Q. Half the boys my 8-year-old son plays with have never been inside a church. Many could only guess at who Jesus is. How can I encourage my child to share what he believes with friends his age?
A. The elementary years are the perfect time to help children start sharing their faith with their peers. Between the ages of 7 and 10, children begin to develop their understanding that Jesus was a real person, not just someone they read about in Bible stories. This is also the age when children blossom socially, which means your son will have all kinds of opportunities for showing God's love to his friends.
Your son's friends are also at an age where they are particularly receptive to learning about and experiencing God; 47 percent of Christians say they came to faith in their elementary years. Because they are less self-centered than they were as preschoolers, elementary-aged children are better able to understand ideas like sacrifice and taking the blame for someone else even when they are innocent. That understanding helps them recognize the love of God at the heart of Jesus' death and resurrectionand to love God in return.
You'll want to avoid pushing your son into conversations or situations that are uncomfortable for him. Instead, try these ideas for helping your son find natural ways to let his love for Jesus flow into his friendships:
One family I know spends part of every evening meal talking about how each of them spied God during the day. One evening, their son Joel shared, "My friend asked to copy my homework, and I said no. She said, 'It's because you're a Christian, isn't it?' So I told her about Jesus. Isn't that neat?" Joel was at ease talking about God with his friend because he had lots of practice talking about God at home.1