08 Dec Helping Your Children to Become Disciples of Christ
We all dream of the day our children become disciples of Christ and are born again. As parents, we can play a vital role in helping them get to a point where they are ready to make this decision. Yes, our children can receive teaching and help from other mentors in their lives, but our intimacy and closeness with our children enables us to have a profound influence on their faith and walk with God. No one can replace a father’s influence on his child’s heart! Helping our children to give their lives to Christ is the most important thing we as fathers can ever do!
How old do children need to be to become Christians?
When children are very young, they make mistakes, but God does not condemn them at that time, because they are not yet mature enough to be judged. As children enter into their teen years, they become far more aware of and responsible for their behavior. Most children are not mature enough to make the decision to become Christians until they become young teenagers. They need to be mature enough to understand their sinful nature, grasp what Jesus did on the cross, repent of their sins, and make a sincere, lifetime commitment to following Jesus.
So, how can we help them?
Don’t feel that you have to pressure your child to make this decision. Instead, seek to inspire your child with a love for God and appreciation for the cross—positive things that motivate them. Pray for your child, knowing that God will help them to come to a heartfelt, genuine decision.
In the early part of your study with them, help them get to know the great love of God, which He demonstrated by sending Jesus to save us (John 3:16-17). God wants us to walk intimately with Him as His dearly beloved, born again children.
Inspire your child with the life of Jesus: His amazing miracles, teachings, courage, and selfless love. And of course, our children will fall more deeply in love with Jesus when they understand what He suffered on the cross to save us all.
Not every child raised in a faithful home will automatically have faith—our children may struggle with doubts and may have questions about God and the Bible. And you know what? That’s not a bad thing! It means they are learning to think for themselves and trying to make their faith their own. All four of my children faced doubts and questions, and Geri and I always welcomed those conversations! We wanted our children to ask the hard questions and learn to study and pray and reason through them. In the end, this made their faith stronger! If your child is struggling with unbelief, you may want to study the miracles of Christ and His resurrection. You may also point them to the writings of C.S. Lewis and other great apologists. (My friend Dr. Douglas Jacoby is a great modern teacher who helps many people with doubts to come to faith.) I read through the Gospel of John with one of my sons, and through our study, he came to admire Jesus, and to believe in, love, and follow him.
Understanding, appreciating, and deeply connecting to the cross is a crucial step in helping our children make a decision for Christ. Help them understand that each of us is responsible for Jesus’ death because of our sins. Share the story of your own conversion and how Jesus’ death saved you from your old life. Our stories are a powerful testimony that can help children to connect with God on a heart level!
When young teens are making a decision to follow Jesus and be baptized, it’s especially helpful for them to understand that they have not yet experienced some of the temptations that will come their way in their future years. By becoming Christians at a young age, they are being spared from a lot of heartache, because they will be able to make godly choices through their teen and young adult years. This is a powerful motivation for becoming a Christian as a young man or woman! However, let’s make sure our children understand that they will still face many temptations and make mistakes—and when that happens, we can help them understand how powerful God’s grace is!
When we become Christians, we are called to repent of our sins and also to become disciples of Christ who intimately love and follow him by obeying his commands. Jesus teaches us to do this in the passages below:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20 (emphasis added)
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24)
Let’s teach our children that when they are baptized, they put off their “old self,” the person they are apart from Christ. As they grow in their faith and discipleship, they will put on the great “new self” God has created them to be:
“Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:21-24, emphasis added)
Their “new self,” given to them by God, is to be loving, giving and kind. It will enable them to draw close to their brothers and sisters in Christ and to share Jesus with people who don’t yet know Him.
God’s grace is truly amazing—what a joy it is to share it with our children! Children who are motivated by grace—not guilt, shame, or pressure—will find great joy in their walk with God, and will see God continue to bless and guide them through all of their years to come.
As we seek to help our children become disciples, let’s be assured that God is the one who will ultimately bring them to Christ. Let’s be confident, prayerful and humble, knowing that He will graciously guide us (and others) to help our children along the way!