September 8, 1999

Children understand right
and wrong at different ages

___By Terri Lackey
___LifeWay Christian Resources
___RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)--About the time a child realizes it's wrong to throw rocks at the neighbor's car, he also can begin thinking about accepting the truth of Jesus, a preschool/children's consultant said.
___"When a child comes to the age of accountability--when he or she begins to know why something is right or wrong--that's the time we can start talking to them about salvation," Pamela Boucher told children's leaders at the National Conference for Church Leadership at Ridgecrest, N.C.
___"One of the biggest issues regarding accountability is that children begin understanding the difference between right and wrong at very different ages," said Boucher, a preschool/children's consultant at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn. "Some reach accountability at 5, and some not until they're 15."
___Boucher outlined appropriate Christian words and phrases to use with children and signs children display when the Holy Spirit begins to work in their lives.
___Reaching children early with the Bible is a critical step to evangelism, Boucher said. "Seventy-five percent of Christians made professions of faith before they reached age 16, and 50 percent of those did it by the time they were 12," she said.
___"The early years of learning and teaching spiritual truths are important and valuable. The earlier we can expose children to the Scripture and the more often we can do it, the easier it will be for them to receive Christ when the time comes."
___Boucher said creating a climate of faith at church helps children understand the meaning of salvation. She described an environment or climate of faith as one in which children learn about the love of Jesus.
___"Of course, the greatest way for children to have a Christian environment is to have Christian parents and a Christian home. That means we must minister not just to the child, but to the entire family."
___Tossing abstract "churchy" words at children may confuse them, Boucher said, noting, "Church words are very abstract, and children are very concrete thinkers."
___If a child does choose to publicly profess faith in Jesus, an adult should determine if the child knows for certain what he or she is doing, she advised.
___"Ask them why they are coming forward and what they understand about it. Don't ask 'yes' or 'no' questions that are easy to answer."
___Boucher said some sure signs children are moving closer to accepting Jesus as their Savior are:
___bluebull An increased level of desire and interest in Bible study or spiritual matters.
___bluebull An increased number of questions about the subject, such as "When can I take the Lord's Supper?" "When can I be baptized?" "What is God really like?"
___bluebull Exaggerated fears. "Suddenly they don't want to go to church or they are afraid of more things."
___bluebull A shift in behavior. "Calm, passive children will turn into more aggressive children, and boisterous children will become more calm and contemplative," Boucher said.


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