Should We Disciple Preschoolers?
Often, our family devotions are not a thing of beauty. Tears are shed, screams can be heard far outside our front door, and every other word of the Bible story ends up being, “no” or “stop that.” At times, April and I feel like the whole thing is one pointless endeavor. But we keep pressing on. We keep setting aside time in the evenings to share the gospel with our 2 year-old and soon to be 6-month-old because we want them to love Jesus.
In Deuteronomy 6:6-7a, God commands all parents to follow these instructions.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children.
As parents, we are called to teach our kids about the Scriptures. We are charged with putting the gospel before them. We are responsible for evangelizing our kids.
So why start so early? Why exhaust ourselves trying to reach kids who struggle to form complex sentences? We start early because our kids are always learning.
Our son and daughter cannot grasp the doctrine of progressive sanctification. But they can begin to grasp the idea that the Bible is important to their parents. They can begin to know that God is real and that we can communicate with him. They can begin to realize that there is a time to worship God. And they can begin to see the need to be self-control. In short, even as babies, our kids can learn much about God and their world. The famous pastor J.C. Ryle once said,
I suspect we have no idea how much a little child can take in of the length and breadth of the glorious gospel.
And so, we seek to fulfill God’s command in Deuteronomy 6 by having a family worship time. We read a little kid’s devotion book, pray, and sing a song. Some nights, our family worship time begins with, continues onto, and eventually ends in discipline. And at times, neither my wife nor I feel like going through the ordeal. But we press on, knowing God’s calling on our lives, knowing that more is at stake then our comfort and feelings.
And we are happy to report, that God has blessed our efforts in some small ways. In the last few weeks, we have been able to stretch our devotion time from about 3 minutes to 5 minutes. On occasion our son will even ask to read the devotion book. He now says, “Ey…men” when we finish praying. And our little guy has even begun asking April to pray for his food.
We know that our son does not fully grasp the significance of the spiritual terminology with which he is interacting. And we are ok with this reality because as one author said, “We give our children big truths they will grow into rather than light explanations they will grow out of.”
We are excited to see that our son is ever so slowly growing into these big truths. Before our son can embrace Christ, he must first grasp who our savior is. As J.I. Packer said,
And where there is no clear knowledge, and hence no realistic recognition of the real claims that Christ makes, there can be no repentance, and therefore no salvation.
Knowledge is the prerequisite for salvation.
Thankfully, our preschoolers can learn gospel truths. We do not have to wait till they are six or seven before we turn on the hose of Biblical instruction. Because God knows this, he commands us to expose all our kids even our preschoolers to the gospel. If you are not actively teaching your kids, I encourage you to start today. It probably won’t be a picturesque family moment since your kids (like mine and like us) are sinners prone to rebellion. But it will be fruitful. Our kids will learn. The seeds sown today will eventually grow and blossom.
And at the end of the day if we are willing to dress our preschoolers in our favorite team’s colors, should we not also be willing to expose them to our life giving God at the earliest of ages?