google Friend Connect" under it, or the phrase "There are no followers yet" with a link under that which says "Be the first!", or you could see both of those things. You need to click on that button or link. It should brink up another window or tab that gives you the option to follow either publically or privately (I'd generally follow publically) and then click the button that says follow. For commenting, I think it is easier to do when you are already signed in to your google account (I think by using blogger you have a google account). That's what I use at least. Hope that helps! If you're still having issues, check out blogger help section, or just keeping playing around with it until you get it working for you. Happy blogging!