Sunday, March 29, 2009

Q&A: "How do you know when a young child is ready to accept Christ? Our 4-year-old is asking questions about asking God into his heart?"

This question was answered by Bill White, one of our pastors and elders:

I have to confess that I first thought this would be a fairly easy question to answer. I thought I would throw out a few biblical concepts interspersed with a couple of personal illustrations and be done with it. It hasn’t turned out that way. I’m 3 weeks overdue, our Children’s Pastor is breathing down my neck, and I realize that I can’t possibly answer the question in 250 words or less. So as we begin let me recommend that you take time to download some teaching we did on this subject last spring as it will give you a more thorough answer than is possible here. With that being said, here are 4 suggestions for parents of young children who are struggling with this question.

  1. Let’s move away from the language “accepting Christ into my heart” and use the biblical language of believing and repenting. We need to call our children to believe that they are sinners who are estranged from God by their sin and that God has made a way for their sins to be taken away by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If they believe this then they will repent of their sins and follow Christ.

  1. Don’t think of your child’s conversion as a one time prayer but as an ongoing work of God’s grace that will become increasingly clear with the passing of time. Neither you nor your child should feel pressure to “settle” this issue before the Holy Spirit has made it clear. On the other hand we should never discourage our children from coming to Christ because they are young. Faith is not an intellectual exercise but a spiritual exercise. This means that your child’s largest obstacle is not a lack of knowledge but the deeper orientation of their heart that the Bible calls “sin”. Clear information cannot solve this problem. Spiritual blindness is a problem that can only be overcome by the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2). If this is true, then prayer for the work of the Holy Spirit in your child’s heart is as critical as teaching our children the Gospel.

  1. If a child is beginning to grasp the spiritual truths of the Gospel, they will begin to confess sin freely and desire to follow Jesus in how they respond to parents, siblings, friends, and teachers. This doesn’t mean that they will be perfect any more than you are perfect; it simply means that they will be sincere and they will grow in their love for God and others.

  1. Daily prayer is a wonderful opportunity to see whether or not your child is getting the Gospel. If their prayers reflect a growing sense of sin and a growing sense of God’s grace given to them through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, then you can know that God is at work in their heart.

There is no doubt that much more could and should be said, but this is a good place to start. May God give us all wisdom and grace as we seek to lovingly hold out the hope of the Gospel to the next generation.


  1. I visit quite often Grace Church, have raised my children. My children asked me about the Lord at age 5 & 6. I immediately told them as best I could about receiving Him, prayed with them as they claimed they had accepted Him, then set it up with the pastor of my church at that time for them to be baptized which they wanted to do. I myself accepted the Lord in a church service at the age of 9 and my experience was very real and I was shortly afterwards baptized. I also turned away for many years from the Lord but not the usual reasons folks do. When I returned I did not believe my ADULT status made me now a christian, it was the exact same God I had met that night in a church service in the mountains that pointed a finger at me and I knew HE was talking to me that I needed Him. I am now in my 50's. To say children don't understand at this age is to make judgements about what is in their hearts that ONLY THE LORD knows. As pointed out in one of the pastors posts, it is not our job to know what is in their hearts nor can we change their hearts. The Lord changes the heart of the child or adult WHO WANTS HIM, period. I've seen ADULTS accept the Lord or so they say and turn away and so my children turned away as adults as well, they may one day come back. But, I done what I was supposed to do as a christian and I feel as a parent, if they ASK ME and not someone else, then I was the one to lead them and tell them. But my suggestion is we are not to judge. We lead them like anyone else that might ask us how to receive the Lord and let the Lord be the judge. Others may disagree here with me, you have that right to, this is just a suggestion I hope for a parent that I truly understand the question you are asking as I was asked the same thing. Had my child been 4, without question if they wanted to be led to the Lord, I would have done that as well and I have NO REGRETS today, regardless of how my now adult children turned out. I done what I felt as a christian the Lord would have had me do. Hope this helps:)