Leading Your Child Toward Authentic Faith

A father asked me if I would meet with him about his son’s interest in becoming a Christian. This dad shared with me that his son wanted to become a Christian so he could take communion with their family on Sunday mornings. During our meeting, I asked the dad if there were any other indicators that led him to believe that his son was prepared to make this decision. The dad said no, this request was the first and only one. His son mentioned it to him last week because he didn’t think it was fair that his sisters were permitted to take communion while he was not. I asked the dad about any evidences of conviction of sin, repentance and lordship and if any of these had been considered. The dad responded that these topics, including heaven and hell, had been purposely avoided because he didn’t want his son feeling frightened or guilty. I shared that I did not feel his son was ready but that he and his wife should consider the practice of regularly living out the Gospel for each of their children to see. At the end of our meeting, the dad had one more question that saddened me greatly, “Pastor, do you think it would be okay if my son could take communion now, since we have spoken?” Two years ago, I was attending a conference for student pastors and one of the younger pastors shared a story of how hundreds of teens had been saved and baptized at his church over the past year.

I was excited to hear more. My wife Tina and I asked him and his wife to dinner that night, so we could hear what God was doing at his church. That night he shared that 75 % of the student salvations and baptisms happened at his church’s summer youth camp. Interested, I asked more questions concerning how long this camp had been an annual event and what brought the students to this decision to accept Christ and be baptized. My heart sank when I heard his response: “We came to this decision because we realized if we didn’t baptize them at camp, we would never be able to, because most of these kids we will never see again.” Surely saving faith is more than a wafer and grape juice and more than getting a child wet at camp. What about genuine repentance? What about a lasting “life change”? What about treasuring Christ above all else? As parents, we need to rediscover what saving faith is. This resource will consider the parents’ role, salvation and what Jesus Himself taught concerning children. A Biblical Understanding for Parents Unfortunately, many parents feel anxious or unqualified to lead their children to Christ. Somewhere between praying for our unborn child’s salvation and answering questions about eternity from the little one lying beside us at night, it hits us: This is a very serious matter and I really do not want to mess this up. Christian parents wonder if their child can truly believe, and if so, at what age.

Adding to the uncertainty of being too eager or too pushy is the fear of holding a child back. Parents ask themselves serious questions, but they are either afraid or embarrassed to ask others for answers.1 As Cos Davis Jr. points out, “Christian parents seem to have conflicting philosophies when dealing with the salvation of their children. Some seemingly manipulate or coerce children into ‘praying the prayer,’ while others take a completely hands off position.”2 Most parents today are asking, “What does my child need to know and do to be truly saved?” Fortunately, the answer to this question is not found in the opinions of man or in the ever-shifting tide of cultural trends. The answer is found in Scripture. In fact, from the first word of Scripture to the last, the entire message of the Bible proclaims the story of God rescuing and redeeming man unto Himself. Christian parents can rest in the promise of the Gospel: Christ has rescued them from darkness to light, and this promise is also available to their children. In Acts 2:39, Luke records this great news: “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself”(emphasis mine). A better understanding of salvation and knowing what the Bible teaches concerning your children and your role as a parent will give you biblically-centered confidence. Paul portrays this confidence when he writes to young Timothy: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5). In his first letter to Timothy, Paul referred to him as his “son in the faith” and expressed confidence that Timothy had a strong faith that dwelled within him (1 Timothy 1:2). In the midst of personal doubt, fear and confusion, parents can have the same confidence as Paul.