What do children need in order to thrive? There are so many answers to that question: Unconditional love. Safety and security. Opportunities to explore their God-given gifts. The stable and faithful care of parents, grandparents, or other caregivers who will nurture them and show them how to live. Friends. Someone who will help them build good self-esteem. Learning to exercise self-control. Someone who will help them learn to live primarily for others, rather than only for themselves.
All of these good gifts are indeed necessary. But there is one thing more, without which no child can truly and deeply thrive. One thing of paramount importance. That thing is to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Why? It boils down to this: every person on earth was made for relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. Jesus says: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Without that relationship, nothing in life develops as it was designed to be. Nothing matters. It’s as though a talented artist created a beautiful masterpiece, and then locked it away in a closet for no one to enjoy.
Notice that I speak here of a relationship with Jesus. The word relationship is key. To have a relationship with someone is very different from simply knowing facts about that person. I know many facts about my wife. But those facts alone do nothing to help me or to bless her. If I don’t have relationship with my wife, those facts are meaningless.
To have relationship with Jesus is not only to know about him, but it is to know him. To experience his love, to feel the comfort of his presence, to know the faithfulness of his care, to rest in the finality of his work for us on the cross. Jesus is a living person who knows us and wants us to know him.
What are some things you can do to help your child develop a relationship with Jesus? ere Here are a few simple ways to begin.
- Teach your child about Jesus. Yes, I did say a moment ago that simply knowing facts about Jesus is not the same as knowing Jesus. But how else do you help start a relationship between two people, except to introduce them? Learning about Jesus is the first step in growing in relationship with him. You can do this through reading Scripture with your child. Begin in an age-appropriate way. For older children, you can read with them directly from the Bible. But for younger children, it might be easier to use a children’s Bible or a Bible storybook. Links to some suggested resources may be found below.
- Talk with your child about your own relationship with Jesus. Most children learn anecdotally, through example. Regardless of the depth of your own relationship with Jesus, give real-life examples of how you know Jesus loves you. Talk about how Jesus has answered your prayers. Talk about how you know God has forgiven your sin because Jesus died on the cross in your place. Even if you feel you don’t have much first-hand experience, trust that the Lord will not only use you to help your child know about Jesus, but that the Lord will grow your own with him as you do it.
- Pray for your child. You have a sacred privilege as a parent, grandparent, guardian, or caregiver to intercede on behalf of your child. Ask the Lord to give your child faith to believe in Jesus. Pray that you would be a good example of a faithful Christian for your child. Pray that the Holy Spirit would protect your child from Satan’s influence and deception. Pray that the Spirit would give your child a tender heart, and that he or she would recognize that they are a sinner in need of God’s grace.
- Pray with your child. Praying with your child is not only a way to bond with your child and help them to bond to Jesus, but a way to teach them how to pray themselves. The prayers don’t need to be long, but sometimes having regular times to pray during the day is helpful. Some parents pray with their children in the morning, around mealtimes, and before bed. And praying with your child when difficult things happen—like disappointments, temper tantrums, or fights—is a good way to teach your child to turn to the Lord. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is a prayer all by itself, as well as a good basis for many other prayers. If you’d like some additional ideas about ways to pray with your child, a short list of resources follows at the end of this article.
- Bring your child to church and Sunday school. God’s people aren’t just a bunch of individuals; they are a community. Jesus established this community (called the church) as a way to make his character and work known to the world, and for the benefit of all of the members of the church. Many churches have Sunday schools that help children not only learn about Jesus, but where children can develop relationships with peers and where parents can develop relationships with other adults. Going to church isn’t meant to be a legalistic thing. It’s actually a gift from the Lord, which enables us to grow in faith and in love with God and with one another.
This article only scratches the surface concerning talking with your children about Jesus. But it’s a start. If you’d like some more ideas, talk with a trusted Christian friend, your pastor, or one of the teachers or administrators at one of the Jubilee network Schools. And check back to this blog for more articles on helping your child learn about Jesus.
Children’s Bibles and Bible Storybooks
- The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy
- Jesus Saves: The Gospel for Toddlers
- The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Prayer Books for Children
- A Book of Prayers for Kids: Ways to Talk to God Every Day by Mel Lawrenz
- Tell God How You Feel: Helping Kids with Hard Emotions by Christina Fox
- A Book of Prayers for Children: Talking to God About Different Things by Melissa Madsen
Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.
Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve lower-income students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.