Does your daughter have an accurate understanding of what it means to become a Christian? As I was writing Lies Girls Believe: And The Truth That Sets Them Free, I surveyed over 1,500 tween girls growing up in Christian homes and environments. I was alarmed at the number of girls who thought they were Christians but were unable to communicate a biblically accurate understanding of how to become one.
Twenty-two percent of girls who claim to be Christians do not understand how to become one.
The vast majority of girls growing up in Christian homes considered themselves to be believers, but only sixty-nine percent of them were able to accurately describe a biblical understanding of how to become one. Twenty-two percent of self-proclaimed “Christian” girls aged 7-12 claimed things like: “I am a Christian because I go to church.” “I’m a Christian because my mom and dad are Christians.” “I’m a Christian because I’ve always been one.”
This can be a lethal lie. A girl can go on and on with that lie embedded in her heart. She may believe she is a Christian when she has never really surrendered her life to Christ, and begun to have an authentic, transforming experience that bears fruit as evidence of her salvation.
Here are three important questions to ask your daughter as you discuss her faith. I hope these will open up a beautiful conversation that results in her truly surrendering to Christ, or growing in her understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
Question #1: What does it mean to be a Christian?
Ask your daughter, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” Her answer should include a basic understanding of sin. She should be able to admit that she has sinned, and demonstrate some sadness or remorse about it. The Bible tells us, “All have sinned.” (Romans 3:23.) And it tells us there is a payment for sin: death. (Romans 6:23)
Next, she should be able to verbalize that the price of her sin has already been paid on the cross of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). If she understands those two basic things and has confessed with her mouth that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), she has a biblical understanding of what it means to choose to be a Christian.
Children can have an authentic relationship with Jesus from a very young age. I gave my heart to Christ when I was just under five years old. I don’t have a lot of memories from those early years of my life. In fact, I don’t know if I have any. I barely remember Kindergarten when I was five years old. But I remember very clearly the day that I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. I remember the crack in the pavement of the sidewalk. I remember the scent of two pine trees on either side of me. I remember grass in front of me and a little American flag stuck in the ground. I remember vivid details. I think that is a gift that the Lord gave me to kind of authenticate my experience.
It is a very significant part of your daughter’s process of coming to know and growing in Christ to have a memory of an original encounter with Him. That brings me to my next question.
Question #2: Do you remember when you made that decision?
I think it is vital that our children remember their encounter with Christ. Ask your daughter if she does. If she says “yes”, ask her to tell you the story. It is good to recall our testimonies and practice sharing how God has brought us to know His Son, Jesus. In fact, I encourage you to take some time to celebrate that memory. Have an extra cupcake or dessert before dinner. That is a precious and special memory, and it deserves your time and hers.
What if she does not remember? Perhaps you recall kneeling with her in her bedroom when she was five or praying at a church event when she was six. But now she is twelve or so and does not remember that encounter. I would say if she doesn’t remember it, then maybe it wasn’t as significant in her life as it was in yours. Give her space to admit that she does not remember something you do, and to have an encounter that is authentic for her. I’ve seen moms do this, and the fruit of their patience was beautiful as their daughters made memorable decisions to follow Christ in their teen years and beyond.
Question #3: What actions, attitudes, and beliefs exist in your life as evidence that Jesus is the Lord of your life?
When we make a decision to follow Jesus, it means just that. He leads. We follow. This produces fruitfulness in our lives. (“Fruitfulness” is the word the Bible uses, and so I will use it, too.) It is referring to the “fruit of the Spirit” in the book of Galatians. Things like “self-control”, “gentleness”, “patience,” “love”, “joy”, and “peace.” When we surrender our lives to Jesus, He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit in us makes us kinder, more patient, and eager to serve others. I find that I need time in the Bible and morning prayer to exhibit these things, but the Spirit gives us a hunger to read our Bibles and pray. Of course, fruit ebbs and flows in our lives as our flesh and spirit battle it out within us. Your daughter will not be a perfect Christian. But, you must ask yourself this question: if there is not evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in my daughter’s life, was her decision to follow Christ authentic?
There is no junior great commission. There is no junior Holy Spirit. There is no junior salvation. There is no junior discipleship. Once your child comes to know Christ, it’s time for them to start reading the Bible, praying, and sharing the Gospel with their friends. These things are a result of the presence of God’s Spirit within us.
I hope you’ll take the time to discuss these three questions with your tween daughter. One mom who did discovered that her daughter was not really sure what it meant to be a Christian. She also demonstrated a true desire to become one, and sadness about her sinfulness. Right then and there, the mom was able to guide her in a prayer to begin her relationship with God. When they prayed, God gifted her with the Holy Spirit. And I pray that mom is seeing evidence of her salvation.
Maybe asking your daughter these three questions will naturally lead to this one: Are you ready to decide to follow Jesus? If she is, let her! I really believe that the bible teaches that children are fully capable of deciding if they want to follow Jesus. Jesus said we should let the little children come to me. So, let’s not get in the way!
Something alarming that a mom recently said to me was this: “My daughter wants to make a decision to follow Jesus, but I told her she’s not old enough.” As I talked to this mom, it sounded like her daughter—who I believe was about eleven or twelve— really did understand the Christian faith and was mindful of her sin and eager to follow Jesus. But the mom really believed that her daughter needed to be “at least fourteen” to understand it all. That is not biblical.
Don’t believe the lie that children can’t come to Christ. Jesus says that they can! He said, “let them come to me.”
Let’s just be sure that it’s authentic.
Dannah Gresh is the founder of True Girl (formerly Secret Keeper Girl), a ministry that brings moms and daughters closer to each other and closer to Jesus. True Girl provides connection experiences through books, online Bible studies, and live events. You can learn more about her at dannahgresh.com.
 Gresh, Dannah, A Mom’s Guide To Lies Girls Believe & The Truth That Sets Them Free, (Moody Publishers; Chicago, 2019), pages 68, 218