Kids need the Gospel. The good news about Jesus Christ is for them. The Gospel is for sinners. It’s for churchgoers, it’s for pagans. It’s for Canadians, it’s for Kenyans. It’s for the unemployed, it’s for the CEO. The Gospel is for everyone. The Gospel is for kids.
There is no children’s version of the Gospel, because children have the same problem adults do: sin. Sin in any form, at any age, is rebellion against God, and the punishment for sin is eternal. As David wrote in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We are all are born with this problem.
Telling your children that God loves them is great, but there is much more to the Gospel than that, and your kids need to hear the whole thing. Believing parents need to talk to their children about sin. Christians were much better at this when life expectancies were shorter. The New England Primer was the most popular American elementary textbook of the 18th century. It began with the following entry for the letter “A”: “In Adam’s fall we sinned all.” The couplet for the letter “G” declared “As runs the Glass our life doth pass.” Parents in that day knew they did not have forever to teach their children about their need for the Gospel. We don’t need to go back to 18th century mortality rates to learn from their example.
A good way to bring up the subject of sin and death with even young children is to take a stroll through your local cemetery, and let them ask you questions about what they see. Talk to them about sin, about death, and about Jesus.
Sin is bad news, but the Gospel is great news, and children need to hear this also. If we water down the part about sin, the good news won’t sound so great. If we’re soft on sin, our children will just see Jesus as another thing they need to add to their life. Don’t just tell your children that God forgives, talk to them about what it cost him to offer that forgiveness: the death of his son Jesus on a cross. Don’t stop at asking your kids if they liked the sermon, ask them if they’ve been born again.
Children of believing parents are recipients of a tremendous blessing. But they are also particularly susceptible to two dangers if the Gospel is not repeatedly and clearly presented. The first is legalism. This can occur as children grow up in the church and hear only about how they ought to behave, without knowing why. The second danger is that believing parents act like faith cometh by osmosis, rather than by hearing (Romans 10:17). That is, rather than presenting and challenging their children with the Gospel, they assume their children will “grow up” to be believers.
It is a struggle for many of us to share the Gospel with our neighbors and coworkers, but with our children we have a captive audience. Make the things of God part of your everyday conversation. Let your children hear you praise God as you watch a sunset together. Ask your kids to forgive you when you sin against them. Be diligent to discipline them when needed, always pointing out that only Jesus can take the punishment they deserve. In every way you can, share the Gospel with your children. They need it.