“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:13-14)
“Of course Jesus wants to see the kids!” we think to ourselves. The disciples’ mistake sounds like a pretty dumb one to us. But what does it look like to bring our children to Jesus today, now that he is gone back to heaven? How do we make sure we are not making the same mistake the disciples made. Let me suggest three important ways we can bring kids to Jesus today.
First, we share our testimony and the story of our day-to-day encounters with God. Jesus may have gone to be with his Father in heaven, but he sent his Spirit back down to live with us. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” he promises (John 14:18-20). Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, has remained here and lives within the heart of everyone who believes. But how do children, who do not yet believe, know this? They begin to know Jesus when we talk about how he made our once-dead hearts alive again and admit how he daily helps us in our weakness.
Second, we prioritize the body of Christ. The church is the new temple of God; it is a living temple (2 Corinthians 6:16, 19). God’s people are the living stones (1 Peter 2:5) that make up this new temple, and Jesus is our Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). He is the head of the church, and we are the body (Colossians 1:18). Every believer presents a living illustration of God’s saving work. It doesn’t take long in a vibrant church, full of faithful believers, for our children to recognize how different they are to the unsaved community around them. That helps them grow in their desire for Christ and become a part of God’s redeemed community.
Finally, we teach children theology. Theology, simply put, is the study of God, and Jesus is at the center of that study. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) When we study the truth of God’s Word with our children, we are giving them Jesus, who is the truth. Ultimately, the whole story of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation points us to salvation in Jesus. But when it comes to theology, some parents and churches make the same mistake the disciples did. They think children are too young to learn theology. Which means their children don’t learn all they need to know about Jesus. Don’t make that mistake.
We teach our children theology every day, whether we intend to or not. When a dad gets angry at the guy who cut him off on the highway, his life teaches that God is not in control. When a mom lives her life day in and day out without prayer, her life teaches that you can work things out yourself. Proactive theological instruction helps us counteract the poor theology kids receive in our broken world, full of not-yet-completely-sanctified believers.
Let the little children around you come to Christ! Share what God is doing in your life and the life of your church, prioritize the local body, and teach them good theology. Remember, all you have to do is introduce them to Jesus. He is the one who works to transform their sinful hearts.
Marty Machowski is a family life pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA, where he has served on the pastoral staff for more than 20 years. As leader of their children’s ministry, he has worked to develop kids’ Bible curriculum and devotional material that connects church and home. Marty’s passion is equipping families to understand the Bible as one gospel story and help them share that with their children. Marty is author of The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short, Old Story New, Gospel Story Curriculum, and now The Ology (New Growth Press, 2015).