Children are very lovable. They are beautiful, very innocent, and when brought up in the fear of the Lord, they are the epitome of purity. Christian parents have the huge responsibility to raise up their children in a home of modesty and holiness and to lead them to Christ.
Children from birth are imputed righteous by God although they are not converted or born again. There comes a time in the life of each child that develops normally, where they will knowingly transgress the law of God and will experience guilt and condemnation that will not be relieved when the act is revealed and they receive correction by their parents.
At this point they are separated from God or what the bible calls spiritual dead and are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). It is common for children to feel guilt for wrong actions but this guilt will pass when their acts have been revealed and they have received correction for them.
One of the signs that a child has passed from innocence into the age of accountability is when wrong actions have been revealed and corrected but they their conscience is still troubled and they feel conviction and reprove by the Spirit of God for their sin (Joh 16:8). At this point they need more than forgiveness and correction from their parents but they need forgiveness from God and conversion.
Paul brings this out in Romans 7 where he discusses his own experience of coming to the place where he was accountable before God for his sin. “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom 7:9).
This is referred to many as “the age of accountability”. The age when this happens is different for each child. Children that are brought up in godly homes, where Christ is the center of the home, will usually come to this age sooner than children that are not brought up in a Christian home. Typically it will be from the age of 8 to 12 but can be as early as 5 or 6 and if the person is mentally challenged they many never come to the age of accountability.
A child is at the age of accountability when they are capable of making a decision of faith for or against Christ. At this point they will feel guilty before God, their consciences will bother them, and they will feel like a sinner.
It is the parent’s responsibility to not only prepare and lead their children through this time, but to compel them to make a decision for Christ (Luk 14:23). A child or young person doesn’t have to go into deep depths of sin before they can get a true experience of salvation. If they offend in one point God’s law, it is the same if they have broken the whole thing (Jam 2:10).
While we are called to compel our children to come to Christ, we need to be careful the child is not just going through a form in order to please their parents, or because their friends have, or the other members of the assembly expect them to. They need to have real repentance and godly sorrow for their sins and true conversion that will bring a real change from darkness to light (Act 26:18) and deliver completely from all sinning (1Joh 5:18).
The following are a few pointers that I believe will be useful in leading your children to Christ.
1. Prayer and Discussion — Pray and talk with your children and convey the deep burden you have for them to make a decision for Christ when they become accountable. Teach them that there will come a time where they will feel convicted by the Spirit of God for their disobedience and for the need to make a decision for Christ (Deu 11:19, 20).
2. Start Early — Parents should start praying that their children will be saved before they are even born . Children should grow up with memories of their parents praying and weeping over them and crying out to God to have mercy on them and also that as parents they would be able to raise up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Raising your children for Christ is a huge responsibility that parents need to feel the weight of.
3. The Plan of Salvation — Start going through the plan of salvation with your children at an early age and show them in the scriptures the steps of salvation — conviction, godly sorrow, repentance, faith, and believing in their heart. You can use the True Conversion article out line for this. You need to teach them that real Bible salvation delivers them completely from sinning.
4. Families Burden — The children and young people that are saved need to carry a burden for those that are not yet saved. It should be a common thing in family devotions for the saved to be praying for the salvation of those that are not saved.
5. Good Examples — When someone in another family in your assembly gets saved, you should have your children listen carefully to that person’s testimony and point out to them how happy the other family members are for them. This should be especially done before congregational baptisms. Children at a very early age should be clearly taught the meaning of baptism and be shown how happy the the family is of those that are baptized.
6. Bad Examples — When someone in the assembly backslides and goes into sin, your children should be aware of the grief of the family. The parents should teach how evil it is to backslide and it should be instilled into the children so that when they get saved, they will never go back on the Lord.
7. Extra Guidance at the Right Time — When you feel your children are getting closer to the age of accountability, you need to spend more time with them and guide them towards making a decision for Christ. The burden is that when they become accountable for their disobedience, they would spend as little time in that unregenerate state as possible and that they could be lead to make a decision for Christ as soon as they are ready to.
8. Material to Read — When children are close to the age of accountability, you should give them material to read about how to be saved and of dying testimonies of the saved and unsaved.
Dying Testimonies of Saved and Unsaved by S.B. Shaw is a very good book.
9. Leaning From Others Experiences — Talk to other parents that have done well in this area and are shining examples of leading their children to the Lord and have raised a family of committed victorious Christians.
10. Devotions — From the time a child is old enough to talk, they need to be taught to pray. As they learn how to read, they need to spend time each morning reading their New Testament. Parents must require their children to spend time each morning in prayer and reading. As they near the age of accountability, this prior training will give the Holy Spirit room to bring conviction, and after they are saved you will have already ingrained in them a practice that will be much help to them in their Christian walk.
11. If you Have Neglected — If you have neglected to carry a proper burden for your children, you need to get before the Lord and ask Him to forgive you for your neglect and make a commitment to the Lord to follow the above steps. You need to discuss your neglect with your children and express your sorrow and commit to them that you will do better. For accountability sake, sometimes it is good to express this lack and need by testimony in the congregation or in brothers’ or sisters’ meetings.