THE GOSPEL FOR CHILDREN by JOHN LEUZARDER (A Dad in the Middle Review)
A beautifully illustrated, simple yet complete guide to help parents teach their children the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
That is some billing to live up to, but I have to tell you, in the end I found this book to be exactly that. Mr. Leuzarder, driven by the desire to come up with a way for his own daughters to memorize the core truths of the gospel has come up with this resources which should be in the hands of all parents and everyone who works with kids.
Before I get into how Mr. Leuzarder solves the problem, it makes sense to define the problem itself. As parents, or as children’s ministry workers, our chief goal should be to share the truth and power of the gospel with the kids we have influence over. That said, there is a bit of a dearth [CHECK SPELLING] when it comes to good resources for sharing the gospel with kids. The result is kids oftentimes get a watered-down, incomplete or inaccurate picture of what the gospel is all about.
Here how Mr. Leuzarder defines the problem in the introduction to the book:
“Many of us are familiar with the term ‘Gospel.’ We have hopefully heard its message in sermons, tracts or on TV. We understand its great importance because God’s Word tells us that the Gospel ‘is the power if God for the salvation of everyone who believes.’ Understanding this, then, we would all agree that offering this message about the saving work of Jesus Christ to our children, as soon as they able to grasp its meaning, is of utmost importance.
But where do we start? The Gospel is much more than a few lines out of a tract. In fact, to properly understand the Gospel we must reasonably understand all that the Bible teaches about the nature and character of God, about man as a created being, his fall into sin and his desperate condition, as well as the work of Jesus Christ to save men from God’s wrath and eternal punishment. We also need to understand what God expects of His redeemed people and what it means to be an heir to the glories of eternal life.”
The Teaching Process
Now, that is a tall order for any adult to understand all of those concepts. Thousand-page plus books like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology have been written to help adults to begin to try to understand all that these concepts entail. How then can we begin to try to teach these to kids? I believe it is a three part process (two of which we have some control over):
- First, we have to understand the concepts ourselves.
- Second, we must find age appropriate ways to teach these to our kids without diluting the whole counsel of God; and
- We must pray that the Holy Spirit would act in the child’s life to make the truths personal and relational.
This book attempts to fill a void in the second part of the process, and in doing so also helps to alleviate the first problem as well. While the book is “simple” enough for adults to teach children, it includes enough depth and scriptural references to also help adults to understand the concepts as well.
The Solution – This Book
This book is broken up into 6 chapters covering 38 outline points which cover the fundamental understandings that a child needs regarding God, the Bible and Jesus. The book can be used as a tool to simply discuss each of the 38 points or kids can be asked to memorize the 38 points as well as provide a basic explanation, in their own words, of what each means. Far more than a traditional catechism, this book is not about rote memorization – it is about helping kids to understand each of these fundamental truths.
The six chapters that make up the book are:
- The Bible
- Repentance and Faith
- Counting the Cost
Each chapter includes several truths related to the topic. For example, the chapter on Jesus includes:
- Jesus is God’s own, dearly loved son.
- Jesus came into the world to die for sinners and rescue them from hell.
- Jesus was a man just like us.
- Although He was tempted like us, He never sinned.
- Jesus willingly took on Himself the punishment we deserve for our sins.
- All the wrath and punishment God had for believers’ sins was used up on Jesus.
- Jesus rose from the dead.
- Jesus ascended into heaven.
- Jesus is coming back again.
Each truth is further broken down into a series of discussion points that you can use to talk to your child about that truth. Take, for example, the truth that “Jesus is God’s own, dearly loved son.” That truth is accompanied by the following discussion points:
- By Him and for Him all things were created.
- Jesus is fully God and fully man.
Each truth and each discussion point is footnoted with a verse (or verses) from the Bible which are listed at the end of each chapter to support the assertion. Each of the 38 points is also accompanied by a beautifully illustrated picture to help your kids, or you, in memorizing the truths. The pictures are presented in order at the back of the book as a memorization review tool.
The target audience of this book is kids ages five and up and the adults who influence them. That said, I think it is a great primer for any Christian regardless of whether or not you have kids!
If you have children or teach children, this book ought to be part of your library. I have yet to come across a book which so completely, and still concisely, presents the truths of the Bible is a way geared towards kids. I will be using this book in my own study and with my own kids to make sure that they have the fundamental knowledge necessary for a solid foundation in the Christian faith.
A Final Word of Caution
Mr. Leuzarder offers one final word of caution in his book that I think we should all take to heart:
“Having out children embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior based on a clear knowledge of the Gospel is the most important concern of a Christian parent…But, we must at the same time recognize that in out zealousness to see our children saved we can subtly pressure them into making a decision to follow Christ in order to please us, rather than God who knows the heart. The consequences of a profession of faith made under pressure, and not from a sincere heart can be serious, and in time
As a parent and someone who works with kids, I understand the desire to get our kids to make a commitment to Christ. God gives us such a great love for our kids that we want nothing more than to know that their eternal destiny is secure. That said, I have also seen the effect of a premature declaration of faith and the difficulty in overcoming that later in life. Like the author, I would urge you to make sure that your children have a full understanding of the Gospel and the truths presented in this book. If they feel God tugging at their heart, be available to talk to them and explain things. If they understand and are ready to make a true commitment, rejoice in that and celebrate with them. But, never, never should you pressure them to make that commitment before they have a full understanding. The consequences can have eternal implications!