Strange question right? Your kids have minds of their own and have been making their own choices for some time now. If someone asked them to explain what they believe about God though, what would they say? Do they understand why God wants people to be baptized to become Christians? Do they know what God considers sinful? Are they aware of the positive things God wants them doing in their lives? Could they share their faith in even simple terms?
If you haven’t had this conversation with your children, it’s a good idea to do so. Probably not all at once or you will begin to sound like a detective grilling them. Over time though, it’s a good idea to discuss the basic tenets of Christianity found in the Bible with your children. You may be surprised what you discover.
Some things your children may have heard so many times, they can even quote verses to back up their beliefs. You may find though, that some of their beliefs have gotten a little mixed up because of their young age and maturity when they were originally taught them. Other beliefs may be way off base as your children picked up ideas from the world and mixed them in with the Bible with the result that worldly theology has become biblical in their minds.
As you begin having these discussions with your kids, their are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Let your child totally answer your questions before you speak. Nothing will stop a child from talking faster than being interrupted by a parent. This is a dialogue you want to have with your kids for their lifetime. Don’t stop the conversations because you have not been considerate of them.
- Don’t take erroneous beliefs personally. Most kids and even teens don’t choose to believe error out of pure spite for their relationship with you. Instead of losing your temper, calmly ask where they think they heard that information or how they came to believe that was the truth.
- Agree to use the Bible as your only source. This levels the playing field and ends possible debates about what uninspired person got it right or wrong. Encourage your child to find scriptures he/she thinks support his/her belief.
- Remember to include all scriptures that apply in the puzzle of your discussion of beliefs. Many errors in interpretation of scripture occur because people only look at one or two scriptures on a topic – usually the ones they like – and ignore others which may add to their understanding of the topic. Those who believe baptism isn’t required to become a Christian for instance, can point to a couple of scriptures that mention faith and not works saving people. They ignore, however, all of the many scriptures which talk about the necessity of baptism for the forgiveness of sins and the many examples of people immediately being baptized as soon as they knew what they needed to do. The Bible and many topics within it can be thought of as puzzles – you can’t see the complete picture until you have all of the pieces in place.
- Remember that although some topics are important to God, how those are interpreted may or may not be changed. I tend to err on the side of caution here (I have the right to do anything, you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. I Corinthians 10:23) If something is spelled out specifically in the New Testament as a sin, it’s off the table. Period. If something, like modesty is required, but no definition is given – then I will be open to other ideas. Having said that, I think it is important to point out that at the crux of everything is the heart. Why does your child want to wear skirts showing underwear (or whatever)? Is the reason godly or worldly? Work from there and you may be surprised to find your child is willing to be a little more conservative than you thought. (Studies show children tend to move away from their parents, a bit. If you are extremely liberal, you may actually find your children to be more conservative than you!)
- Stay as calm as possible – faith development is a process. Unless your child is walking away from God and church, try not to go crazy when you differ on some beliefs. Most people tend to be more liberal in their teens and twenties and start becoming more conservative as they age. Your child’s beliefs will probably temper over time. If you stay calm, you open the door to having more discussions through the years.
- Remember, ultimately your children have to make their beliefs their own. “Because I said so” doesn’t work for faith issues. Give your children as many reasons as possible for why you believe what you believe. Include mainly scriptures, but show how you have seen them to be true through either your own experiences or what you have seen happen to others. Sometimes your child’s immature faith is more a product of their lack of life experience than an actual rejection of God’s Word. For example, if your child has never seen the horrible earthly consequences that can happen when someone is drunk, they may not understand why God forbids drunkenness. After watching a few people suffer the consequences of getting drunk a few months or years later, your child may totally understand and support God’s laws on the subject.
Please don’t just assume your kids believe what you do. Start talking with them about what they believe. These discussions will give you an opportunity to spend extra time teaching your kids about the things that still confuse them.