Today is the final post in my series on how to help your child begin a relationship with Jesus. Up to this point, I've shared some tips on how to:
- Establish a good understanding of the character of God
- Help your child understand their need for a Savior
- Teach your child what it means to make Jesus "the Lord of his life" and
- Have a "closing the deal" conversation with your child.
In this post I'd like to offer a few final thoughts to consider as you prayerfully seek to help your child begin a relationship with Jesus.
I believe that it is possible for children to put their faith in Jesus and truly become a Christian at quite a young age. Both Andy & I had this experience as young children. If your child shows tenderness toward the Lord at a young age and a desire to honor Jesus with his life, encourage that and help them to cultivate that relationship. If your child does accept Jesus as their Savior at a young age, it is likely that they will have another experience (perhaps in middle school or older) when they feel they make their faith more their own. This is common because as their understanding grows, their commitment to Jesus should grow deeper as well. They will transition from piggy-backing on their parents' faith to cultivating their own independent relationship with Jesus. Andy & I both had this experience as well.
With that said, it is imperative that Christian parents don't push their children into making a decision that the child is not self-motivated to make. Making a premature decision can be very confusing for the child spiritually as they grow up AND it can create a false sense of "I'm okay with God" or "My kid's okay with God" when really that is not true at all. Due to the naiveté in children and the trust they have in their parents, most parents could convince their children to make a decision to followJesus or say that they want to be a Christian. What 6 year old, upon learning the reality of hell vs. heaven, wouldn't jump at the opportunity to be sure he/she was going to heaven?
It's really a delicate balance...
Failing to capitalize on a child's spiritual tenderness at a young age is a HUGE mistake because if they don't learn to respond to the promptings of God on their hearts when they are young, their hearts tend to grow harder as they get older. So parents should pray fervently and work diligently toward the goal of having their children enter a relationship with Jesus. But, they have to keep checking themselves to make sure they are not pushing their child beyond what he/she is ready for.
Also, we have to remember that our kids are learning what it means to be a Christian by watching us live our so-called "Christian" lives. They learn how to pray and how often to pray. They learn about repentance and forgiveness. They learn how important Scripture is to every day life. They learn how to calculate God into decisions. They learn about compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, joy, and peace from watching our every move and every interaction with them. If we are following Jesus with all of our hearts, they will have a much better understanding of true discipleship then if we serve them some form of luke-warm Christianity.
Finally, we have to remember that, ultimately, the decision is a personal decision between the child and Jesus. We cannot make the decision for them, nor can we take responsibility for the decision they make. There are so many parents who try to create the very best environment for their child and do all the right things to help their child grow spiritually, but the child doesn't respond. If that is where you are today, please know that Jesus has heard every prayer you have prayed on that child's behalf and not one of those prayers (or tears) have fallen to the ground. He has caught them all and they are precious to Him. And let me encourage you to continue in those fervent prayers because as long as there is prayer, there is hope! Trust in the God who loves your child so much more than you do!