Lead Your Kids to Christ, Not Church
by Brian Smith
If I didn’t already lose you at the title, I want to communicate my point up front. I love church—I work for one—but I want to help parents do more than lead their children to the church doors. I want to see them lead their children to Christ. While there isn’t a magic formula to give parents, there is a sound principle: Celebrate obedience, not rituals. That’s it. Listen to me parents and care takers—if we only focus on coaching the right answers and pushing kids towards rituals over obedience to Jesus, we’re going to end up with a generation of confused students.
Our job as parents—to point our children toward Christ—begins immediately. When I was in seminary, I was introduced to the concept of the “4-14 Window.” The “4-14 Window” refers to the period of life between the ages of 4 and 14. It is during this time that the vast majority of people who become Christians surrender their life to Jesus. If someone has not become a Christian before the age of 14, the likelihood of them becoming one later in life is dramatically decreased. As parents, we have the most influence and ability to make an impact in our children’s lives, so we need to make sure we’re raising our students to have a real and meaningful relationship with Jesus. So how do we encourage this relationship without celebrating going through the motions of Christianity?
For most kids who are raised in the church, conversion is a process, much like Peter’s conversion. When did Peter actually become a Christian? Was it when he dropped his nets and responded to Jesus’ invitation? Was it when he confessed that Jesus was the Messiah? Perhaps, it was when Jesus called him Satan. Maybe it was when Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Or maybe it was when Jesus asked Peter to “feed my sheep.” Somewhere during his time with Jesus, Peter finally got the message and went on to do amazing things for the Kingdom, but it was a process. It will most likely be a process with your kids.
Here are some thoughts on this process. Don’t rush the process. If your kids go to church frequently, they will learn that Jesus is pretty awesome, and they will become interested in who He is. Don’t confuse this interest with following. When a child is interested, help him/her feed that interest. Don’t begin coaching them to spout the correct church theology to impress the pastors. Avoid repeat-after-me prayers. Your kids want to impress you, and if the moment they start expressing interest in Jesus, you start asking them to repeat after you, they will; but often just to make you happy. Don’t let baptism be your primary focus, either; rather, help your children focus on following. How can they be like Jesus at their schools, with their friends, or even at home? Make following after Jesus the main point of their faith, not having the right answers or taking part in the right rituals.
How does one know when one’s kid is saved? Here are some signs of true belief.
- He begins to experience sorrow for sin, not merely sadness at being caught or the punishment that follows.
- She shows signs of spiritual fruit; it might be young, small fruit, but you will start to see it grow.
- He will be increasingly more interested in spiritual matters and have a desire to know Jesus more.
- Her willingness to serve others (like her brothers and sisters) increases.
- He can articulate his faith on his own without coaching.
Parents, take a look at that last bullet point again. Can you articulate your own faith? Is it a major aspect of your own life? How would your kids answer that question about you? If you are to point your own children toward Christ, there is no one better to model a true relationship with Him than you.
As a parent, I know how concerned you are for the eternity of your kids. I have a one-year-old son named Jude, and I pray every day that he will surrender his life to Christ, and I will continue to pray every single day until he does. We all want to see our children baptized or hear them recite “The Sinner’s Prayer” so that we can feel some sense of security for their salvation. We would save them if we could.
But, listen, parents—it’s not your job to save your kids. In fact, we do not have the power or authority to do so. We must trust God with our own children’s eternity. We must trust that God is good, that none of our kids is outside of His hands. He is their Father, and all the desires we have for our children to experience the fullness of life that is in Jesus, He feels. Your kids are ultimately His kids, and He is the perfect parent.
As a parent, your role in your kids’ conversion is found in this principle: Celebrate obedience, not rituals. Show your children how to be obedient by being obedient yourself. Trust God—don’t try to take control from Him—and live a life so committed to Christ that your kids long for what you have.
Brian Smith is a student pastor and children’s coordinator at 12Stone® Church. He has a beautiful wife named Sarah, and is the father of the cutest baby of all time named Jude.