Counseling a Child for Salvation Or, What Do I Say when a Child Responds to the Invitation?

“Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it’.” -- Luke 18:15-17

Through the faithful Bible teaching of his Christian parents, eleven-year-old Edward Bartlett had become a believer. Then, he told and re-told the good news of Jesus to Phoebe, his four-year-old sister.

It seemed odd, but now and then little Phoebe would duck alone into one of the closets in their home. Since there was no destructive behavior occurring, her mother allowed it to continue.

One day, as Mrs. Bartlett passed that closet, she overheard Phoebe’s sweet voice earnestly pleading, “Lord, give me salvation…pardon all my sins.” When Phoebe exited the closet, she was in tears. She hurried to her mother and sat down beside her and joyfully burst out, “Mother! The kingdom of heaven is come to me!”

Mrs. Bartlett pulled Phoebe close while pondering her daughter’s words. “Could a child as young Phoebe make a genuine, authentic profession of faith in Christ?” Wisely, Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett watched to see how Phoebe’s pint-sized faith would demonstrate itself.

A few months passed. On a beautiful August day, Phoebe and her siblings were walking out-of-doors when they eyed their neighbor’s fruit tree. It was loaded with irresistible, fall-into-your-hands, luscious plums. So, each of the Bartlett kids plucked a plum, gobbled it, then went skipping down the road.

Upon their return home, the children voluntarily confessed their wrongdoing to their mother. Mrs. Bartlett immediately turned her children around, marched them back to their neighbor’s home and reported, “My children have misbehaved.” She explained the error of their ways. Following suit, each of the Bartlett children asked their neighbor to forgive them for stealing his plums.

“Those ripe plums?” the gentlemen replied. “They probably would have dropped off the tree anyway since I’ve had no time to pick them.”

Excused or not, Phoebe cried, and cried, and cried.

Concerned, Mrs. Bartlett asked, “Phoebe dear, what's the matter?”

The little tike blurted out, "I’m crying because what we did was sin. And, if my sister Eunice asked me to go a hundred times to eat more of our neighbor’s plums, I would not do it."

Mrs. Bartlett was convinced. Her young Phoebe, well taught in the scriptures, had experienced true conversion. Phoebe, as young as she was, was a God-seeker. “The Kingdom of Heaven” had really come to Phoebe!

(Story adapted from Jonathan Edwards’ book, A Faithful Narrative Of the Surprising Work Of God. Printed in 1737.)

Children Can Believe the Gospel

Like the Bartlett parents, and 11-year-old Edward who taught Phoebe, your teaching of the Word of God may convince a child about Jesus’ identity as the Savior. But it is the unseen work of the Holy Spirit, who uses God’s Word to convict a child of their need of salvation through the truth in Christ. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

When Paul wrote to the “saints” of churches in Ephesus and Colossae, he addressed children-believers (Ephesus 6:1 & 4; and Colossians 3:20).

In Luke 18:15-17 Jesus wasn’t hailing the mega-faith of an adult as the way into His kingdom. His words in Luke 18:15-17 confirmed that pint-sized, humble (“I need God”), childlike faith in Christ is what is needed to enter the kingdom of heaven. Believing (pisteuo) faith (John 3:16) like Nicodemus needed to obtain everlasting life, is the same Greek word used in Matthew 18:6 when Jesus described “children who believe (pisteuo) in Me…”

At What Age Graph

This USA survey, posted on-line by Ministry-To-Children, shows that what Mrs. Bartlett witnessed in her children’s lives in the mid-1700s is still true today: many people who come to know Christ as Savior, do so between the ages of 6-19.

Who Helped You Come To Christ Graph

This second survey, also from Ministry-To-Children, reveals who God uses most to help kids trust Christ as Savior. The top four, in this order are: parents, then church ministry workers, then Christian friends, and finally other family members. See how critical your teaching role is?

The Story of Hope Kids and The Chronobridge Approach to Sharing the Gospel

Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship’s children’s publication “The Story of Hope Kids” is a method for you to use in conveying the good news of Jesus to your children. You will want to purchase a copy to use with the teaching helps in this section.

Tsoh Kids Coil Binding

Available from:

The Story of Hope Kids contains 40 key event-lessons for teaching and learning the Bible's big redemptive story and the Chronological Bridge to Life (ChronoBridge). A full page is dedicated to each of the 40 Bible event-lessons, allowing space for kids to write down the answers to the questions. The study of God's redemptive plan and the ChronoBridge are designed to teach and clarify the gospel of Jesus Christ to children and lead them to a personal faith response or to clarify a faith response they may have made previously. There is a companion Leader’s Guide (a free download) to help the teacher explain the Bible events and key truths.

Through this booklet kids will discover:

  • God’s story of redemption from Genesis to Revelation
  • Their need for salvation; the way to salvation; and how they can appropriate salvation (through faith in what Jesus did).

This booklet introduces kids to the Bible’s eight-important truths that children need to hear, understand, and believe:

  • These eight words form the ChronoBridge to Life: God - Man - Sin - Death - Christ - Cross - Faith - Life.
  • Each of the eight words is carefully explained, and the student is given an opportunity to affirm belief in each truth. Use these words as a guide in explaining the Gospel to children.

The last page of The Story of Hope Kids is titled “My personal faith response.” It is built around John 3:16 and will guide teachers in assisting children during a counseling-for-salvation session to:

  • Place personal faith in the one true God of the Bible.
  • Tell Jesus they trust Him to be God’s one way to salvation.
TGBA Cover Image

The Greatest Bridge Adventure

The Greatest Bridge Adventure is a five-day curriculum for teaching kids the BIG Story of the Bible based on Good Soil’s Chronological Bridge (ChronoBridge) to Life: God - Man - Sin - Death - Christ - Cross - Faith - Life. The Teacher’s Guide contains five Bible lessons (plus lots of other great curriculum helps) to effectively teach God’s BIG Story of the Bible in five one-hour teaching sessions suitable for backyard Bible clubs, Bible Camps, Children's Church, Released Time Classes, or Vacation Bible School. The thrust of the “ChronoBridge to Life” curriculum is to teach that one can “walk” across this bridge, using the eight key truths that take a person from spiritual death to everlasting life in Jesus.

Counseling Children for Salvation Should Be a Helping Relationship

Use an open Bible during the counseling session. Point to words in the Bible verse that you (or the child) should read aloud.

  • Ask questions. Lead kids to talk about what you’ve taught them from the Bible to see if they understand, or have the wrong idea, or if their ideas need to be corrected.
  • Draw out answers. A counseling-for-salvation session coaxes answers from a child with questions that cannot be answered with all “yes” and “no” replies.
  • Never override a child’s will. Instead of assuming that a child has stayed behind to talk to you about salvation, ask: “Why did you come to talk to me after class?” Never push a child who has responded to an invitation into parroting a prayer for salvation if you are not certain why a child has come to talk with you.
  • Do not race ahead of a child’s thinking and words. Listen patiently to discern or evaluate a child’s spiritual need. Ask: “What do you want God to do for you today?” Redirect a child to the real issue should they say something off the wall.
  • Build questions based on the eight key facts in the ChronoBridge to life. (A set of eight ChronoBridge Teaching Visuals are available from our website.) Here are sample questions for each truth:

GOD: “Who is the Creator God we learned about in the Bible? What can you remember about God that sets Him apart from all the make-believe or fake gods in the world? What gives God the right to be the judge to punish disobedience/sin?” (Use this Bible verse: Hebrews 11:6)

MAN: “Who were the first people on earth that God made? What did God think about His best creation? Why did God give Adam and Eve rules to obey?” (Use this Bible verse: Genesis 2:7)

SIN: “Why did Adam and the woman decide to break God’s one rule and go away from their holy God? What is disobedience to God called? Sin ruined the perfect friendship Adam and his wife had with God. Their sin was passed on to whom? God is fair and must punish sin, but what is God’s punishment for sin?” (Use this Bible verse: Romans 3:23)

Personal note # 1 to counselor: For a child to know they have the need for salvation, they must hear the “bad news” about sin and its consequence of death (separation now and forever from God). It’s like a child who has the flu. They need to know that they are sick, and you have a “remedy/medicine” to make them better.

Personal note # 2 to counselor: Jesus told the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (Matthew 12:43-45) that it was self-reformation for a person to recognize his sin, empty himself of evil doing, and improve behavior. Jesus explained that self-reform without Him is like sweeping a house clean then dressing it up with pretty things. The house-soul is empty if Jesus is not in it! Keeping rules is not the way into His kingdom – a person needs God.

Today, we could picture self-reformation as putting "lipstick on a pig." Picture this: a muddy pig has been scrubbed clean in a warm bath; then towel dried; bristly hair styled; squirted multiple times with expensive French perfume; and lastly, the brightest red lipstick applied on the lips of the pig’s flat snout. What a pretty pig! But it’s simply cosmetic. In no time the pig will revert to it’s true nature and continue rooting in the dirt.

Teaching God’s Ten Commandments (rules for good living) and biblical values to children is extremely important and an excellent method of pre-evangelism. Paul acknowledged, “… the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)

God’s law points out our sins. But law keeping—as good as it is—does not bring God’s forgiveness and salvation. That’s why the Old Testament sacrificial system was needed and used until Christ came. (Hebrews 10:4-10)

Personal note #3 to the counselor: The apostle Paul made it clear that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)

DEATH: “Adam and Eve were separated spiritually from God the moment they sinned, and everyone born since then has been born spiritually dead. What happens after a person dies physically? How can a person avoid God’s judgement of eternal death?” (Use this Bible verse: Hebrews 9:27)

CHRIST: “How did God keep His promise to send a sin-conqueror who would take the blame for sin that you and I have done? How do you know that Jesus really is God’s Son who can make a way for you to have forgiveness of sin and eternal life?” (Use this Bible verse: John 14:6)

CROSS: Why did God’s Son, Jesus, die for you on the cross? What happened to Jesus three days after He was put in a cemetery tomb? Did you know that Jesus’ coming back to life showed God the Father accepted what Jesus did to forgive your sins if you believe? (Use these Bible verses: 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

FAITH: “Can a person earn a home in Heaven? What was the one way God made for a person to live in Heaven? Faith is believing what God says He will do if you repent (turn away from and quit trusting good things you do) and believe (trust) in who alone to save you?” (Use this Bible verse: Ephesians 2:8-9)

LIFE: “What will happen if you trust in Jesus as your Savior? If you receive God’s eternal life when you believe, where will you live forever? When God comes to live in you, He gives you a new desire to live for Him instead of doing wrong by sinning every day. How do you get your name written in The Lamb’s Book of Life in Heaven? What will Heaven be like?” (use this Bible verse: John 11:25-26)

  • How to Segue into the “I now understand” prayer for kids in The Story of Hope Kids

Review the meaning of John 3:16-18. Make the verses personal: “For God so loved YOU, that He gave His only begotten Son for YOU…If YOU believe… YOU will have eternal life.”

Sentence by sentence, review the “I now understand” prayer. Children should not “parrot” the words if they show no conviction of sin or cannot answer the previous Chronobridge questions correctly.

Personally Follow Up on the Child/Children You Have Led to Christ

Take another Christian teacher with you to visit the child in his home setting. Or, teach your entire class using the Good Soil discipleship booklet called The Way to Joy-Kids: Pursuing Basic Steps to Discipleship. This is a study in basic discipleship for kids covering ten key elements. A free Leader’s Guide download is available.

Use Jesus’ Love for Children as Your Model

It must have been Jesus’ sincere welcome (Luke 18), arms outstretched to clamoring, squawking, drooling, sticky-fingered, fussy, time-consuming little kids, that made parents trust Him enough to place their kids on His lap.

Do you sincerely welcome the children you teach no matter who they are? Rich or poor; sweet-smelling or stinky; smart or not-so-smart red, yellow, black or white; kids struggling with gender dysphoria or kids who accept their birth-body.

Giving a child your full attention in a counseling session spells l-o-v-e. To Jesus, kids were not little nobodies wasting His time. They weren’t “rug rats” He batted away. He loved them!

Do you value kids, or does your impatience make them feel like an intrusion? Never turn away an inquiring child by telling them to wait until they are older before they can make a faith response and trust Jesus.

Learn to Speak “Childrenese” Lingo



• “Sin” in “childrenese” “To God, your wrong living – lying, hitting, disobeying, swear words – are sin. Sin makes you in trouble with God. Have you ever been in trouble with your parents? Have you had to sit in the ‘timeout chair,’ miss a family fun time, or have been in trouble with your schoolteacher and had to be sent to the principal’s office? God’s punishment for sin is more serious. It could make you miss out living with Him forever unless you let Him take care of your sin problem.”

• “Jesus died for you on the cross” in “childrenese” “When Jesus was dying on the cross, God the Father took all the wrong things you have done, your sin, and put them on Jesus. He was blamed for your sin so you would be forgiven if you believe He died for you. You would then not receive God’s punishment of death.”

• “Resurrection of Jesus from the dead” in “childrenese” “Jesus’ eyes opened. He started breathing, moving, and walked out of that grave! Then, over 40 days, Jesus was seen with lots of people. Even 500 saw Him at one time! Jesus ate with people, He touched them, and cooked for them, and taught them before He returned to heaven.”

• “Assurance of Salvation” in “childrenese” “When you ask Jesus to be your Savior, He really will come and be your “stay-with-you friend” forever and never leave you!”

Additional Helps

A verbal invitation to children to come talk to you at the end of Bible class about salvation must be brief (you don’t need to sing “Just as I am”); voluntary (not pushy); and clear (direct them where to meet you). You could say, “If God is talking to you through this Bible story today, and you have decided you need and want to know Jesus as your Savior, come right now, stand beside me, and we’ll talk together.”

Did you notice the use of the personal pronoun “you”? Every child will know they are included in the invitation. Never point out a particular child in your class saying, “you rascal, you need to come talk to me about Jesus.”

If many children come for counseling:

• Divide the large group of children into smaller groups, and use other teachers/helpers to assist in counseling the groups. The counselor will ask key questions to each child, one at a time.

• Make certain kids are turned away from noise and distractions if you must stay in the same room where other students are engaged in the next activity. You must face your group of children.

• If your counseling session is held in another room, make certain you are never alone with a child. Have another adult present in the counseling room to observe and listen to your dialogue. Should you ever need to be defended, that adult can serve as your eyewitness that you did everything aboveboard.

• Unlike Bible times when parents brought their kids to sit on Jesus’ lap (Luke 18), never give kids frontal, full-body hugs (unless s/he is your own child). Eye contact, a smile, and a tap on the shoulder (or head) or a side hug is sufficient to convey your warm welcome. Make certain to keep space between you and a child beside whom you are sitting. Your body should not touch the child. Jesus’ blessing on the kids was conveyed through a safe, holy touch.

It will be a special experience for you in heaven when you meet the kids you’ve led to Jesus.

“Let the children come to Me.”

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