How to Know When a Child is Old Enough to Accept Jesus as Their Savior

This past weekend, I was teaching the elementary group in my home church.

I asked one of the girls, who is 9 years old, if she had accepted Jesus as her Savior.

Her response was, "Not yet. My mother doesn't think I am old enough to understand."

I have also seen the opposite happen.  A parent is pushing for his or her child to "pray the prayer" and then get baptized. But the child is only 5 years old. 

So how do you know when a child is old enough to step across the line of faith?  

As a children's ministry leader, it is crucial that you know what to look for and how you can help families navigate the most important decision their child will ever make.

Here are the things a child needs to know if they are going to enter a relationship with Jesus.

I have sinned.  Before you can be saved, you have to understand that you are lost.  If you ask a child if they have ever sinned and they say "no," then they are not ready to be saved.  Romans 3:23 makes this very clear.  

There is a price for sin that must be paid.  A child must understand that they cannot enter a relationship with Jesus until their sin bill is paid. (Romans 6:23)

Jesus died for our sins.  He has paid our sin bill.  We must ask Him to forgive our sins and trust Him and Him alone, for our salvation. (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10)

Another way you can know is this - the child keeps bringing up the subject on their own. If they keep coming back to you about this, then it is a sign that God is drawing them to Himself.

Here's something else to look for - you sense the child understands they need to make this decision. It is not because their friends have done this and it seems like a cool thing to do.  Or they saw their friends get baptized and it looked fun to them.  There's a big difference between "wanting" to make a decision vs. "needing" to make a decision.

What age should a child be?  This is different for each child.  However, around age 7-8, children begin to understand abstract thoughts.  Here's an example.

You tell a child that Jesus is the bridge back to God.  A 5-year-old child is thinking there is a literal bridge back to God that you have to cross.  But an older child understands that this is just an example of what it means to follow Jesus. 

Here's what I often tell parents and church leaders.  It is not our role to hold a child back from making a decision.  It is also not our role to push children into making a premature decision. Our role is to walk beside the child and have conversations about following Jesus. As you do this, God will draw them to Himself.  

It is so important to be thorough when sharing the Gospel with children.  Children are the greatest mission field in the world. We know that most people come to Christ before the age of 18.  We must reach them while their hearts are open to the Gospel.

If you are looking for a resource to help you lead children and parents to Christ, then Starting Point  is a great resource.  It has been used to lead thousands of kids to Christ.  You can get more information at this link

What a privilege we have to share the Gospel with children and their parents.  May God continue to pour down His blessings upon you while you are sharing the Gospel.  There is nothing that is more important than this.