How to Teach Kids the Gospel

One of the things that I have struggled with since beginning in ministry is how to share the gospel with kids. It’s the most important thing that we get to do. It’s something that you must get right. I hope to share some of my struggles and failures and point out a resource that will help you to share the gospel effectively in your ministry to children.

I read more books on the Gospel lately than any other topic. I really care about getting this right with kids. I’ve seen the research and teenagers and young adults not clearly being able to articulate their faith is something that I take personally. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is beautifully simple and yet rich with depth. It’s a story that never gets old or dusty. You must continue to dive deeper the longer you are connected to the Gospel. The Gospel is the basis of what we believe about God and us and should give us a foundation on how we live our lives.

But oftentimes, pastors, volunteers, and sunday school teachers struggle with teaching the most important story ever told to 5, 6, & 7 year olds and beyond. So how do we teach kids the Gospel?

Today I’d like to share my story and hope that it provides encouragement to you.

Kids don’t get it

First of all, I had a few problems teaching the Bible to kids. Probably two big ones. Things that you probably have felt as well.

  • Teaching stories that aren’t so child friendly (Noah’s ark, Jesus on the cross, David and Goliath, etc.)
  • Morality (be good, don’t lie, be kind, etc.)

Moral behavior is evidence of a changed life, but it does not equal life change. There are very moral people who are separated from God.

But when I am teaching children, specifically younger children, there is a struggle inside to teach the “full counsel” of God’s word. I struggled with this beginning in my ministry role. I went to the Orange Conference and heard communicators talk about sharing Christ with kids and one thing that I walked away with during that conference was this thought.

Jesus prodded adults to become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven, not the other way around. These frustrations that I had with not being able to give what I thought was “the whole story” was completely upside down. I needed to dive deeper into the simplicity of the Gospel.

Kids can get it

Part of my frustration to is that I grew up in church and have always felt connected to God. I’ve rebelled but always felt drawn to Him. I thank God for that now, but being a teenage I remember hearing tremendously amazing stories of life change from adults. Addicts that lost addictions, violent men become teddy bears, and sexual deviants changed into God honoring servants.

Yet, I couldn’t find huge evidence of life change and I always struggled with it. Not that I didn’t have any or that I doubted that life change was a pre-requisite but instead that what I read in Scripture didn’t match up with what I perceived to be my story.

But Jesus, was saying kids can get it and that adults need to become like kids to get it. It shifted from despair of not understanding how kids can get it to instead how can they get it?

A book that is helping me

This book called, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by JD Greear, has been so good for me to clarify some things that I do when I share the Gospel with children. I’ve avoided praying the sinner’s prayer in my ministry even though I have called for decisions quite a few times.

This book helps me see a little bit more of why it resonated with me to not do that. It muddies the water. A prayer is not what our faith is based on. Our faith is based on “Jesus in our Place”, the Gospel of Christ and our continual dependence on it.

My desire isn’t for kids to know everything but at least have heard of Jesus and His love for us and His life, death, and resurrection being traded for our everyday life.

This book has helped solidify and is helping me rethink how I share the gospel with kids. Here are some things that I make sure that I do when I teach kids the Gospel.

Non-Negotiables

  • God’s plan of Creation (God created us for good)
  • Our sin and consequential disconnection from our original purpose and from God
  • Jesus’ rescue of us
  • Our response (faith and repentance)
  • Call to action (prayer, find an adult, sign up for baptism, etc.)

Sometimes

  • Balloon illustration (our balloon pops and Jesus trades His balloon for ours)
  • Chair illustration (placing your trust in the chair)
  • Story of Christ and His life, death, and resurrection

Never

I’ve done most of these. I’m saddened by it but hope to never do them again. Thankful for the Gospel and that God is bigger and better than my teaching.

  • Try harder, do better (the solution is to lean into Jesus)
  • Quit that behavior (I try to talk about turning to something in addition to turning away from something)
  • Confirming the prayer they prayed gets them to heaven (It might not, just like donating a lot of money to the church doesn’t)
  • Once saved, always saved (very complex…read the above book for more on why this could be confusing to children)

I know that the way that I’ve presented Jesus has changed over the past few years, but I finally feel some progress because I’m confident that point kids to Jesus in all things is really the Gospel.

And I share the Gospel much like JD explains in his book

Jesus in my place

I hope to help children see that Jesus, not effort or a prayer or a lifestyle is what gives us assurance and that is what I want my kids to lean into it.

  • Share the story of God
  • Share your story
  • Focus on Faith and Repentance (both are necessary for faith)
  • Look for response
  • It’s more than just a one time conversation or event so keep going

What are some of your struggles in sharing the gospel? Has it changed over the years?

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J.C. Thompson
J.C. Thompson is the 5th & 6th Grade Director at Brookwood Church in Simpsonville, SC, one of Outreach magazine’s Top 100 Largest Churches in America.