My first summer as a CentriKid staffer was great. I was a little nervous, of course, but the first week I had a great group of 3rd and 4th graders who I absolutely loved. I was so excited because one kid, Tyler, was very eager to understand how to become a Christian. I wanted to present the Gospel with perfect clarity, especially for Tyler. Wednesday during Bible study, I explained the cross and our need to be forgiven.
Tyler asked me, “How do I become a Christian?” I thought I had the perfect kid-friendly answer, “You ask Jesus into your heart.” There was a long pause and an incredibly puzzled look on Tyler’s face that slowly turned into horror. “Coach Mary, how bad is it going to hurt to get him in there?”
I was speaking in abstract terms to a concrete thinker. Kids begin to understand abstract thoughts around 12, but most don’t fully grasp them until much later. I needed to speak in ideas that he could relate to or hold in his hands.
“You ask Jesus into your heart.”
“This requires a surgical procedure to put a little heart-sized Jesus into the really important organ in my chest that keeps me alive.”
I explained to Tyler that we all do lots of things that don’t make God happy, and we have to be sorry for those. I also told him about what Jesus did on the cross for him, and that Christ was punished for those bad things Tyler (and all of us) did. I also explained that he’d have to want God to be in control of His life. I asked him what he thought salvation was and asked him to explain what he knew about Jesus. Tyler wasn’t quite ready to “ask Jesus into his heart,” but he definitely was learning a lot about exactly what it meant.
I may not have twenty-some years of experience, but I certainly have had my share of triumphs and downfalls talking with kids about salvation. I’m so glad that salvation doesn’t depend on us! I can be a total failure at the English language at times, yet God is so good to sort out my words and work in lives despite my miscommunication. Watch for more taboo words like “asking Jesus into your heart.” We will create quite a list.
Have you ever had a time when you felt like a failure in communicating to the kids in your church?