Can Children Understand the Gospel?

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Is it possible to communicate the gospel on a child’s
level? Here are two different perspectives…

Christianity embodies the eternal story of salvation. God sent
his son Jesus Christ to earth to die for our sins. At some point,
every person must reckon with this man-is he Savior or lunatic?

We in children’s ministry have another dilemma related to these
faith questions. When can a child fully understand the whole issue
of reconciliation? Is it possible to communicate the gospel on the
children’s level, or is it better to wait until they’re older?

We asked two authors to tackle this issue from their
perspectives.

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Statistics slightly vary, but surveys of seminary students and
missionaries show that, at a minimum, 70 percent of these people
came to know Jesus Christ as Savior before the age of 14. If we dig
a little deeper, we’ll uncover this startling fact: Over 50 percent
of Christians chose to follow Christ between the ages of 5 and 9.
If we skip by children at these ages and wait until they’re
teenagers, we’ll be too late.

According to surveys, the numbers of people who choose to follow
Christ after the teenage years drop off so dramatically that they
become almost nil after age 30. I’d rather err on the side of
presenting the gospel to a child “too young,” than risk missing
that child at the most spiritually sensitive time in life. It may
be the only chance that child gets. The question is not, “How young
is too young?” but rather, “How old is too old”?

Also, consider that the surveys referred to were of adults. An
entire generation of children has been born since those surveys
were conducted. This generation is maturing earlier than their
predecessors. The “mean age” for salvation seems to be dipping
lower with each successive generation.

Many teenagers and adults today say they came to know Jesus as
their Savior at 3 years old. We can no longer afford to “save” the
gospel message for children we consider old enough to understand.
Obviously, the container for the message needs to be adapted for
the age group we’re ministering to; however, the content of the
message never changes.

There are those who feel children may be too young to fully
understand the gospel. Of course they are! But in the defense of
children, I have yet to meet an adult who fully understands the
gospel-even those who’ve been Christians for decades!

Remember, Jesus told us the kingdom is made up of “such as
these.” There’s something about child-like faith that makes it
easier for a child to understand the gospel than it is for most
adults. One of the main differences between an adult’s
understanding and a child’s understanding is language.

Analogous to translating the Bible into a foreign language and
presenting it to indigenous peoples, we need to translate the
gospel well enough for children to receive Christ-whether they are
in preschool or sixth grade.

If children have not yet received Christ, by all means, give
them a very clear and direct opportunity to do so. As children grow
older, they become hardened and spiritually calloused. Don’t let
children slip into the tumultuous teenage years without God.

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