When I used to manage Christian bookstores, I would often serve customers looking for parenting resources. There was one request I received almost every week: a book that would help parents conduct, “The Talk.”
No, I don’t mean that talk. Sure, we had parents ask for titles such as, “How Babies Are Made.” Sex is an important topic to be sure, but it pales in comparison to another sweat-inducing subject. What’s more nerve-racking than talking to children about sex? Well, according to many bookstore-visiting parents, it’s discussing the gospel.
It’s wonderful to hold the gospel in such regard that it’s treated as the most important message kids can hear. However, esteeming the gospel highly doesn’t mean we have to fear communicating it reguarly. Here are practical ways to illustrate four core truths of the gospel through everyday conversations you can have with your child.
1) The Beginning: Creation
The role of God as Creator is essential to the gospel. Without it, kids may question why sin is such a big deal and why God is the One who gets to call the shots. When God is understood as the Creator, kids receive context to understand why His standard of righteousness is the one that counts. Creation validates the authority of Jesus’ gospel.
- Use police officers, teachers, and yourself as examples of what authority looks like in your kid’s life. Point out speed limit signs as you pass them (while driving under the limit!) to show how the law-of-the-land determines what’s right and wrong. Springboard from these examples to Matthew 28:18 and explain how ultimate authority rests in Jesus.
- Spontaneously admire creation with your kids. Point out the beauty of a sunset or the complexity of a bug’s body. As you do, share Romans 1:20 and speak to God’s role as Creator and Ruler.
2) The Problem: Sin and The Fall
Kids (like adults) can only receive the gospel as good news if they first understand the bad news that predicates it. One of the most loving truths we can convey to our kids is that things aren’t the way they should be, not in this world or in our hearts! When kids recognize their real problem is sin (and the curse that sin brought), it sets the stage for a Hero who can make things right again.
- Help your kid connect the dots between their frustration with the world and the source of their problems, The Fall. Explain how stubbed toes and bullies didn’t exist in God’s original world, but were brought on by sin. Scripture says it’s better to be at a funeral than a party (Ecclesiastes 7:2). While it may sound somber, it’s good for kids to experience the world as broken so they’ll develop a hunger for the Redeemer.
- Every book, movie, and video game has a problem which drives the plot. Help kids identify “the problem” in the stories they enjoy and then draw connections to the ultimate problem in their personal story, sin.
3) The Hero: Jesus
Kids need to know Jesus as their personal Hero in the fight against sin and death. Kids are drawn to heroes. As Christian parents, we get the honor of unabashedly gushing over the heroic nature of Christ in order to present the gospel as epic good news to our kids.
- Just as you ask your kids to identify “the problem” in their stories (see above), have them also name the hero. Ask kids how the hero in their story or game resembles Jesus. Describe to them how He’s your real-life hero.
- Read Old Testament stories through the lenses of a coming Messiah. Kids (and all people for that matter) have the tendency to identify with the “good guys” in stories. Help kids understand only Christ is good (Matthew 19:17) and that even heroes of the faith needed the ultimate Hero, Jesus, to save them from sin.
4) The Response: Believe and Repent
Kids not only need to hear the gospel; they also need to understand what the God-honoring response to it is. The Bible’s answer to this can be summed up in two words: believe and repent. While we cannot make our kids follow Christ, we can certainly set the stage so they’ll know how to do so with confidence.
- Commandeer discipline opportunities using Biblical language. Replace “Santa’s watching you!” with the more direct, “You’re sinning. You need to repent.”
- Regularly speak to examples of how you live differently because of the gospel. Do you tithe? Let your kid help you guide the mouse as you do online giving or tear the check out as you prepare it. Explain you give not to earn God’s salvation, but in response to what Jesus did on the cross. Showing kids how genuine faith leads to a change in behavior will help them grasp the gospel better than an abstract expression can (i.e. “invite Jesus into your heart”).
Teaching the gospel to kids is not a one-and-done deal. Rather, it takes place during many conversations over the course of childhood. Deuteronomy 11:19 encourages parents to discuss God’s word at home, on the road, while standing, and sitting. As we grow comfortable doing this with the gospel, “The Talk” becomes less of an intimidating event and more of a lifestyle.