Leading a Child to Christ: Young Christian Misconceptions and Solutions
Leading: How to Lead a Child to Christ: Misconceptions of Young Christians
I was deeply blessed to grow up surrounded by individuals of faith. If I ever had a question about Christianity, I always had a wealth of knowledge all around me. As a child, I regularly attended church. There was always a Bible around that I could read. And my parents and grandparents were regularly praying for my wellbeing.
For all intents and purposes, I knew from an early age the difference between right and wrong. When I was wrong, I was quickly corrected. Most importantly, I knew that God lived in me; although, I didn’t understand how to build a relationship with Him.
Much like many young Christians today, I was afforded every opportunity to grow in faith, walk a righteous path, and lean on God in my weakest moments. But again, like many young Christians today, that was not the case. Why? And what changed to make me the Christian I am today? That is our goal, to discover the problem and overcome it. We are going to uncover what many Christian parents could be overlooking and provide solutions to help.
The Misconception We Missed in Young Christians
Fast forward to today, I am now a parent to my own two sons. Together, with my wife Kathleen, we have the greatest mission God can give someone; leading our children to Christ. Kathleen and I both had childhoods filled with Christianity. However, there was still a disconnect that we wouldn’t resolve until years into adulthood. We experienced the same problem, but in very different ways.
After studying and praying, we discovered we weren’t connected to God because we had “faith by proxy.” We both experienced an unconscious security developed from our parents’ relationships with Jesus, their prayers for us, and their commitment to their own faith. Might be clear as mud, so let me explain further…
Misconceptions: “faith by proxy”
If you are like my wife and I, you raise your children in church whether they like it or not. Like our own two boys, many church-raised children never know anything beyond God and Jesus. They never had to look for God because He was always a part of their life. Do not feel guilty for this approach, this is an example of faith-filled parenting. You are putting your full trust that God knows what is best for your family.
The problem lies in how a child’s belief system can form. Every person is going to question God at some point in their life, it’s human nature. Even children born into Christian homes are going to eventually develop higher-reasoning skills and slowly begin wondering. This can lead to times of confusion and doubt, which is totally normal.
Someone who comes to Christianity gets ample opportunities to ask questions regarding faith, God’s love, Jesus’ sacrifice, and God’s purpose. Churches have well established programs, small groups, and classes to target this audience. We go out of our way to answer every question and directly mentor them through discipleship. Every church I have been a part of did a fantastic and thorough job.
Church-raised Children (raised in a Christian family who attends church regularly)
But what about those raised in church? Children begin developing high-reasoning skills between 8-10 years old. Therefore, children raised in church will spend nearly 8-10 years in Sunday school and youth programs before ever reaching this developmental stage. Although they are raised to have faith in God, many will develop a sense of doubt during this stage of cognitive development. Instead of seeking help, they repress their questions and doubts. But why?
Without guidance, many church-raised children will see their doubts as questioning God. They will be fearful of seeming faithless and become afraid to ask for answers. Others might even think that this outside-the-box thinking is unique to them and take a more egocentric path. Either way, without help and guidance, they will not break through this barrier to experience an entirely new pinnacle of belief.
Child with Faith, But in Whom?
The issue is not raising our children in church. Again, that is a great decision because it takes a community to raise a child. In church, our children meet likeminded friends. They learn how to study the Bible and build a foundation of morals and values very early. This is why it is vital to do all we can to support our youth programs, they are doing a great service to Christianity. But the church only sees a child a few hours per week. Children cannot be expected to immerse themselves in a loving relationship with Jesus with so little personal, one-on-one attention.
Child’s faith and parent’s faith
In some cases, a child bases their faith in God on their parent’s faith. Unconsciously, their belief system is based on faith by proxy; “I believe because I trust my parents and they believe in God.” They haven’t experienced life without God, and they take comfort in the fact that their parents are good, wholesome, Godly people. Church has taught them how to act, how to speak “Christian,” and they are totally comfortable in a church atmosphere. However, there may be inner turmoil brewing.
Once they reach their teen years, college, or even just begin associating with non-believers, some church-raised children may find that their shield of faith is far too fragile to deflect the well-prepared missiles of the enemy. It is possible that their faith was in their parents, not in God. Since they always “walked the walk and talked the talk,” it goes completely undetected. Then, when a child falls, Christian parents are caught completely off guard.
Real dangers lie ahead
Another risk we take is even more dangerous and it comes with the first taste of freedom. Once on their own, many young adults raised in a Christian home will experience life with a false sense of security. Often being sheltered from the vises of the world, they may go on a self-destructive path with the misconception that since God favors their parents, they have an inherited favor. God will protect them, their parents are praying for them, and they have those cushions under them if they ever fall. During this time, many will leave church and prayer behind with the unconscious fallacy of inherited favor and an invincible attitude.
As an example, many of us know a pastor’s or deacon’s child who “rebelled” once they were away from their parents. Obviously, many things can cause this rebellion. But perhaps, a mixture of freedom tied to a false sense of inheriting their parents’ spiritual favor were catalysts for catastrophe.
How to Lead a Child to Christ?
Armed with this new knowledge and ready to do anything in our power to ensure our child’s salvation, we prepared eight recommendations for Christian parents to strongly consider. What they all have in common is for you, the parent, to take a direct and personal interest in the development of your child’s spiritual life. Now that we know the problems that could lie in our path we can take action!
No. 1: Taking Responsibility
As parents we must take responsibility for our children’s salvation. God especially calls on fathers to act as a strong and reliable role model of faith for their family. Fathers must see God as their Fatherly role model and constantly strive to have an invested interest in their child’s spiritual life. As a father myself, I must constantly work on keeping a strong bond with my two boys, teaching them right from wrong, discussing what they work on in school and at church, and taking an interest in their lives.
Even at five years old, I discuss things with my oldest son about why we believe, God’s power, and how God works in our lives. I pray every night with my sons and allow them to pray for anything and everything they want to bring before God. In time, they will know through our talks that doubt can be normal, that I accept them for who they are, and I am always here to answer questions.
No. 2: Importance of Church
Raise your children in church. I understand that many individuals feel that God is not a building, and they are not wrong. Many individuals have been hurt, felt judged, or were pushed away from a prior church. But those actions were not committed by God but by flawed human beings. If people cause you to walk away from church, then your faith was in people, not in God.
There are plenty of other churches and there is a perfect one for your family. Raising a child in a Christian atmosphere helps build their spiritual armor, preparing them for the world around them. Attempting to lead a child to Christ without the help of fellow Christians is like trying to walk backward. Sure, you might get to your destination, but you won’t see half the obstacles in your path.
No. 3: Communication is Key
Do not preach at a child, mentor them. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Mentoring allows for two-way communication as a child gets older. Discussing real topics, sharing your own failures and how you overcame them through faith; these are the things that will lead a child to the eternal fountain. God granted them freewill just like you and me, and eventually kids must choose the path they wish to walk. When they fail, you are there to catch them and continue to instill Christ’s message in their heart. It is better to fail early with small repercussions than to fail later with life changing ones.
No. 4: Remedy Curiosity
Follow the churches’ example and teach your child right from wrong; but expand on their values and teach them why. We all know that if you tell a child not to touch a hot stove, they are going to try to touch it when you aren’t looking. However, if you tell a child that the stove is very hot and they will be hurt badly if they touch it, it changes how they see the stove. Even if they are tempted to touch that stove, they are going to be more cautious of getting burned than getting caught.
The same goes with premarital sex, alcohol abuse, drug use, etc. If you can speak from a personal place, you may want to share your experiences and regrets. But either way, we always need to expand on why. Don’t leave a curious child, curious; it never ends well.
No 5: Guide Individual Prayer
Teach them how to pray. When all hope is lost and a child doesn’t know what to do, they will turn to God for help, and we should have faith that God will see them through their storms. We do not want to raise children who do not pray because they know their parents are praying for them. Prayer isn’t about keeping us safe, it is about regularly going to God and building our relationship with Him. As a child grows closer to God, His light will shine brighter inside them, and their faith will grow.
As parents, we need to plant and cultivate the seeds of faith in our kids; God will take care of the rest. A vibrant prayer life is vital for every Christian. Explaining to children that their prayers are a lifeline to God is a colossal understatement.
No. 6: Family Bible Studies
Bible studies are fantastic to build cohesiveness, comfort in faith, learning to study God’s Word, and providing an opportunity to hear your child’s thoughts on God.
If you are looking for a unique and fun way to study and discuss a wide range of Christian topics with your child, consider check out our recently published Inspirational Devotionals and Photography book, “Immersion”. This book contains 25 devotions that are specifically paired with conceptual photography creating a more immersive experience to your study. During each study you can read a short devotion together, discuss the paired image, read the recommended verses and grow, together. It even has additional photographer notes in the last section to add more depth to your study.
The paperback version is a great option to use as a study guide, making notes, highlight verses, and keep for referencing.
No. 7: Do a Family Prayer Journal
Using a Bible study to teach a child how to comprehend God’s Word is vital for the future of their faith, but most routines are weekly and our relationship with God should be daily. A family prayer journal is a fun and unique way to share our thoughts and concerns as a family then bring those before God in prayer. It also creates a record of God’s work in our lives that your child can refer back to later if they need comfort or reassurance.
No. 8: Pray as a Family
You probably noticed that No. 5 was about teaching your child how to have an individual prayer life, but praying together is just as important. A family who communicates together is further bonded by God’s amazing grace. Children will become more comfortable in God’s presence and learn a routine that can be passed when they create their own families. A child learns to talk by imitation and prayer is no different. Be an example of how to humble ourselves before God and communicate with our Father.
How to Lead a Child to Christ: Conclusion
The most important thing to remember is to nurture your child’s faith. No one can tell you exactly how to lead your child to Christ because you know your child better than any other human being. Pray to God for guidance, clarity, patience, and wisdom. God wants your child to come to Him more than you do, He will do everything in His power. He is willing to move mountains and defeat any enemy necessary to embrace your child in His loving arms.
If you take anything from this article, it’s this, be a role model to your child and always make them aware that a relationship with God is a personal one. Salvation is an act between them and God. Baptism is not done to please our parents; it’s done to please God. Their salvation is their choice, their faith in God is their own faith and their communication with God is through their own prayer life.
God bless you all, the fact that you are concerned for your child’s salvation truly speaks to your character and your own faith that God knows what is best for your family. The biggest step you can take, you have already taken.