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5 Ideas for Teaching the Gospel to Young Kids

I vividly remember taking my youngest daughter to a zoo when she was about 20 months old and telling her, “When we walk around this next corner, you’re going to see the biggest land animal in the whole world!” We stepped past the trees, and there was an elephant right in front of us, with its trunk raised in salute.

My daughter’s eyes grew wide with amazement, admiration, and maybe a little fear as she pointed in wordless wonder at the gigantic creature. “Guess what?” my husband said to her. “God is even more awesome than that.”

There are a million ways to point young kids to God. Every day is full of opportunities. But how can we take it a step further and help them begin to understand the gospel? Here are five general principles that worked for my husband and me as we raised our five kids through the little years.

1. Read the Word.

Long before preschoolers can read the Bible on their own, we can introduce them to God’s Word. Children can memorize Scripture, especially if the words are set to music or accompanied by hand motions. Little ones may not comprehend all they recite, but they’re still hiding the Word in their hearts (Ps. 119:11).

The Bible contains exciting stories in addition to words of truth and life. Baby Moses in the river, Daniel in the lion’s den, and the birth of Christ are all gripping narratives for kids. Picture books can be excellent resources for accessible Bible stories and theology, but don’t shy away from reading stories straight from the Bible (just review the gruesome bits beforehand!).

Your audience may not understand the context of Israelite history or the covenantal arc, but as Paul explained, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Even young children can learn to love God’s Word in a way that prepares them to seek it out on their own as they grow.

Don’t shy away from reading stories straight from the Bible.

2. Look at the world.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and our little ones’ eyes are wide open to see that glory all around them. We can talk about God as Creator when we look at the varieties of fish at the pet store or flowers in a garden or flavors in our spice cabinet. We can talk about God’s care when we see a bird find a seed or when the sun rises beautifully every morning. Even in the hard or dangerous parts of nature, we can talk about God’s plan for the world, how it was broken, and how it’ll be redeemed.

The story of God’s goodness is unfolding all around us, and our kids are asking us all the time to translate it into a language they can understand because God has given them wonder and curiosity about his world. As we discuss the world with our kids, we can teach them the gospel through the lens of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation (even if we don’t use all those big words right away).

3. Teach the law.

While narratives in the Bible may seem like the most natural fit for young kids, teaching the law is also important, and it involves at least two parts. The first part is teaching what God’s Word says about right and wrong. We can tell our kids, as many parents do, that the Bible says to treat others the way we want to be treated (Luke 6:31).

Teachings like this do much more than simply help children learn how to live together; they also reveal God’s standards for sin and righteousness. Those are valuable lessons in a world that often encourages us to redefine right and wrong, deceiving ourselves into thinking we’re doing fine. Jesus says in Luke 5:31–32 that the sick are the ones who know they need a doctor. The law teaches us we’re unwell.

The second part is teaching that actions have consequences. However your family decides to lovingly enforce boundaries, consistently keeping your word and following through with just consequences can show children biblical truths about goodness, righteousness, and justice.

Parenting includes encouraging our kids and talking to them about their inherent worth as people created by God in his image. But when we also lovingly teach them about sin through God’s Word and through consequences, we not only give them practical wisdom for living but lay a foundation for them to understand the gospel. If children don’t come to see themselves as sinners who’ve broken God’s law and justly deserve punishment, they also won’t understand their need for Christ.

4. Explain grace.

As children grow in their understanding of the law, they’re more prepared to comprehend the overwhelming value of grace. But we need to clearly explain grace to them. Kids may hear cultural references to “saying grace” before a meal or “giving yourself grace” when you mess up. We need to explain that grace means we all deserve just punishment, but God loved us so much he took our punishment on himself.

When we talk to our children about God’s law or about sin or about the brokenness of the world around us, we have natural openings to teach them about grace. We can tell them only God is perfect in goodness and love, which is why salvation can only come through Jesus. We can plan for these conversations and carefully consider how we’ll explain the gospel. One mom told me she wrote out the gospel in a few bullet points using language her young daughters could understand, and then she repeated those points over and over to them on different occasions.

5. Live it out.

Many Christians can point back to the prayers and faithfulness of adults who took them to church, shared the truth, and loved them well when they were children. You have the incredible, intimidating opportunity to show the children in your life what God’s love is like by loving them with patience, forbearance, creativity, faithfulness, and joy.

But praise God, we can still share the gospel even when—perhaps especially when—we inevitably mess up. You can show the children you love what it looks like to fail, to ask for forgiveness, and to walk in repentance with the Lord, by his grace.

Praise God, we can still share the gospel even when—perhaps especially when—we inevitably mess up.

Jesus commanded us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). We have the amazing privilege of living out that command in our homes and churches when we share the gospel with our little ones. Many of us train extensively to evangelize strangers, and we shouldn’t take for granted the opportunities to share the gospel with the small people in our lives. Jesus invites children to come to him—consider how you can help them along the way.

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