Read an Excerpt
Leading Kids to Jesus
Ch a p t er 1
The Game Is One-on-One
Some seek the thrill; others cringe in fear. The world consists of two types of people
--- those who like roller coasters and those who don't. I'm in the latter camp. So I felt a genuine jolt of panic when my son, Scott, met the minimum height requirement to ride a giant coaster during our annual trip to a nearby theme park.
The line for the premier attraction, one of the largest wooden roller coasters in the country, lasted ninety minutes.
During this slow march to self-inflicted torture, I pictured every worst-case scenario we might encounter. Or so I thought.
Finally, we stepped into the little car that would hurl us toward certain death. At least that's how I viewed it. Scott, on the other hand, jumped in and squirmed with excitement. As the iron safety bar lowered and locked across my lap, I grabbed it and told him, 'Scotty, hold onto the bar like Daddy and do not let go!' My breathing was rapid and shallow, and veins on the top of my hands popped out as I clamped onto the bar of life.
The train of cars slowly ascended up the first hill, paused at the top, and then screamed down the track toward the ground.
(Okay, it was not the car screaming, it was me!) Despite the growing gravitational force that invisibly pushed my head back,
I managed to squeak out high-pitched words, 'How ya doing,
'Not too good right now, Daddy,' was the alarming response
Pure adrenalin washed away my fear when I saw what had happened. While the iron safety mechanism remained locked in place across my lap, a gap existed between Scott's much thinner lap and the bar. This resulted in my son slipping forward,
barely on the seat at this point, with hands still clinging to the bar that was now at his neck.
Immediately I unglued my fingers from the bar and, in one big heave, pulled him upright and pressed the locking mechanism down farther. This meant the iron bar was now holding him securely but cutting off circulation to my lower body. I
wisely reasoned, 'Better to experience excruciating pain than to tell my wife I let our son fly off the roller coaster!'
I held onto him with one hand for the rest of the ride, while the other hand resumed its grip of life. As we climbed out of the car, I tried to control my trembling as Scott asked, 'Can we go on it again?'
I share this story to illustrate an important point. Despite all the wonderful activities taking place throughout that theme park,
and even surrounded by workers responsible for our safety and fun, I had to take appropriate action. And I had to do it alone.
My response to my son made a big difference to him --- possibly a life-or-death difference. Scott needed me.
In like fashion, crucial opportunities exist for anyone who spends time with kids. There will be times when you can make an eternal impact based on how you react --- and someone will need you to do that well. Maybe you won't ever have to tighten a safety bar for a child, but you might play a role in locking in their salvation. And the purpose of this book is to prepare you to meet the challenge of those situations.
For sake of clarity, the focus of Leading Kids to Jesus is to equip adults to help kids start a life of faith by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. To that end, we'll examine how to do this as an individual --- not through large outreach programs, elaborate presentations, or clever illustrations.
Specifically, preparation will focus on personal interactions
--- one-to-one conversations --- with kids about key spiritual matters. This topic nearly bursts with importance because incredible and unpredictable opportunities for personal talks about faith exist both at church and at home. If you are a small group leader, Sunday school teacher, ministry director,
Christian education worker, or children's church volunteer, this book is for you. Likewise, if you are a parent you'll find the concepts work well at home with your own kids, which is another reason this book is for you.
And just as a ride on a coaster goes by fast, the time we have to impact youngsters also flies by quickly. So the time for preparation is now --- because the urgency is real.
Salvation at an Early Age
Respected pollster George Barna conducted studies to determine the probability that people of various ages will ask Jesus to be their Savior. The results heavily favor children five through twelve years old:
Probability of Asking Jesus to Be Savior
Barna's conclusion? 'If people do not embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior before they reach their teenage years, their chance of doing so at all is slim.'1
Author and speaker Karyn Henley agrees that kids are more inclined than adults to accept the gospel. She writes, 'Children are more likely to express a matter-of-fact faith in God than we adults who only believe in what we can experience with our five senses.' The Bible dispels any skepticism about the validity of a kid's matter-of-fact faith. Just look at Acts 2:39 in which Peter says,
'The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off --- for all whom the Lord our God will call' (emphasis added). The Greek word used in this verse (teknon) literally means 'child' --- as in a daughter or son.3 The promise Peter speaks of is that of salvation, and clearly it's available to kids.
Romans 10:9 reveals the criteria for salvation: 'If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that
God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.' This verse articulates the inclusive nature of God's saving grace and mandates no minimum age.
Of course the ability to comprehend the promise and the timing in which it happens varies by person --- whether child or adult. Focus on the Family's Dr.
James Dobson describes his salvation experience at age three.4 Moody
Bible Institute's former president,
Joe Stowell, accepted Christ at six.5
Evangelist Billy Graham made his decision at sixteen.6 Although I
hesitate to mention my name in the same paragraph with the previous three, I gave my life to Jesus at age twenty-nine (although still a kid at heart).
So armed with assurance from Scripture that kids can enter an authentic relationship with the Lord, along with numerous examples that children do commit their young lives to Jesus,
the question becomes how?
A Personal Approach
Many children's ministries answer that question with clear and relevant lessons, accompanied by creative Bible teaching.
Incredible salvation messages for kids have become plentiful and readily available, and certainly enjoy success. But they represent only one approach. Because when one of these programs or lessons ends, little eyes frequently scan for adults in the room while their little minds formulate big questions.
What happens next contributes mightily to a ministry's ability to reach its full impact. The adults in that room can help individual kids cross the line of salvation by engaging in simple conversations.