How to Explain Salvation to a Child

Kids ask so many questions. Most of those questions are somewhere between cute (“Have you met my imaginary friend?”) and concerning (“Did my mommy pack an extra pair of underwear for me?”).

Somewhere on that spectrum are spiritual questions. Kids ask why Zacchaeus was so small and how Noah built such a big boat with no power tools. They ask if dinosaurs are in the Bible or if Jesus could fly. They also ask deeply significant questions.

I’ll never forget the moment my son asked me, with concern in his eyes, about sin. He’d been taught in church about sin, read about it in his children’s Bible, and heard about it on Veggie Tales. He understood that sin was a problem and he was aware that his own sin was real. I could see the Holy Spirit’s conviction on his heart. The conversation that followed was life-changing for both of us.

The precious saints who teach the Bible to our kids every week are no strangers to these conversations. It’s important to be prepared to discuss spiritual things with kids. And, what’s more, when they ask these questions it’s not enough to just have an answer. When it comes to the topic of salvation and the gospel, we need to be prepared to give an answer in a way that helps each child understand at their own level.

This video is a sample from the TrainedUp video training library. It’s one module in a 9-part video course to help children’s volunteers talk to kids about Jesus and salvation. Learn more about the TrainedUp library

Let’s look at a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to share the gospel with children.

1. Be Ready To Ask Follow-up Questions

Remember that this is a discussion, not a presentation. You’re not giving a speech and you’re not teaching a lesson. You’re helping the child discover truth.

2. Avoid Giving More Information Than A Child Needs

Children have a huge capacity for learning, but giving them more than they need during a gospel conversation can muddy the waters and make focus difficult.

3. Don’t Jump To Conclusions

It’s all-too-easy to assume a child knows about different aspects of the good news. Without venturing into information overload, it’s important to cover the gospel thoroughly.

4. Speak In Clear Terms

As an adult, you probably have an arsenal of metaphors and anecdotes and euphemisms. Children don’t have those language tools, so speak clearly and in concrete terms. And definitely avoid big theological words whenever possible. For example, “substitutionary atonement” might be better phrased as, “Jesus took your punishment to make things right between you and God.”

5. Find A Quiet Place Free Of Distractions

Kids have a legendary capacity for distraction. Sharing the gospel story in the lobby between services is a bad place. However, you still need to follow safety and accountability policies to keep the child and yourself out of trouble and above reproach. Most churches have a two-adult rule: never be alone with a child behind a closed door.

6. Use A Physical Bible That You Can Write/Mark In

Your Bible app is a great tool, but I doubt you’re going to give your phone to the child after the gospel conversation. A physical Bible can be marked, bookmarked, and underlined…and then given to the child as a gift.

7. Determine The Context Of The Child’s Curiosity

Before diving into the meat of the conversation, start with open questions about what they know, where they learned, and why they’re curious about the gospel now.

8. Start With God’s Love For The Child (Psalm 139:13-16)

God created each child and loves each child. That truth should always be the starting point for any gospel conversation.

9. Discuss Sin In The Context Of Separation From God (Romans 3:23)

The discussion of sin doesn’t need to turn the child into a punching bag. The Holy Spirit does his work of conviction. All you need to do is help them see the consequences of their sin. TrainedUp has video courses about sin and salvation to aid with a simple explanation of these truths.

10. Explain Briefly How Forgiveness Works (Romans 5:8)

This a great opportunity to relate how forgiving others (siblings, friends, etc) translates into God forgiving us.

11. Tell Them How Jesus Made Eternal Forgiveness Possible (John 3:16)

This is the turning point in the gospel story. Despite the necessary consequences of our sin, Jesus died for us so we could be with God.

12. Encourage The Child Toward Repentance (Romans 10:9)

Repentance is a difficult concept to teach sometimes. However, you can simplify it in this moment by explaining that repentance is making a promise to change our actions and then following through on that promise.

13. Help The Child Respond To The Gospel

When I was a kid, I learned about the 3-part response to the gospel message and I believe it’s still effective and helpful today. It’s simple: ADMIT that you’re a sinner, BELIEVE that Jesus died for you and was raised to life, and CONFESS Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

14. Come Up With A Way For The Child To Commemorate Their Decision To Follow Christ

The Bible you used to read each scripture passage makes a great commemorative gift. Write the date of their salvation decision in the front, along with their name, and dog-ear the pages with the scriptures highlighted.

15. Talk To The Child’s Parent(S) About Their Decision

It’s important that the child’s parents know about their decision to follow Christ. Even if their parents aren’t deeply spiritual people, this decision is too important to keep from them.

16. Begin The Discussion About Baptism

Baptism should happen soon after a salvation decision, but the child does need the chance to understand what baptism is and is not before taking that step. TrainedUp has video training on baptism and how to explain it.

17. Have A Plan To Help Each Child Grow In Their Walk With Christ

A spiritual development plan is a vital part of each child’s walk with Christ. This plan should include helping the child engage with the Bible and be a part of a Bible-believing church.


About Scott Magdalein

Scott Magdalein is the founder of TrainedUp. Previously, he worked as project manager for YouVersion and Church Online, a software developer at Treehouse, a digital director for an ad agency, and as an Executive Pastor in multiple local churches. He lives in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and two boys.

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