The reason we teach Sunday School is to teach kids who God is and to bring them into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. But how do we do that? As a Sunday school leader, what is your role in this miraculous, God-initiated process? Read this article from the Walk With Me Coordinator's Handbook. (Part 1 was posted last week.)
The following questions and answers will encourage you to make the most of the opportunities that God’s Spirit provides.
Q. How do I know when a child is ready to make a commitment to Jesus?
A. Pray, observe, and ask questions.
Pray that the Lord will
- empower you, through your teaching to the entire group, to nurture every child’s love for Jesus.
- lead you to the specific child or children who need your personal attention.
- provide you with the opportunity to meet the child’s need.
Observe which child
- knows very little about the Bible or the Christian faith.
- shows a keen interest in learning more.
- ponders what you say and asks carefully thought-out questions.
- peppers you with questions you don’t have time to answer in class.
- is eager to talk to you before or after class.
- professes a desire to know Jesus better or to “join the church.”
- struggles with doubts or fears about his relationship with God.
Ask questions to help you gauge the child’s relationship to God. This allows you to draw alongside the child at her unique place on her spiritual journey. You may wish to talk to her after class or at some other church function. If you do, make sure you do so in a safe, public place where you will not frighten the child or create a suspicion of impropriety. Even better, arrange for a visit in the child’s home, where you can get to know her family as well.
The questions you ask should be age-appropriate and based as much as possible on your prior observations of where the child is in her spiritual life. For young children, you might want to ask questions based on a Bible story about Jesus. Reinforce what you teach in class: Jesus loves us, Jesus is good, we can always trust Jesus, Jesus wants us to follow him. Reviewing a favorite story or song will communicate much more effectively than a thematic presentation of the way of salvation. Remember, you are building the foundation on which a mature commitment will one day rest.
Older children will be more aware of their relationship with the Lord and may be able to respond to more specific questions like these:
- What do you find exciting about getting to know Jesus?
- Do you know what you have to do to follow Jesus?
- Why do you think Jesus wants to be your Savior? How can that happen?
- Do you want to give your life to Jesus? Why?
Q. What do I do if a child is far enough along in his spiritual journey to want to commit his life to Jesus?
A. Review, pray, point, and celebrate.
Review with the child the heart of our faith with simple and personal statements like these:
- God loves us very much and made us very good.
- We sinned and deserve to be punished.
- God sent Jesus into the world to die for our sins.
- Jesus rose from the dead so that we can live with God forever.
- Through Jesus we are children of God. We can live forever in love and obedience to him.
- God gave us the Holy Spirit to make us able to live that way.
- God will always remain faithful to us, even if we don’t do the things God wants us to do.
- When we die, God will take us to live with him forever in perfect happiness and holiness.
Put this brief review in your own words, and talk it through with the child to be sure he “gets” it. Clear up any misunderstandings, and allow time for some questions.
Pray when you know the child is ready to make a verbal commitment. Encourage him to say a prayer asking Jesus to be his Savior and Lord. Ask him if he wants to have a parent, other family member, or friend present for that prayer as well. If not, do encourage the child to tell his family about his commitment later, or if possible, go with the child to share the good news about the child’s decision.
Offer to help young children pray a prayer along these lines:
Thank you for loving me. I know that I disobey you and do wrong things. I am sorry for my sins. I know that God loves me and forgives my sins. I want to love you more. Amen.
Older children may want to write down what they want to pray so that they can think about it carefully. Or they may want you to suggest words for them to use. If they are really shy or simply don’t know how to pray, offer to pray with them, but ask what they would like you to pray about. Here’s an example:
Thank you for dying on the cross to take away my sin. Thank you for making me God’s child. I know that I don’t deserve that, because I’ve done lots of things that don't please you. But I trust your promise, and I want to live my life for you. Please come into my life and be my Savior and Lord. Show me how to live, and give me your Spirit so I’ll do what you want me to do. Help me when I do the things that you do not want me to do. Keep me trusting you every day. Amen.
Then point out the road ahead in some of the following ways:
- Give younger children a storybook that reinforces the good news of Jesus’ love for them. Or suggest a Bible storybook the child’s family could use for family devotions.
- Explain to older children how they can continue to grow in their faith and build on their commitment. Encourage them to spend time with Jesus by reading their Bible and praying. (You might give them a Bible if they don’t have one or a devotional book to get them started.) Ask them to attend worship (even if they don’t always “get” it) and church school faithfully. As they grow in their faith, they’ll have the opportunity to share their commitment to Jesus with others as well.
- If the child has already been baptized, suggest that she consider making her commitment to Jesus known to the church. That’s called making a public profession of faith. If the child is responsive to your suggestion, ask the pastor or an elder to visit the child and her family. If she hasn’t been baptized and would like to join the church, ask for a similar visit to discuss this with the child’s family. Public profession and baptism are joyous occasions where the child can share God’s goodness in her life with God’s family.
Celebrate! Express your happiness and joy and assure the child that Jesus receives him in love. Make this an ongoing celebration, using every opportunity to remind the child how blessed you were to share in his commitment. Ask how he’s doing, and encourage him to keep on growing. Assure him that you will continue to pray for him—and that you’ll do so long after you stop being his church school leader. A phone call or note of encouragement from you can mean a lot over the years.
Help the child understand that a lifelong walk with Jesus will have its ups and downs. Many, many recommitments will be required during his lifetime. But assure him that Jesus will always be there, ready to forgive and to move on. For Jesus truly is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by him” (John 14:6).