Each child’s faith journey is unique. And each teacher’s relationship with children is different. When you seek to lead children to Jesus, no formula will replace the guidance of God’s Spirit as you respond to Jesus’ command from Matthew 19: “Let the little children come to me ...” The following questions and answers cover issues you may be wondering about.
1. What is my role in this process? Only God’s mysterious work can truly influence a child to make a commitment to Jesus. Your role as a leader is to present God’s welcoming message and to model your own faith by:
- praying for the children in your group.
- presenting the good news to them.
- welcoming questions ... any questions!
- answering questions honestly ... even if it means saying “I don’t know.”
- telling your own story.
- helping a child respond to the Holy Spirit’s nudge.
- remaining alert to indications that children want to “go deeper.”
2. How do I know when a child is ready to make a commitment to Jesus? For starters, pray, observe, ask questions.
- Pray that God will use you to lead others to him. Pray that your message will find fertile soil. Pray for the needs of your children and ask God to give you ears to listen.
- Observe your kids closely. Those who show a keen interest in learning more, those who ask probing questions, those who seek you out before or after class, those who say they’d like to know Jesus better — these are children who may be ready to make a commitment. But don’t overlook those who are reticent or express doubts or fears — these kids too may be searching for a closeness to Jesus, a peace at the center of their lives.
- Ask kids questions that gauge their relationship with God. This might be done best outside of class, in a child’s home or some public place. Remember always to partner with the child’s parents. Keep questions simple, especially for younger children: How do you feel about Jesus? How do you think Jesus feels about you? What would you like to tell Jesus? You might ask older children to tell you in their own words what it means to follow Jesus. Can they tell you, in a simple way, what the heart of the gospel message is? Affirm their answers with this assurance from the apostle Paul: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
3. I’m pretty sure that one of the kids in my group is ready to make a commitment to Jesus. Now what?
- Pray with that child, encouraging him to pray too, asking Jesus to be his Savior and Lord. Suggest asking a parent (or other family member) or perhaps a friend to join you as you pray together. Or encourage the child to talk with his family later, telling them of his commitment. Better yet, go with him to share the good news!
- Here’s a way you could help a young child pray: Dear Jesus, Thank you for loving me. I know I disobey you and do wrong things. I’m sorry. I know that God loves me and forgives my sins. I want to love you more. Amen. Older children may prefer to write their own prayers, or they may ask you to suggest words for them to use. If they’re shy or feel inadequate, offer to pray on their behalf after asking them what they’d like you to say in the prayer.
Making a commitment to Christ is a big step, but it’s not the end of the road. There are many steps to come. Encourage kids who’ve made this choice as they continue to follow Jesus, step by step by step:
- Give a younger child a Bible storybook that reinforces the good news of Jesus’ love. Or suggest a book the child’s family might use for devotions.
- Encourage older children to spend time with Jesus by reading their Bible and praying. You might give them a Bible if they don’t already have one or a devotional book to help them get started. Encourage them to attend worship and participate in the Lord’s Supper. Remind them too that there will always be more to learn about Jesus and his love — that’s why Sunday school is so important.
- If the child isn’t baptized and would like to join the church, talk with the family about the child’s desire. Don’t forget to celebrate! Celebrate the gifts the child brings to Christ’s body and encourage ways to use those gifts. Celebrate the Spirit’s work in that child’s heart, and rejoice with God’s people in your faith community!