There was a time when my mum would frantically get me and my siblings ready to go to Sunday school. I do not regret for one second her insistence that I engage with issues of faith from a young age, although I often resisted it at the time. You see, I’ve always been open to God. I couldn’t see him, yet somehow in my childhood innocence I always knew he was there.
The church songs were great, the activities were fun and the friendships were special yet, in my young mind, I mistakenly believed that Jesus was just a nice guy who just wanted me to be a good person. I rarely heard about why he went to the Cross, apart from the odd Scripture reference or two during communion. I was told that Jesus died but I hardly heard nor understood that he died for me.
It took a bold message from a visiting preacher in high school to open my eyes to the gospel. In that moment I understood the Good News and I believed. My church at the time introduced me to almost everything about God, except the main event: the life, death, burial & resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
I wonder, does your church hinder little children in their understanding and faith in Jesus?
Given my own experiences, I’d like to suggest 3 ways you can grow the faith of the young people around you.
Preach the whole Bible to your children and young people.
“Let the children come to me…”
Jesus is the Word and brings light and life to people of all ages, including children. You may be tempted to censor the difficult parts of the Bible, but I believe that doing so robs each young person of an age-appropriate encounter with the Scriptures.
Young minds have an amazing ability to engage with the Word of God and can only benefit from hearing all the stories, proverbs and parables in it. Think about how you speak to your children about God, whether in your family or kids’ church ministry.
Do your conversations reveal the real life experiences, challenges, joys and opportunities spoken about in the Bible?
Patiently respond to difficult questions.
“…do not hinder them…”
You hinder your child’s spiritual maturity when you ignore the hard questions he or she raises. It is possible to respond to the hard questions in life when speaking to your children while protecting their minds and innocence. Your willingness to work through their doubts, pain and disappointments allows you to speak directly to their hearts and build their faith.
Positive only messages tend to give young people an incomplete understanding of what the Christian life‘s about, which often leaves them ill equipped for the storms they will eventually face. Your role as a parent or mentor is to help your children lean on Jesus in the tough times and honestly share their concerns with him. God promises that as they come to him, he will come near to them. Encourage your children to draw close to Christ no matter how difficult life becomes.
Be ready to share the gospel.
“… the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
There’s a common misconception that a child must understand everything about salvation in order to get saved. Jesus, however, refutes such thinking by making it clear that children are primed to believe before they understand all the implications of their faith. Paul tells us in Romans that faith comes by hearing the word of God, so its completely reasonable to preach the gospel to children in a way they’ll understand.
You must avoid making faith a mental hurdle for your young people to jump through. Rather, you have the opportunity to reveal the truth of God’s Word, the power of the Spirit’s work in responding to our deepest needs and the Heavenly Father’s love when he sent his Son to save the world. Heaven’s kingdom really does belong to our young ones.
With that in mind, what can you do to grow the faith of young believers?