1. Can the child explain the basics of becoming a Christian in his or her own words? When explaining how one becomes a Christian, does the child use “good works” answers such as “going to church, reading the Bible, getting baptized, praying, being good, etc.”? Or, do his or her answers have any mention of their need for forgiveness?
2. Does the child have an affection for Jesus or a strong desire to be close to Him? Does he or she show a passion to follow Jesus or just a basic knowledge of the facts about Him?
3. Does he or she distinguish between salvation and baptism? It is normal for young children to identify the act of baptism as the actual salvation experience (74).
The point here is that we do not want our children to enter into the Christian life ignorantly (74). This is not to say that their heart is not ready until they have perceived all the facts. They may or may not have all their facts straight. The key element is their heart (74). Is their heart ready to trust in the Savior of the world for their own personal sins and shortcomings. If they are able to discern that, then there is a good chance they are ready to make a decision for Jesus. When talking to children about salvation, a good practice is to go slow and ask many questions to get an understanding of how much they are comprehending or not comprehending (75). Let them talk and make some assessments from that. Make sure that you do everything you can to inform them about what it takes to become a child of God by faith.
The second thing you should look for is an exhibition of brokenness over sin. Does the child demonstrate a personal need or desire to repent of his or her sin (75)? Does the child express a genuine shame and regret for the things that offend their Lord? Knowing what sin is is not the same as being ashamed and repentant of sin (75). If a child is not repentant but goes ahead and makes a decision to become a Christian, then his or her decision is premature and incomplete (75). Letting a child think that he can become a Christian without repentance gives him or her a false sense of assurance (Acts 2:38; 3:19). If a child is led to think that he or she can be a Christian without repentance, they do not fully understand the need for a Savior (76). They run the risk of living their life thinking that everything is okay when in actuality it is not. The Christian life is about coming humbly before God desiring forgiveness through the work of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for our sins. This must be fundamental in leading a child to real and genuine salvation. Make sure that your children understand what sin is and that they have been partakers of sin so that they can understand the need for forgiveness (Romans 3:23).
The third thing to look for is the child’s seriousness about their commitment (77). As we know, children can often be silly, flippant, uninterested, and anything but serious when it comes to spiritual matters, or other things for that matter (77). However, as we also know, becoming a Christian is serious business. We must all consider the cost before taking up our cross and following Him (Matthew 16:24). As a child is contemplating the decision to follow Christ, he or she will eventually come to a point when it is very important to him or her (77). Listen to how they talk as far as their urgency and personal desire regarding salvation. They must reach a point of conviction where they realize that they need to do this (77). Otherwise, their decision will be shallow and doubted later on.
A forth thing that needs consideration is their making a self-made decision (78). It is not unusual for a child’s decision to be strongly connected to someone else, like a friend, relative, teacher, parent, or pastor (78). Questions to think about in this point include:
1. Does the child demonstrate a personal desire to make this commitment with his or her life, or is he or she just being agreeable with those around them who want them to become a Christian?
2. Is he or she influenced to make this decision because his or her family or friends have already done this?
3. Does he or she feel left out of the family or peer group?
4. Is this a way of getting some undivided attention or public recognition?
5. Is this decision a result of a need to feel loved or appreciated?
6. Does he or she have a mature understanding of the decision?
7. Are there signs that the child has personally struggled about this?
8. Has the child expressed that he has reached this decision after a personal evaluation of his life?
9. What influenced him or her the most to make this choice?
10. Has his or her decision come after realizing how much he or she needs and wants Jesus in their life?
A fifth and final consideration is making sure the decision to follow Christ has been sealed (79). There should be a time of consecration if at all possible to commemorate the choice to trust in Jesus. You want them to remember the time and place of their spiritual birth if at all possible. Give them reminders of that time and place to validate their decision and reinforce their commitment to Christ Jesus. This will go a long way in solidifying their faith in the long run.
Art Murphy, The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for your Child, Chicago: Moody Press, 2000.