In light of J.D. Greear’s helpful description of Faith as a Posture (see this previous post), he says the following about leading young children to Christ.
As a father of four young children, I have often reflected on the best way to lead them to faith. I want their decision to follow Jesus to be significant, but I also don’t want them to go through what I went through [continual doubt about salvation]. I know that when you present kids with a “Don’t you want to be a good girl and accept Jesus and not go to a fiery hell?” of course they say, “Yes.” “Praying the prayer” in such a situation may have little do with actual faith in Christ and have more to do with making Daddy happy.
For that reason, many parents don’t want to push their child to make a decision for Christ. What if we coerce them into praying a prayer they don’t understand, and that keeps them from really dealing with the issues later when they really understand it? Might having them pray the prayer too early on inoculate them from really coming to Jesus later, giving them false assurance that keeps them from dealing with their need to be saved?
I understand that fear. At the same time, I know that children are capable of faith [Matt. 18:1–6]. … So I don’t ever want to discourage my kids from faith
The dilemma is resolved, however, by seeing salvation as a posture toward Christ and not as a ceremony. … From the very beginning of their lives, I want my kids to assume that posture!
… So I teach my children, all along the way, to be surrendered toward Jesus and believing of what He said He accomplished.
I explain to them often what Christ has done and encourage them to pin their hopes of righteousness on His work and not theirs. … Over the years I have told them that if they would trust in Christ’s finished work as their own, and follow Him as Lord, they would be saved.
But what if they don’t really grasp all that salvation entails? … Certainly, as my kids grow older, they will have moments in which they “own” their posture toward Him. But it is a posture I can encourage them toward from the beginning. …
To be honest, I’d even be OK if they ended up not knowing the precise moment they “received Christ.” …
The bottom line: It’s never too young to begin trusting in and surrendering to Jesus.
The gospel has been announced! Jesus has summoned the whole world to repent and believe. That includes our children. I want them to obey today.
~ From J.D. Greear‘s Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You are Saved (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013). I recommend that you read the entire book.
As Greear later said in an interview with Mark Driscoll,
Again, it’s like sitting down in a chair. If you’re sitting down now, that is proof that at some point you made the decision to sit down even if you don’t remember the moment. There was a moment you sat down, but the proof is in the present posture, not the past memory. The same is true with my kids and the Lordship of Jesus and his finished work. They can only be in one of two postures with him. So whenever I talk to them about Jesus, I encourage them to assume the posture of repentance and faith. Why would I ever want them to have a different posture in relationship to Jesus? Whether they can explain later the exact moment they sat down in repentance and faith is less important than the fact that they do it.