Salvation…How Young is Too Young?
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
How young is too young for salvation?
This is the age old dilemma that Christian parents from every culture must face. ‘How young is too young to lead my child to Christ?’ ‘Are they ready?’ ‘How will I know?’ This is an issue that many other religions do not face. Why is this unique to authentic Christianity? It’s simply this…trusting by faith in Christ’s finished work on Calvary is an individual decision, not a family choice or a cultural norm.
We will stand individually accountable for our sin before God and so we come to faith as individuals as well. Salvation is a choice your child must make individually. As your children are exposed to the Gospel it is completely normal and expected that they will begin asking questions about the truths they are learning. In fact, be thankful when that happens! I remember when each of our children trusted in Christ and those were very special days in our house!
Are you nervous about leading your child to faith in Christ?
-What will I say?
-What if they don’t understand?
-Do they really ‘get it?’
-I don’t want to force them when they are too young!
Can I share with you some simple truths that will help ease your anxiety?
1. Child development happens at your child’s unique pace.
It is easy to be overwhelmed when your child isn’t asking the questions that the experts tell you they will ask. I have four children and each of them had an experience of coming to Christ in a way that was unique from the others. Don’t worry about your best friend’s 4 year old. Don’t even compare your child to others his/her age. Just be patient and let the message of the gospel and the Holy Spirit do the convicting!
How young is too young? Frankly, I don’t know! I do know that there are certain things that must be clearly understood in order for a child to come to faith. That understanding brings with it a soberness about sin and guilt before God. If those are missing, then I would be willing to just settle in on truth #2.
2. Be willing to answer questions without forcing a decision.
Just because your child is asking about heaven and hell doesn’t mean that you must lead them down the “Romans Road” that same evening. Your child came into this world with a ZERO knowledge of sin, consequences, Jesus Christ, redemption, repentance, or faith. It will take time for his/her small, developing mind to wrap around the truths that we so casually call ‘The Gospel.’ Be willing to take the time to simply answer the questions….and be willing to let the conversation end when you have helped them learn that truth. Don’t force them to make a decision!
3. Trust in the Holy Spirit to bring the conviction.
The Holy Spirit is the only agent of conviction that can bring about true repentance. Mom…Dad…you might be able to bring about grief, fright, or even guilt but it takes the Holy Spirit alone to draw the heart toward faith. Please don’t decide for yourself that it is time for your child to accept Christ.
They likely will do what you ask and might even have a general understanding of what the Gospel means, however, they will be merely reciting a prayer because it is what is expected. This could be a source of spiritual insecurity they struggle with their entire lives! Its possible they might trust in that prayer instead of truly trusting in Christ! Let the Holy Spirit take the Word of God and do the convicting.
4. Recognize Salvation only takes child-like faith.
The opposite of #3 is seen in this simple truth. When your child does come to the point of faith and it is clear that they believe, don’t quench the conviction
of the Spirit by putting your child off until they are older. Your child doesn’t need a Masters in Theology to understand that they are a sinner, there is a price to pay for sin, Christ (God’s Son) paid the price by suffering on the cross, He rose again, and He offers redemption to those who simply trust in what Christ has accomplished. Is there more to learn? Sure! Romans 1-8 gives incredible depth and understanding to the Gospel and its implications to mankind….but your child doesn’t need to study Romans 1-8 to know they need Christ!
5. Don’t talk about baptism at all…or at least yet.
Why? Because baptism isn’t a part of salvation and you don’t ever want to confuse the two when explaining the Gospel. In fact, I would encourage you to wait a few weeks before you bring up baptism. Think long-term on this one. To an adult, a child getting saved on Saturday and getting baptized on Sunday are two distinct events.
When your child, however, is 20 years old and is reflecting back on when he/she trusted in Christ, it would be easy to let those two different milestones blend into one event and create confusion and insecurity. It has amazed me, though, that kids that put their faith in Christ often begin asking about baptism not long after they are saved! Imagine that…the Holy Spirit giving direction and prompting!!
Most importantly, I would like to add this observation from years of working in children’s ministry. Proper discipline in the home is the single most effective foundation upon which the Gospel is built. A child that is disciplined Biblically from an early age will subconsciously understand these things: 1. I am a sinner. 2. Sin brings punishment. 3. I can’t escape the consequences of my sin.
Proper discipline paves the way for your child to understand the Gospel. Failing to discipline your child makes a true understanding of personal sinfulness very difficult. A child that is never confronted over sin has no need for a Savior!
DJHarry Isaiah 64:8 We are the clay!