I've run into some fascinating posts over the past week regarding child evangelism. The catalyst for my thoughts was Henry Zonio's post Evangelism as Child Abuse? Can a Wrong Presentation of the Gospel Be Harmful to Children? He points to several other blog posts and books that have been helpful for him in understanding matters related to child evangelism. Henry's conclusion is fantastic:
Is it child abuse when we aren’t careful about how we lead children to Christ? I don’t know. I can understand those who claim that it is. Even Christ warns us about the dangers of leading a child astray, and I think that even applies to giving a child a false idea of what it means to follow Christ.
So what does that mean for evangelistic presentations to children? The key... is to help connect children and families to Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to do the work of conversion. It’s more than just praying a prayer, raising a hand or coming to the altar. It’s about life transformation, and that is something that can’t be manufactured or manipulated into existence.
The best article that Henry links to is by Michael Spencer (InternetMonk). The article is entitled, "Question: Is Evangelism Child Abuse?" Someone had brought up the issue that proselytizing anyone under 18 is manipulative and tantamount to child abuse. In response, Spencer offers gospel-centered thoughts about evangelism and how he approaches it:
When I deal with students, I am straight up about evangelism. If they take my class, I will occasionally explain the Gospel to them. I stress that their beliefs are welcome to be shared as well. I use no decisional tactics and I have no personal interest as a teacher in what a student does with the claims of Christ. I pray for these students, and would find it impossible to pray for them without praying that they come to know Christ.
I am just as honest about preaching. I give full permission to ignore or reject whatever I say, but I am straightforward that my calling and vocation is to proclaim, explain and apply the Gospel. I use no altar call. I use no tactics or manipulations of any kind. It’s the Gospel, an appeal to believe, a prayer and I leave it with them and the Holy Spirit.
I tell my students that I am completely open to being evangelized by them. I invite questions and I ask questions. Because I am in a Christian school with a missions focus, I have many non-Christians in my Bible classes and preaching services. We have dialog constantly. It’s a natural outgrowth of the diversity of our school.
These are fantastic words of encouragement, and I look forward to posting more on the resources I've been reading as a result of Henry's post a little later this week.