So, you feel the Lord leading you to move to the new Edgefield Campus, but how are you supposed to explain this to your children? How can you explain to your fearful and emotional child the “Why” of being sent? How can you comfort your child if their close friend is moving to Edgefield? These are all questions worth prayerfully considering. Here are three tips to help you think through and communicate with your children in a clear gospel-centered way.
1. Know Why You’re Moving
After you have spent time in prayer (personally and with your spouse) bring up the decision during a time when it is the most opportune to talk about the gospel. In our family, the most “gospel-opportune” times are at the dinner table, before bed, and during family prayer/devotion time. Not having family devotions? Now is a great time to start!
Here’s how the conversation has gone at our dinner table:
“Kids, you know how we are always talking about the gospel at Mercy Hill?” (Let kids answer).
“Well, can you tell me what the gospel is? Can you explain it to me?” (Let kids answer. Encourage them to share their ideas, even if they are not totally correct.)
If, like us, your young kids do not get it exactly right, take this opportunity to share the gospel with them again. Say something like, “Those are great ideas, but let’s read this story and see what the Bible tells us about the gospel.” Then read about Jesus’ death and resurrection in the Jesus Storybook Bible.
After reading the story, explain the gospel: “We can see the gospel in this true story—all humans are sinners, and that’s bad news because it separates us from the one and only holy God. But the good news is that Jesus came and died on the cross and rose from the grave to pay for our sins. This is the gospel: God loved me enough to send Jesus, and Jesus paid for my sins. Being a Christian means believing this, following God, and relying on him every day for the rest of your life.” Need more help explaining the gospel to kids? You can always access our Family Resource Center where we have a Kids Guide, Family Devotions, and more!
After reviewing the gospel, move into a conversation about how the gospel “sends.” You can relate this truth to kids they know from school, the neighborhood, or activities. Your four-year-old may not understand yet, but one day they will. Don’t wait until your kids understand everything perfectly to start having gospel-centered conversations, or you will likely wait forever! Start talking and instructing every day, and let the Holy Spirit lay a foundation of truth in their hearts.
2. Validate Your Child’s Emotions, but Don’t Bow to Them
Your child may be emotional. That’s okay! Emotions are a God-given sign to what is going on inside the heart. They should be acknowledged and validated, but not the driving force governing decisions. If your child is very emotional and a hug is not going to be enough, encourage them to talk to you, to write or draw their feelings, and ultimately, teach them to pray. Also, remember to model this behavior for them, and in doing so, you will show them what an incredibly kind and loving God we serve. This is another “gospel-opportune time” to instruct concerning the character of our God.
3. Model Obedience
The heart of gospel-centered parenting really only consists of two things: instruction through gospel-centered words and actions (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) and grace-saturated discipline (Proverbs 22:15). The gospel-centered home is God’s classroom where he uses the words and actions of redeemed parents to shape the hearts of their children. As with all instruction and training, there will come a time when talking needs to cease and action needs to begin. If you want to see your children grow into devoted followers of Christ, then we must first be devoted followers of Christ. We cannot expect our children to “do what he says to do and go where he says to go” if we have not modeled this behavior. Keep talking with your kids about the “why” of being sent, praying with them through their emotions, and teaching them the attributes of our great God. But by all means, when the time comes, choose to obey the Lord. We will not get obedience right every time, that is why we need a savior. But the continual pursuit of the Lord will model the gospel-centered life for your child.
And, finally, as you obey, trust the Lord. All parents face anxiety in wanting to do what’s best for their children. Without a doubt, the best thing for your child is to see you serve the Lord and him alone (not emotions, not convenience, not even preference). The Lord cares for your children more than you ever could; they are his personal concern, and their futures are safe in his hands. “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.” (1 Peter 5:7 PHILLIPS).
-Shannon Hoots (Kids Associate Director – Edgefield)