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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Seize The Day!
by Robb Dunham

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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Children's Ministry Magazine

Children's Ministry Magazine is the most read magazine for people who minister to children from birth through sixth grade. We're partnering with you to make Jesus irresistible to kids.

2 Comments

  1. Robb Dunham on

    Hi Jess – Thanks for asking. The surveys were taken of Dallas Theological Seminary students and Assemblies of God Missionaries.

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For more great articles like this, subscribe to our magazine, Children's Ministry Magazine.