Recently, my family joined a new church plant in our city. This church has been in the works for some time, and we are excited about the days ahead. The pastors, of whom I am one, have asked that all prospective members provide a written testimony of salvation and baptism that they will read to the congregation. And if anyone needs to be baptized, we happily can administer that in front of the church!
My teens and many other children came to Christ in earlier days and obeyed the Lord in baptism some time after. So no problem with these written testimonies, right?
Let’s just say God has given all us parents an open door for discipling our kids with their own salvation testimonies. Whether or not your child will need to stand in front of a church and publicly read their profession of faith, it is good practice to help them better articulate their faith in Christ.
1. Have them write out their testimony.
It’s so much easier to remind them what you remember or to tell them what to write so you can go back to whatever you were doing. But do not fall into that temptation. Shepherd them to write their story in their own words.
Ask them questions. Probe their hearts. This takes patience for you to not show exasperation when their minds go blank and they become fearful of “saying the wrong thing” to you. Forcing them to write their own testimony solidifies who and what they are believing in for salvation.
2. Ask them to retell their testimony.
Perhaps the best way to get the ball rolling is for them to tell you about their salvation. If your children are younger, I would suggest you type their words as they retell their conversion.
Don’t concern yourself with proper grammar or chronology; just transcribe what they say. Later, you two can pore over his or her words, grammar, and expressions. This way, when they read their testimony to the congregation, it sounds like it’s coming from them, because it is!
3. Rehearse their story with them.
This is perhaps the most difficult step, but it is the moment of true discipleship. Rejoice with them over their salvation. Ask them to clarify an expression or word choice.
If a phrase stands out to you as problematic, gently correct and ask them to rephrase. Perhaps you will want to continue to type what they are saying. Of course, you may not need to do the typing thing with teens since they should be able to recall any changes and edit accordingly.
4. Do not stress over details.
What if they do not remember their prayer? What if they can’t recall where they were or what was said? Does this mean they are not believers? Of course not! If your child is fuzzy on details, ask her about her life today. Is she believing in Jesus alone for her salvation today?
Though conversion to Christ is definitely a moment in time, nowhere in Scripture are we told to secure assurance in looking back to a date or an event in our lives; our security is in Christ alone.
Our assurance comes from examining ourselves and seeing our current faith in Jesus and the fruits that follow, such as obedience to God and love of the brethren (1 John). Don’t allow your child to get caught up in a moment long ago; salvation is a belief. What is he believing about Jesus today?
Of course, if in this step you or your child grow increasingly aware that he or she may not in fact be saved, what a glorious opportunity to speak of Christ and His gospel!
5. Emphasize gospel truth.
In short, make sure their testimony speaks of sin, Jesus, and faith. What do they think about their sin before God? Lean into the shame and guilt they feel. What do they understand about Jesus? So many testimonies say precious little about Him and His cross.
What are they trusting Jesus to do for them that they can’t do for themselves? Are they still believing in Him today? Here is where you shape and massage their testimonies to include the necessary truths of salvation.
6. Avoid Christian cliches.
Okay, so maybe this is a pet peeve of mine. But the Bible doesn’t speak of “asking Jesus into your heart.” According to Jesus, salvation requires repentance and faith (Mark 1:15), not adding Jesus to your life.
If you sense any empty “Christianese” in their testimonies, ask them to clarify what they mean. This is good discipleship. It will help them grow in grace and in the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
7. Consider ending with a statement of affirmation.
It can take various forms, but we are finding it’s a fantastic teaching tool to add somewhere in the testimony the statement that they are confessing before all that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior.
8. Keep the testimony short and to the point.
Nobody needs to hear the extraneous stories about your children, even though they may want to tell everyone about that funny moment that happened the other day. I suggest that a publicly-read testimony should be anywhere from 1-3 minutes.
Of course, this means for many of our children, it’ll be 30 seconds! If your child is painfully shy, consider standing next to him or her and read their own words to the congregation. But that is okay. The church needs to hear the next generation confess their faith in Jesus Christ!