Question: "What does the Bible say about the evangelization of children?"
Answer: Jesus’ desire is that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). The mission field is “all nations.” There are no geographical restrictions to the gospel, no cultural restrictions, and no age restrictions. Everyone needs to repent and be forgiven, including the children of “all nations.” Children, therefore, should be evangelized, and there are many Christian organizations such as AWANA International and Child Evangelism Fellowship that are working to meet that goal.
The Bible says that children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3). They are in need of instruction (Proverbs 8:32–33) and are quite able to learn. Timothy was a student of the Word at a very young age. He knew the Holy Scriptures “from infancy” (2 Timothy 3:15), having been taught by his godly mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5).
Children are fully able to praise God. In celebrating the Lord’s majestic name, the psalmist sings, “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies” (Psalm 8:2). Praise is not something children must wait until they’re older to do—it is their joyful task now. When Jesus arrived in the temple, the chief priests were aloof and reproachful, but not the kids. The children were “shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’” (Matthew 21:15).
One the best passages on the evangelism of children is Mark 10:13–16: “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Jesus welcomes children to come to Him for His blessing. In fact, those who place obstacles in the path of a child coming to Christ make the Lord “indignant.”
Jesus used the occasion of blessing the children to point out the need for faith. The kingdom must be received “like a little child” (Mark 10:15). Children do not strive to earn the kingdom of God but trust Him to give it to them. Theirs is a simple faith. Jesus declared that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child, with simple trust and dependence on God, cannot enter. Only those with a childlike trust in God can be saved.
Elsewhere, Jesus directs our attention to a child to illustrate true humility and the relationship God wants with all of us. The disciples had asked the Lord about who would be the “greatest” in heaven. In response, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’” (Matthew 18:2–5).
In the next verse, Jesus strongly advocates for the protection of children: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Jesus specifies that these children are among “those who believe in me.” This plainly indicates that children can believe in Jesus! If they can believe in Jesus, then we must evangelize them.
We must also never cause a believing child to stumble. “Cause to stumble” (skandalidzo in Greek) means “to entrap, trip up or entice to sin.” How does one cause believing children to stumble? Probably when we reject or ignore them—this would be the opposite of welcoming them (Matthew 18:5)—or when we lead them into sin.
Ephesians is a letter addressed to “God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). Paul describes them as having redemption through the blood of Christ and forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore, the original recipients of this epistle were believers in Christ. Toward the end of the letter, Paul addresses different groups of believers and instructs them on how they can walk in a way worthy of their calling. Children (teknon in Greek) are commanded to obey (in the Lord) their parents (Ephesians 6:1). The fact that Paul addresses children implies that they were saints—part of “God’s holy people in Ephesus.” Children today can and should also trust in Christ, just as the children in Ephesus did.
In the letter to Titus, the qualifications for elders are laid out (Titus 1:6–9): being above reproach, being the husband of one wife, etc. In the list of qualifications is having “tekna pista,” translated as “children who believe” in the New American Standard Bible. If they believe, they must have been evangelized.
In the Old Testament, there was an emphasis on transmitting God’s Law to the next generation so that they, too, would fear the LORD and obey His Word. Moses reminded the people of Israel to obey God’s laws in Deuteronomy 6:1–9. The command was not only for the present generation but also for their children and grandchildren (verses 1–2). The first priority of parents was their own obedience; God’s Word was to be in their hearts (verses 5–6), and then they were to teach it to their children (verse 7). These same principles are applicable to Christian parents today.
If we fail to share the gospel with the next generation, we risk repeating Israel’s mistake in Judges 2:10–11: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals.” What is needed in every nation, every day, is the transforming power of the gospel of Christ. Sharing the gospel with children is commanded and blessed by God.