I was recently chatting with a group of teachers, most of whom also happened to be parents. One question that came up is ‘how can we handle difficult conversations with our kids about the truth of Christianity?’. These are adults who are comfortable talking with young children and teenagers about many things, but talking to their own child becomes difficult. Topics such as ‘evidence for the resurrection’, or ‘how reliable are Biblical manuscripts’ are fairly hard if they’re not investing hours to read scholarly research. I was wondering what sort of advice you might give a parent or even a teacher regarding these conversations?
Instead of an advise, I would be giving a warning.
If we fail to respond to our own child’s inquiries, they might find someone else to answer them and then you wouldn’t know if the answer they get would make or break them later in life. Will it build or ruin their faith?
Another thing: when kids ask, what they actually needed more is our time and attention, not merely answers.
But for advise, I would say they should take their child’s questions as a challenge for them to study and try to give their beloved little ones some good quality time of studying together or storytelling their response at bedtime.
What a great question! It’s an area where we need to help each other along.
If we look at the trends, there’s a massive gap in religious devotion between Gen X and Gen Z. Here’s Dr. Ryan Burge’s presentation of the data:
Candidly, the only answer is for parents to start to engage in hours of research. There isn’t an easy or convenient way to be disciples of Jesus, nor to disciple others, including our kids.
However, developing new study habits is difficult, so we need a supportive community that helps us get started and stay consistent. The best place is the local church so we can contextualize issues for our community.
At the same time, most local churches lack the resources within them to answer the bombardment of challenging questions. That’s one reason I founded Uncommon Pursuit. Any parent can come and ask this community all of their questions. If their teenager has hundreds of questions, they can ask all of them in this context and benefit from the resources of the global church as we come alongside them. It’s rare to find a church where you can ask hundreds of questions and get consistent help. In addition, other parents who go on Google to search for answers can find this community and get the help they need.
Second, I think one huge mistake is to answer the question as if that’s the main issue. One habit I attempt with my kids is recognizing the emotion behind the idea. If they say to me, “My friend says Jesus was mentally ill,” I want to hear the emotion they are expressing. I think Dennis put it well when he wrote:
In that situation, I said, “That sounds frustrating to hear.” I want to be emotionally connected to what they share, and then, together, we can process what we think about the objection. Unless our hearts are connected, a debate is likely to break out. But if we are close to one another, we can seek the truth together.
Dennis, I think this is another helpful point:
One pattern we need to stay away from is avoiding their questions. It comes out a lot of ways: “Just have faith.” “Let’s talk about it later” (and there is no later). “I’m too tired to talk about that.” “Why do you ask so many questions?” “What’s wrong with you?” etc.
If we habitually push away their questions, we might find that one day they don’t want to talk about God with us anymore. Instead of seeing all these questions as a burden, let’s see them as an opportunity. It means there’s trust, curiosity, and interest in discussing what’s true. Yes, it means we have to do our homework. But don’t we want our children to be mature disciples of Jesus, who can handle difficult situations in a way that honors God? If that’s what we want for them, we have to set an example.