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How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 15

By Reuben Archer Torrey



      No form of special meetings are of more importance than those which are intended for the purpose of reaching the children, bringing them to Christ, and building them up in Christ.

      1. BECAUSE THE CONVERSION OF CHILDREN IS IMPORTANT. The conversion of the children to Christ is of the very first importance.

      (1) The conversion of a child is important in the first place because children oftentimes die. Most people in Chicago die in childhood. For every one who dies between twenty and forty there are many who die between birth and twenty. * So with very many of the children at any time upon the earth, they must be converted in childhood or pass into eternity unconverted. In spite of the large number of children's caskets that pass us in hearses, it is hard to bring people to realize how likely children are to die. We look at the white-haired man and say he is likely to die soon, but we look at the little child and think that child has many years before it. That is not at all sure. We have very rude awakenings from this dream. Mothers and fathers, do you realize that your children may die? Up quirk, then, and lead them to Christ before that day comes. If you do not it will be the darkest day you ever knew, but if you have led them to Christ it will not be a dark day. Lonely it will be, but not dark. Nay, it will be glorious with the thought that the voyage is over and the glory land reached quickly by one you love. Sunday School teachers, do you realize that any one of the boys or girls in the class you teach may die any day? Up, then, and win them to Christ as speedily as you may.

      * {Today more children live to maturity.}

      (2) The conversion of children is important, in the second place, because it is much easier to win a child to Christ than an adult. Dr. E. N. Kirk once said: "If I could live my life over again, I would labor much more among children." Children have no old prejudices to overcome as many grown people have. With the help of the Holy Spirit they are easily led to feel the great love of Christ in giving Himself to die for them, and when the simple story of His suffering and death is read and explained from God's Word, they believe it, and exercise saving faith, and there and then the Holy Spirit effects a change of heart. Mr. Spurgeon once said: "I could spend days in giving details of young children whom I have known and personally conversed with, who have given evidence of a change of heart," and he added, "I have more confidence in the spiritual life of such children whom I have taken into my church, than I have in the spiritual condition of adults thus received. I will go further and say that I have usually found a clearer knowledge of the Gospel and a warmer love toward Christ in the child convert than in the man convert. I may astonish you by saying that I have sometimes met with a deeper spiritual experience in a child of ten or twelve than in some persons of fifty or sixty. I have known a child who would weep himself to sleep by the month together under a crushing sense of sin. If you would know deep and bitter and awful fear of the wrath of God, let me tell you what I felt as a boy. If you want to know what faith in Christ is, you must not look to those who have been bemuddled by the heretical jargon of the times, but to the dear children who have taken Jesus at His word, and believed on Him, and therefore know and are sure that they are saved."

      Every year that passes over our heads unconverted our hearts are less open to holy impressions. Every year away from Christ our hearts become harder in sin. That needs no proof. The practice of sin increases the power of sin in our lives. God and heaven and Christ and holiness lie very near childhood, but if the child remains away from Christ, every year they become farther and farther away. When I see a child walk into the inquiry room of a Sunday evening, I feel quite certain that if a worker of any sense gets hold of that child it is going to be converted; but when I see a man or a woman walk in there I do not feel at all as sure. The adult has become so entangled in sin, the mind has become so darkened by the error and skepticism that arise out of sin, there are so many complications added by each year, that the case of an adult is very difficult as compared with that of a child. The fact is that, with very many, if they are not converted in childhood, they will never be converted at all. Fathers and mothers, that is true of the children in our homes. Sunday School teachers, that is true of the children in your Sunday School classes. It is now or never.

      (3) The conversion of the children is important, in the third place, because converted children are among the most useful workers for Christ. They can reach persons who are inaccessible to every one else. They can reach their schoolmates and playmates, the Jewish children, the Catholic children, the children of worldly parents and infidels. They can bring them to Sunday School or to children's meetings, and to Christ. You and I cannot get close enough to them to show them how beautiful Jesus is, and what joy and blessing He brings. They can. Then they can reach their parents oftentimes when we cannot. They will not listen to us, but they will to their children. There was a rough, drunken gambler in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He often went by the mission door, but when a worker invited him in he repelled him with rude insults. But his child, about ten years old, was gotten into the Sunday School, and won for Christ. Then she began to work and pray for her drunken papa, and a cottage meeting was at last held in his wretched home. The father took down his overcoat to go to the saloon. Little Annie asked him if he would not stay to the meeting. He roughly answered, "No." "Won't you stay for my sake, papa?" The man hung up his coat. The meeting began, and the man was surly and wished he was out of it. They knelt in prayer while he sat on the end of the sofa. One after another prayed. Then all were silent. Then Annie's little voice was heard in prayer something like this: "God, save my papa." It broke the wicked man's heart, and then and there he accepted Christ. He afterwards became a deacon in my church. When New Year's day came and many had testified for Christ, Annie arose and said: "Papa used to drink and mama used to drink, grandpa used to drink, and grandma used to drink. But papa is a Christian now, and mama is a Christian now, and grandpa is a Christian now, and grandma is a Christian now, and Uncle Joe is a Christian now, and auntie is a Christian now. I guess we are all Christians down to our house now." But the little girl herself led the way. Wasn't the conversion of that child important? Many a hardened sinner and many a skeptic has been led to Christ by a child.

      (4) The conversion of children is important because persons converted in childhood make the best Christians. If one is converted when he is old he has learned many bad tricks of character and life that have to be unlearned, and it is generally a pretty slow process. But when one is converted in childhood character is yet to be formed, and it can be formed from the beginning on right lines. If you wish to train a tree into a thing of beauty and symmetry you had better begin when it is young. If you want to form a character of Christlike symmetry and beauty you would better begin in childhood. That Christlike man of the olden time, Polycarp, who ended his life as a martyr at ninety-five, was converted at nine. That fine young man of the New Testament, Timothy, was brought up on Scripture from a babe. I rejoice with all my heart when an old broken-down drunkard is brought to Christ. It means so much. But it means so much more when a child is brought to Christ.

      (5) The conversion of children is important, once more, because there are so many years of possible service before them. If one is to live to eighty, say, if converted at seventy there is a soul saved plus ten years of service. When the boy Polycarp was converted there was a soul saved plus eighty-six years of service. I think enough has been said to show that the conversion of the children is tremendously important, in fact, the most important business of the Church of Christ has on hand. Surely it was well that Jesus said, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones."

      2. BECAUSE MANY CHILDREN WILL BE BROUGHT TO CHRIST IN SPECIAL MEETINGS HELD IN THEIR INTEREST WHO WILL NOT BE REACHED IN ANY OTHER WAY. It is a well proven fact that no other kind of meetings bring such definite results in the way of conversions as meetings held for the specific purpose of bringing the children to Christ.


      1. IN SEASONS OF SPECIAL REVIVAL INTEREST. No revival is what it ought to be if a great deal of attention is not given to the children, and much prayerful effort put for the for their conversion. Whatever other meetings are held or omitted in times of special revival interest, meetings for children should not be omitted under any circumstances. Every pastor and evangelist should lay to heart the warning of our Master, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones" (Matthew 18:10).

      2. AT SUMMER CONFERENCES. At many summer conferences a great deal of attention is given to the children, with the most encouraging results; at other summer conferences the children are almost altogether neglected.

      3. AT SUMMER RESORTS. Children are found in great numbers at summer resorts. Oftentimes they have but little to do. It is frequently a rare opportunity to win them to Christ if wisely conducted meetings are held for their benefit. In England the services which are held upon the beach in summer have yielded remarkably encouraging results. The children gather there in great numbers.

      4. REGULARLY EVERY WEEK. About all that the average church does for the children is to have the Sabbath School services, and perhaps the Junior Endeavor meeting. This is not enough. There should be regular evangelistic services held for the children every week, especially in our city churches. In Newman Hall's church in London a children's meeting was begun which was conducted every week for many years. It began in the special revival services for children held by E. P. Hammond in London years ago. At one of these regular weekly children's meetings I was told that a large share of the best workers in the church at that time had been originally converted during the revival services for children, and I saw from personal observation deep interest among the children still, and many were being constantly led to Christ.


      1. THE FIRST MATTER OF IMPORTANCE IS THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE CHILDREN WHEN THEY REACH THE APPOINTED PLACE OF MEETING. They should not be allowed to huddle together at will, but as they come in the door should be met by competent ushers, and seated in classes of four or five, with experienced Christian workers at the end of each class. There should first be a class of boys, then a class of girls. This will do very much toward preventing disorder during the meeting. The object of having a teacher at the end of the class is not merely to keep order, but that the teacher may deal personally with the children at the close of the service.

      2. GREAT CARE SHOULD BE BESTOWED UPON THE SINGING. There should be a great deal of singing, for children love it, and the hymns should be bright and cheerful, and of a character that the children can understand. They should be taught the hymns verse by verse, and the meaning of the words of the hymn should be explained. Hymns setting forth God's love and the atoning death of Christ should be especially used. Children enjoy singing the same verse over and over again more and more heartily, under the conduct of an enthusiastic leader. In this way the truth is deeply impressed upon the heart, and will probably never be forgotten. A priest once said to a lady manager of an orphan asylum in Brooklyn, that they did not object to the religious lessons which they gave the children, but they did object to the hymns they taught them. "For," said he, "when once they have learned one of those hymns, it is very difficult for us to get them to forget it."

      3. PRAYER IS VERY IMPORTANT IN THE CHILDREN'S MEETING. The prayer should be of such a character that the children can understand exactly what is meant, and there should often be prayers in which the children follow the leader sentence by sentence as he prays. This of course should not be done formally, but the children should be taught the meaning of the prayer and to offer it from the heart. It is necessary to teach children the purpose of prayer and to insist upon absolute attention and reverence while it is being offered.

      4. THERE SHOULD BE A GOSPEL SERMON WHICH THE CHILDREN CAN UNDERSTAND. This sermon may contain some of the profoundest truths of the Gospel, but these truths should be expressed in words of which the children know the meaning.

      (1) The sermon should be short; children were not made to sit still. A wise woman worker once said, "A boy has five hundred muscles to wriggle with, and not one to sit still with." There are a few rare men and women who can hold the attention of children for half an hour, or even an hour, I have seen it done; but for the average speaker to attempt to hold the attention of children more than fifteen or twenty minutes is positive cruelty.

      (2) The sermon should be simple. This does not mean that it should be foolish, but the statements should be of such a character that the child takes in their meaning at once. There should be no long or involved sentences; there should be no complicated figures of speech. But one who would preach to children must be very careful about his illustrations. If some of our speakers to children should question their audiences afterwards as to what they had said, they would be astonished at the remarkable idea which the children had gained. One should be very careful to find out that the children really understand what he has said.

      (3) The sermon should be full of illustrations. We do not mean that it should be nothing but a collection of stories; it should be a definite presentation of important truth with clearly stated points, but each one of these points should be illustrated so as to hold the attention of the child and fix it in its mind.

      (4) The sermon should emphasize the following great and fundamental truths:

      (a) That all men and women and all children are sinners, real sinners. Some people think of children as if they were angels; they are not, but sinners in the presence of a Holy God, and in their inmost heart they know this themselves. I do not know that I have ever seen deeper conviction than that which the Holy Spirit has awakened in the heart of a child.

      (b) That Jesus died in our place. The most successful preachers to children are those who ring the changes on the doctrine of substitution. This truth should be illustrated over and over again in a great variety of ways. It is wonderful how children, whose minds haven't been corrupted by the errors of the day, grasp the great saving doctrine of the atonement.

      (c) The need of a new heart. Regeneration is a big word, and a child will not understand it, but a child can understand what is meant by a new heart. Of course this will need explanation. I once asked a boy if he was saved, and he replied that he was. I asked him if he knew that he was, and he said he did. I asked him how he knew it, and he said because he had had a change of heart. I asked him how he knew he had had a change of heart. He said, "The other night when I was praying I felt a pain here" (placing his hand over his stomach). The boy had heard about a change of heart, and really thought that it was the change of the location of the heart from one part of the body to another, and that the pain he felt while praying was occasioned by this change in the location of his heart. The boy really had received a new heart, as he showed by years of devoted and active Christian service, but he had not understood the language used by those who spoke to him.

      (d) That a new heart is God's gift in Jesus Christ.

      5. AT THE CLOSE OF THE SERVICE THE CHILDREN SHOULD BE GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY TO DECIDE FOR CHRIST. This opportunity may be given by having them stand, or hold up their hands, or in any other way the evangelist thinks wise; but every experienced worker knows that children go in crowds, and that if one child stands up other children are likely to follow, and one cannot safely take it for granted that every child who stands up knows what he is doing. It is well that the call for an expression be preceded by a season of silent prayer, and a very careful explanation made to the children what you propose to do, and what you want them to do. After a time of silent prayer, and also an explanation of what you want them to do in the time of silent prayer (never forget that children have to be taught line upon line, precept upon precept), go over your instructions again and again in different ways, until you are satisfied that you are understood.

      6. After the expression of a desire to become a Christian, there should be prayer for the children, and prayer in which the children who have taken the stand are instructed to follow.

      7. When you are through dealing with the children in a body, have each teacher deal with her own class individually, making as clear as possible the way of life, and finding out definitely whether each child has accepted Christ, or will accept Christ. Each child who professes to accept Christ should be prayed with individually.

      8. USE CHILDREN'S TRACTS. Tracts can be secured with attractive covers, that the children will like to get. Tell the children beforehand that you are going to give each one who comes to the meeting a tract. Children will come a good way for a bright tract. Be sure that the tracts contain the Gospel. Oftentimes it is well to read the tract to the children and preach upon it before you give it out, and then have them take the tract home, to fix the sermon in their minds.

      9. MANY FIND THE BLACKBOARD VERY USEFUL IN CHILDREN'S MEETINGS. Children are oftentimes more easily reached through the eye than through the ear, and words or sentences written upon the board are more deeply impressed upon their hearts than those that are merely uttered to them. A few people have the gift of drawing well, but one can use the blackboard to advantage who cannot draw at all. Children are gifted with imagination, and if you tell them what your pictures are, they will understand, and it will do the work.

      10. OBJECTS WHICH THE CHILDREN CAN TOUCH OR EVEN HANDLE, ARE VERY USEFUL AS ILLUSTRATING THE TRUTH. A person of any ingenuity can draw many lessons from a few candles and a tumbler of water, a magnet, and other objects that are easily secured. There are suggestive books upon object teaching for children.

      11. THE USE OF THE STEREOPTICON WILL ALWAYS DRAW A CROWD OF CHILDREN. Children never tire of stereopticon pictures. If you can get children without the stereopticon, there will oftentimes be better results; for sometimes the children will be too much taken up with the pictures, but if you cannot get the children without using it, get the stereopticon. A bright little girl whose father uses a stereopticon a great deal was taken to a meeting for children where it was used. After a time she exclaimed, "I wish papa would show us more pictures and talk less." Nevertheless stereopticon services are oftentimes followed with abundant results in the conversion of children as well as adults.

      12. BE SURE TO BEAR IN MIND THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH CHILDREN'S MEETINGS ARE HELD. They are not held simply for the sake of amusing children. It is a poor use of time simply to amuse people. They are held, first, to convert the children, to lead them to a personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Savior, to surrender themselves to Him as their Lord and Master, and to confess Him as their Lord before the world. Second, they are held in order that the children may be instructed in true Christian living, and in the fundamental truths of the Gospel.

      13. If the work among the children is to be really successful and produce permanent results, our dependence must be upon Bible truth, preached, or sung, or personally taught, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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See Also:
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 1
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 2
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 3
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 4
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 5
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 6
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 7
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 8
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 9
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 10
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 11
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 12
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 13
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 14
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 15
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 16
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 17


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