When I was about 7 or 8, my mom began reading daily devotionals for kids to my sister and me at the breakfast table before school. She would read the story aloud, ask us questions, and then we'd talk about the applications to our lives, like how Jesus would want me to act toward the bully at school when I still wanted to be friends with her. I always appreciated her doing that with us. It helped me to see how Jesus was a part of my life in all areas, not just at church. It also showed me that spending daily time with God was important. My mom also read to us every night before bed, and I remember she would often read to us from our children's story Bible. I think I learned the majority of the Bible stories I knew as a child from her reading that Bible to us. I'm thankful for those practices that she instilled in me from an early age!
~Elizabeth Blankenbeckler, Kindergarten/First Grade Sunday School Teacher
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It All Starts with Questions
Often adults and kids can offer a basic explanation of Jesus dying in our place so that we can be forgiven of our sins and go to heaven. However, clarifying questions reveal the depth that the gospel has actually sunk it into someone's heart. Here are some questions to get you started. These are great to ask in a one-on-one context!
What does someone have to do to become a Christian?
The key here is to look for answers like, "Go to church. Be baptized. Pray. Read the Bible. Etc." These are all part of what it means to live out the Christian life, so in a sense they're correct. But, scripture is clear that to receive salvation, there is no work to be done on the human side of the equation. No hoop to jump through. It is all received by grace through faith.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
How sure are you that you’re going to heaven? Why?
Although the next life is not something that we can ever know with a 100% scientific certainty, the point of this question is twofold. 1) Look for answers that connect certainty of heaven with the amassing of good works. 2) Look for answers that connect doubt of heaven with the amassing of sin. Neither of these factor into why a human is saved. Regardless of the number of good works or bad works, we're saved only by what Christ as done for us. God does not measure us with a scale. Two good passages that demonstrate this are Luke 18:9-14 & Luke 23:39-43.
What does it mean that Jesus is Lord and Savior?
The goal here is to see if your child understands that forgiveness can't be received without also declaring that Jesus is King and we are his servants. If your child sees the gospel as receiving a free pass out of hell and into heaven without also accepting Christ as Lord, then the gospel has still not been fully understood. Romans 6:1-14 is a great explanation of this concept. Make sure your child knows that serving Jesus as King doesn't save us. Serving Jesus as King is the natural and constant result of receiving salvation.
What is the gospel?
There are many ways to articulate the gospel. Below is just one example. Try come up with single sentence ways to explain it together.
The Gospel: Jesus died and rose again to give us mercy and grace for our sin, so we can have a relationship with God and go to heaven!
Index Card Testimonies
One of the best ways to solidify understanding of the gospel is to write out your own story of how you started a relationship with Jesus. Get together as a family and write your testimony down on an index card. A smaller space helps everyone stay concise and the task not feel overwhelming. It also forces everyone to focus on the most important events of the story. A simple way to break down your testimony is the following:
1. Before Jesus: What did I believe about God? What was my life like?
2. How I found Jesus: How did my beliefs about God change? What changed them?
3. After Jesus: How has my faith grown? How has my life changed?
Learn by Teaching
There's no better way to understand the gospel than by teaching it! Download one of these gospel sharing apps as a family. Pretend that one of you has never heard of Jesus and practice sharing the gospel with each other!
Knowing God Personally
The Knowing God Personally Booklet is one of the few successful and culturally relevant gospel sharing tools. Campus Ministries all over the world use it to bring thousands of people to Christ. Take a look at the digital version here. Pretend that one of you has never heard of Jesus and practice sharing the gospel with each other using the KGP!
Check Your Heart
One of the key was to understand whether or not we really believe the gospel is by asking the question, "How would you feel if Jesus returned tonight?" Happy? Sad? Scared? Why?
Then read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
If you understand that Jesus is your Lord and savior, than His return means that everything in your life is about to get infinitely better! You're going to spend forever in bliss with Christ. If you feel something other than total joy, there is likely something you haven't yet grasped or believed about the Gospel. The only legitimate reason for sadness is that your friends who don't know Jesus may not have gotten a chance to hear about and accept Him.