Is a child able to understand the Gospel? I’d say, it all depends on which Gospel you present to them. Now, you might ask: “Is there more than one Gospel?” Let me explain.
Yes, there is a single Gospel message. But as you follow the thread through Scripture, you’ll discover writers use a wide variety of imagery, symbols, and concepts to help readers understand the Gospel.
- Paying the ransom to set us free
- Leading us into the Kingdom of God
- Inviting us to be born again
- Taking our punishment for sin
They all point to the same Gospel, but use different concepts and imagery.
Though we rely on the Holy Spirit to help children understand the Gospel, we still have the responsibility to present the message clearly. So, which is the best Gospel to present to a child?
Build on Their Life Experiences
Let’s take our cue from Jesus, the master teacher. He often used a basic teaching principle: “move from the known to the unknown.” He would begin with common life experiences and build on those to teach the truths of the Kingdom of God.
When Jesus spoke to farmers, he started with grain, grapes, and olive trees. When he taught fishermen, he said “I will make you fishers of men.” He connected truths to their life experiences.
We can also begin with life experiences when we teach children. Let’s consider how this might apply to the use of these four Gospel concepts.
Paying the ransom to set us free. This metaphor of freedom from slavery was common in New Testament times. But children now don’t likely have household servants. With no direct life connection, it may not be the best place to begin.
Leading us into the Kingdom of God. People in Jesus’ day experienced the “kingdom” of the Romans daily. Our children are familiar with kingdoms in books or movies, but kingdoms play no direct part of their daily experience. Inviting them to enter the Kingdom of God may not be the best choice.
Inviting us to be born again. It’s true, even Nicodemus had a hard time with this concept. But children may be able to connect with it. If they live in a family or have a baby sibling, the idea of being born into God’s family could connect to a child’s life experience.
Taking our punishment for sin. Most, if not all, children are familiar with receiving a punishment for wrong behaviour. It’s an easier step to go from this common experience to a scenario where a sibling or friend lovingly steps in and offers to take the consequence in their place. How powerful the Gospel becomes, when presented as a Saviour stepping in to take the death punishment we all deserve under God’s law.
Watch for those direct life experiences, and how they may parallel the truths of the Gospel.
But what if a child lacks life experiences that parallel Gospel concepts? Can you create life experiences that define Gospel concepts? Watch for the answer in the second installment of this post, coming next week.
Roland McQuade is a missionary trainer and camp speaker with One Hope Canada.