Commit to continually deepening your understanding of Christianity
There is absolutely a time and place for giving your kids third-party resources to aid in their spiritual development. But there is no replacement for you. When you can’t answer their big questions, you’ll leave them wondering if all this really matters, given that you seemingly haven’t given your faith as much thought as they have.
Make spiritual space in your home
By spiritual space I mean dedicated time for your family to engage together in growing your understanding of and relationship with God. There’s no reason such a time shouldn’t be scheduled just like all the other (less important) activities in your life. Start with 30 minutes once per week—a feasible goal for virtually any family. Then add time as you are able. Making spiritual space will completely change your family’s spiritual life.
Study the Bible with your kids—really
I know that sounds like Christian parenting 101. But even if you know it’s important, statistics show you’re probably not doing it (fewer than 1 in 10 Christian families read the Bible together in a given week). If your kids perceive that you’ve relegated the Bible to the back burner of relevancy, they’ll have little reason to see it as the authoritative book Christians claim it to be.
Proactively and regularly ask your kids what questions they have
It’s undoubtedly important to let your kids know you’re an open door for their faith questions. But there are many reasons they may never walk through that door, even when they know it’s open. You need to proactively pull your kids’ questions to the forefront of conversation. You don’t have to have all the answers, but you do need to provide the forum.
Ask your kids the tough questions they don’t ask of you
If you regularly encourage your kids to ask questions, you’ll have a lot of great conversations. Some questions that are important for deepening a child’s faith, however, might never cross their mind to ask.
If we want to help our kids develop a robust faith, we can’t just react to the questions they happen to have. We need to proactively put all the questions we know are important right in front of them.
If your kids are struggling with faith, become a detective
One day when I was getting my kids into the car to leave for church, my son (age four at the time) moaned, “I hate God.” I literally gasped. Then I started yelling.
“That is a terrible thing to say! Don’t ever say that again. What are you thinking?”
Finally, I realized I needed to figure out what he really meant. I asked him a series of questions to find out when, where, and why he had those feelings. It turned out it was only on Sundays… because he didn’t like church… because he didn’t like dancing to the songs in kids’ worship. Yes, it turned out that “I hate God” meant “I don’t like dancing at church.”
Obviously, not every faith difficulty is so easily remedied. But the point remains the same: When your kids are struggling with faith, don’t panic, and don’t immediately start dispensing answers. Instead, find out (1) what exactly they mean when they say what they say, and (2) why they’ve come to that conclusion. Then you’ll be able to address the real concerns.
Emphasize critical thinking skills
One way you can help your kids learn critical thinking skills is in how you facilitate conversations. Instead of imagining your conversations as some kind of lecture, think of them as you coming alongside your kids to discover the truths of Christianity. To do that, encourage them to talk through the answers to your (or their) questions before you offer your own knowledge. This allows you to directly observe their thought process and challenge the validity of their conclusions in a safe environment.
Work with your kids on how to seek answers to faith questions online.
When you help your kids with homework, you don’t give them all the answers. You know they need to learn how to figure out the answers themselves because you won’t be their lifelong sidekick. It’s the same with their spiritual lives. They need practice finding answers on their own.
For example, you could ask your kids, “How do we know Jesus existed?” Ask them to find both Christian and non-Christian answers online. Giving your kids research challenges and discussing their process of finding answers can lead to enormously valuable conversations that will benefit them for life.
Teach your kids about religions and worldviews other than Christianity
Our kids can easily get confused by competing worldviews that have roughly the same contours. Sure, we can broadly tell them that those religions are completely different in their core claims, but it’s a lot more meaningful when you study and compare the actual beliefs.
Writing “start today” makes me laugh. But there’s a reason that phrase is often used by marketers—they want to create a sense of urgency because people are so busy that procrastination is the default on anything not deemed truly vital.
The spiritual status quo in your family is probably quite comfortable, particularly if your kids are still young. But please don’t get into the mindset that you have an indefinite amount of time to impact your kids’ faith. You don’t. In fact, Barna Group research has shown that many people form a significant portion of their eventual adult faith by the time they are just 13.
So don’t put it off. You really should start today in transforming your family’s spiritual life.
I want to leave you with one final thought that has helped me tremendously to remain motivated in my Christian parenting efforts: The time and consideration we give to our kids’ faith development is an investment, not a purchase.
From Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side by Natasha Crain