The prince of preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon once wrote: “The conversion of children is not expected in many of our churches and congregations. I mean, that they do not expect the children to be converted as children. The theory is that if we can impress youthful minds with principles which may in after years prove useful to them, we have done a great deal; but to convert children as children and regard them as being as much believers as their seniors, is regarded as absurd. To this supposed absurdity I cling with all my heart. I believe that of children is the kingdom of God, both on earth and in heaven.”
If one were to glean from the history of eminent Christians, one would discover that some of them were saved when they were very young in age. The founder of the Moravians, Count Nikolaus von Zinderdorf was saved at the age of 4; Richard Baxter, the Puritan preacher was converted when he was 6 years old; Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th Century preacher was saved at 7 years old, and Isaac Watts and Matthew Henry trusted in Christ at the ages of 9 and 10 respectively. Salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Thus God saves a person irrespective of age.
Why Evangelize Children?
- They Need Salvation
Children may appear like angels but in reality none of them are sinless. Romans 3:23 declares the universal truth that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The word “all” encompasses all mankind—including children. Children are therefore like adults, desperately in need of the gospel of salvation. Without Christ, children, left to themselves, will choose evil and turn away from God. Children are therefore born with a sinful nature. The sin of Adam was imputed to all individuals (Romans 5:12). David acknowledged this fact when he wrote in Psalm 51:5, Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Children are sinners under God’s condemnation. Therefore it is urgent that they hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their eternal souls are at stake. A child can be saved. He is never too young to understand the gospel. God’s effectual calling will convince him of his sin and enlighten his mind to the knowledge of Christ. Jesus saw the children’s need of salvation. Only He can meet their need for salvation, and therefore He invited them to Himself for eternal salvation– suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14). Since Jesus saw the importance of reaching out to children, we must likewise see this importance of evangelizing the young.
- They Have a Lifetime of Service for God
Once a young child is won to the Lord, he has a lifetime of service for the Lord ahead of him. The Lord used Samuel the prophet mightily ever since he was a child (1 Sam 1:24) and he was tireless in judging Israel with integrity and blamelessness (1 Samuel 12:1-5). How much potential in the Lord’s service lies ahead of every child who believes. After a gospel rally, an evangelist was asked by his wife how many people have accepted the Lord. His reply, “Three and a half.” The wife thought it was three adults and one child. But the response was “No, it was three children and one adult. For the children have their whole lives before them, the adult only has a half a life left.”
- They are More Ready to Hear the Gospel
Children are more easily reached than adults. Many adults are overwhelmed with their busy schedule. Coupled along with hardened hearts and self-centredness, this makes them difficult to reach unless the Holy Spirit by His grace regenerates their hearts. Children are easily taught, and their unprejudiced minds are more receptive to biblical truths. Having less social and personal restraints, they respond more easily. I like what a German pastor, R.C.H Lenski wrote about how children are so receptive to the things of God:
As the flower in the garden stretches toward the light of the sun, so there is in the child a mysterious inclination toward the eternal light. Have you ever noticed this mysterious thing that, when you tell the smallest child about God, it never asks with strangeness and wonder, “What or who is God? I have never seen Him” – but listens with shining face to the words as though they were soft loving sounds from the land of home?
Or when you teach a child to fold its little hands in prayer, it does this as though it were a matter of course, as though there were opening for it that world of which it had been dreaming with longing and anticipation. Or tell them, these little ones, the stories of the Savior, show them the pictures with scenes and personages of the Bible [and] see how their pure eyes shine, how their little hearts beat. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1943], p. 743)
The “Don’ts” of Reaching Children with the Gospel
Do not role play the Holy Spirit. We may fall into the error of forcing a response from a child that pleases us and unwittingly usurp the role of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work. Sometimes when we ask a child whether he believes in Jesus and he says No, we get edgy and force him to give an affirmative reply.
Do not create false issues. False issues include matters such as raising one’s hand, kneeling, coming forward and any number of things that might be imposed upon a child arbitrarily. None of these are necessary for salvation, but we can unwittingly make these issues important in the mind of a child and precipitate some type of shallow response.
Do not fabricate a prayer. It is common for one to pray the sinner’s prayer with the child but if the child is carefully instructed and the Holy Spirit has done His work then one would just need to tell the child that he needs to speak to Jesus to tell Him of his need and desire for salvation.
Do not tell the child he is saved—let the Word of God do that! When a child receives Christ as his Saviour, do not respond and say, “Now, you are saved!” We should point him to the Word of God and let God’s Word reaffirm his salvation. We can point him to Acts 16:31 or John 10:28.
Do not use tangible rewards in reaching out to a child. Many gifts like candies and stationeries are given to children who raise their hands to profess Christ. Linking salvation to tangible rewards is tantamount to sowing of the gospel seed on the wayside, stony or thorny ground (Matthew 13:19ff).
The “Dos” of Reaching Children with the Gospel
The gospel should be presented to children in the light of the necessary work of the Spirit in conviction. However diligence is needed to ensure that the language in evangelism is simple and according to the child’s level. Theological or biblical words like sin, repent, faith, grace, eternal life, died for our sins, and forgiveness should not be taken for granted but explained plainly. The underlying motive and universal language which a child understands is love.
Do draw out the child by finding out how much he understands or misunderstands in regard to the gospel, and ascertain his readiness to receive Christ. Ask the child to explain the way of salvation. Keep to the essential issue of the child’s need for God’s forgiveness and saving grace.
Do use the Word of God. Open the Bible, look at it, read from it, have the child read a portion (if he is able), and in other obvious ways convey the fact that the message that was presented comes from the Word of God.
Do encourage the child to pray. Saving faith has its object in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is a living Saviour and the child needs to understand that salvation comes through Christ and not the parents or teacher.
No child is too young to believe. May we give due diligence and the best of our abilities to bring the gospel to the children that God has entrusted to us, for when a child is won to Christ, he has a life ahead of him for the Master’s use. And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children (Isaiah 54:13)