True Saving Faith—When is a Child Ready?

Back during Holy Week, we highlighted the message of the Cross and the glorious Gospel of Jesus . We also noted CDG’s resource Helping Children to Understand the Gospel. In this booklet, we outline 10 essential Gospel truths we believe children should be taught. But it’s also crucial to recognize a child’s spiritual readiness to actually embrace true, saving faith. Is there any way that we as parents and teachers can discern whether or not our children are genuinely understanding and embracing the Gospel, and not merely acknowledging the facts? In his excellent book The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for Your Child, Art Murphy says the following:

Children can memorize and repeat what they have heard their parents and teachers say, but that doesn’t mean that they understand it all. Neither does it mean that they are personally committed to those truths.

A few questions can determine where a child is spiritually.

  • Can the child explain in his or her own words the basics of becoming a Christian? When explaining how one becomes a Christian, does the child use “good works” answers such as “going to church, reading the Bible, getting baptized, praying being good,” etc.? Or do his answers mention his need for forgiveness?
  • Does the child have an affection for Jesus or a strong desire to be close to Him? Does he show a passion to follow Jesus or just a basic knowledge of the facts about Him? (2000, pages 73-74)

He also adds this very important consideration:

Does the child demonstrate a personal need or desire to repent of his sin? Is the child ashamed of the sin in his life? Knowing what sin is is not the same as being ashamed of sin. If a child is not repentant but goes ahead and makes a decision to become a Christian, then his decision is premature and incomplete. Letting a child think he can become a Christian without repentance gives him false assurance. As a result, he may never repent and therefore never completely finish becoming a Christian.

Loving Jesus is an important part of becoming a Christian, but that is not enough. If a child is led to think that he can be a Christian without repentance, he does not fully understand the need for a Savior. He may love Jesus but not feel the need for Him in his life. He may live his life thinking that everything is OK when it is not. (pages 75-76)

The entire book is a valuable resource for anyone who ministers to children. Pastor Murphy asks and answers thoughtful questions and corrects many misunderstandings related to faith and children. He acknowledges the decisive role the Word and the Holy Spirit, as well as noting the responsibility of parents and teachers. He provides valuable insights regarding a child’s spiritual development. Furthermore, he explains and connects the important roles of parents and church.

Photo Credit: Andres Dean on Flickr

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Children Desiring God.

6 Responses to “True Saving Faith—When is a Child Ready?”

  1. Andrew April 19, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Although multiple children in my life profess strong belief in Jesus, some of them are definitely stronger on the “following” part and on their answers to the questions posed. This blog post is important in highlighting the difference, one that I know I will need highlighted in the future.

  2. Gloria April 19, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    I have been skeptical about a child acknowledging his/her need for Jesus at a young age. “Do they really understand the truth? and know what they are doing?” I thought. Recently my husband and I have been attending a training for children ministry teachers where we talked about leading a child to Christ. The teacher warned us against the thought that a young child cannot understand the gospel at a young age. She stressed the importance of relying on the Holy Spirit to discern whether a child is ready or not. If he or she is ready and understand the gospel and his/her need for Christ, we should not delay them until older. Ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who calls a child to Himself and we should work with the Holy Spirit, not against the Holy Spirit. I thought that is helpful for me.

  3. Maxine April 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Very insightful. This from a mom who had a daughter savingly come to Christ at the age of four. All you say above is very good. I know also because when I was a child I thought the point was to become a member of the church and live a good life.

    Thank you.

  4. Wendy April 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    I find this topic interesting. Children are not mini-adults. They are children, with immature/child-like minds. They don’t think like adults. Our job is to love, model, teach, and nurture our children. They, too, are on a faith journey…that will grow and change throughout their lives.

  5. Susanna April 20, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    This post hit home for me regarding my own son. He prayed to receive Christ at a very young age – so young I almost tried to talk him out of it because I thought he probably didn’t comprehend what Jesus had done for him on the cross. But when he began to pray and ask for forgiveness, I knew he had grasped the understanding that he needed a Savior.
    As time has passed, I believe he feels secure regarding his salvation. However, as he hits his pre-teen years, repentance of his sins seems less than sincere. I pray daily that he will grow in his love and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
    Blessings to you for the work you do!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks:

  1. Monday Mix (4/29) | GEN.NEXT - April 29, 2013

    […] True Saving Faith–When is a Child Ready? – “Children can memorize and repeat what they have heard their parents and teachers say, but that doesn’t mean that they understand it all. Neither does it mean that they are personally committed to those truths. A few questions can determine where a child is spiritually.“ […]

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image