Having kids has enhanced my understanding of the gospel five-fold. Somehow the need to simplify the truth so that my kids can grasp it has required me to know the gospel more. Instead of having to forget the theological specifics I learned about the gospel in the hopes that I would put myself on their level, I have had to dive deeper into the gospel in order to come to the surface with an accurate, yet simplistic, gospel presentation to repeat to my children.
This has not been easy. I’m used to teaching grown-ups and young adults who can hang with me as I rattle off the implications of the doctrine of justification for progressive sanctification. If I try this with our almost five year-old, the seconds before the ceiling fan becomes the object of his focus could be counted on one hand. And while the almost five year-old is growing in his ability to handle more teaching, the real challenge has been trying to share the gospel with our two year-old. Some parents may not even try to explain the good news to their children at this age because they believe it to be too complex, but if I am responsible for raising these children in the admonition of the Lord, I don’t want to make that assumption.
So, how can parents share the gospel with their two year-olds without asking them to accelerate their brain development?
- First, take advantage of the moments when you catch them in their sin. Use discipline to help them see that sin is wrong.
- Second, tell them they sinned and God is not pleased with their choice.
- Third, tell them that sin hurts.
- Fourth, tell them that Jesus died to rescue sinners.
- Fifth, put the last two phrases together and have your child repeat them after you: “Sin hurts, but Jesus died to rescue sinners” (if they can’t repeat all of this, they will eventually).
- Sixth, tell them to run away from sin and run to Jesus.
In doing this, you explain to your child in simplified terms that God is the one we need to live for, that sin is a failure to live for God, that sin has consequences, that Jesus can rescue us from sin and it’s consequences through his death, and that they have a responsibility to repent and trust in Jesus to receive his salvation.
As your child gets older, it is your responsibility to begin fleshing out this gospel presentation and explaining in more detail what the different elements mean, but don’t hesitate to start sharing now. One thing I’ve learned in being a parent is that kids often have a bigger capacity for knowledge than we think. But even if they don’t get what you’re saying, it’s good practice for you.