One of the topics rarely discussed in Christian parenting is how to help your kids move from merely copying your faith to making it their own personal faith. A way to do that is to encourage them to move from just learning the facts in the Bible to deeper thinking about who God is and what He wants from them and for them.
Some children will make those transitions without much help from their parents. Kids that are naturally introspective tend to begin making that shift while still in their teens. Often a situation like college – especially a college with many unbelieving students – can force young people to think more deeply about what they have been taught. Others, never truly make that shift and seem to struggle with their Christian life or abandon it entirely.
As you can imagine, thinking about your faith without another Christian adult to guide you can be problematic. If your child hasn’t been taught the “why’s” of their faith – why God did certain things, commands certain things, etc. – he or she may also be vulnerable to being convinced their faith has no purpose or meaning to add to life in this post-modern world.
Which is why it’s great to start asking your kids those deep thinking questions about God while they are still at home. This gives you plenty of opportunities for deeper discussions that will help them be prepared to take real ownership of their Christianity.
So what are some good questions to ask? There are probably many, but here are a few great ones to get you started.
- Why do you think God wanted this story/passage in the Bible? This type of question is great for helping your kids realize God wants us to learn from what He had people write in the Bible. It encourages them to think more deeply about what they might learn from the stories of those who have gone before. Obviously, we can’t speak for God, but we can make very educated responses to this question.
- What in this story/passage connects to or reminds you of other things you have read in the Bible? There is definitely a thread that is woven throughout scripture of God’s plan. Many themes are also repeated time after time as God continues to remind His people of His expectations generation after generation. Helping your kids think about these connections will help them see how beautifully woven together the Bible is.
- What new ideas did you learn from this story/passage that add to or expand your knowledge of who God is and/or what He wants from you or for you? The Bible is amazing in that it has so many layers. Some passages read hundreds of times will hit us a different way in a different time of our lives. Your kids also need to see that they will continue to learn and grow as Christians as long as they remain in scripture.
- How did this story/passage challenge any beliefs or ideas you had before reading it? This question is golden for flushing out any error your kids have been taught by society, school or even at church. It’s also a great way to remind them God’s truth is THE truth. Anything we are taught that denies or contradicts God’s truth is automatically false. Be careful to not pounce if your kids’ answers to this question are sometimes framed in a way that shows they believe someone else’s truth over the one God reveals in the passage you are discussing. This gives you an opportunity for gentle teaching and correction. Immediately becoming angry and lecturing will make it more likely your kids will keep their false belief and reject God’s in this area.
- What changes do you think God wants you to make after reading this story/passage? (Or what in this passage challenges you to work harder at being more like God wants you to be in that area?) This is a great way to discuss the practicality of living the Christian life. Since much of what God wants us to do is very practical, but very anti-human nature, it can be tough to do consistently. These discussions allow room for sharing practical ways of becoming more godly as we go through life.
- What questions did this story/passage bring to mind? Remember, it’s not doubts that pull our kids away from God. It’s unanswered doubts. Which often start as unasked questions. We need to encourage our kids to ask their questions. You don’t have to have all of the answers. Research them together. A few questions have no answers because in our human state we can’t truly comprehend their meaning. Most though have well reasoned answers if we take the time to find them and share them with our kids. Avoid platitudes you may have heard decades ago. The digital age has given us easy access to all sorts of archaeological finds, primary source documents and even commentaries to which we would have had little if any access just a few decades ago. Which means we actually have more solid, concrete things to share with our kids…if we take the time to find them.
Asking these questions may seem scary to you at first – especially if your family doesn’t have many deep conversations. Your kids may respond with shrugs and monosyllables at first. Find different ways to ask them – making it fun in some way for them. Also make sure you are picking good times for these discussions – in a time and place where everyone is relaxed and open to having long talks. If you don’t have those times in your family life – create them. They are essential for the spiritual health and growth of your entire family.
As you ask more open ended thinking questions and truly listen to the responses your kids give, you will find the conversations grow deeper and more interesting. You will more easily notice spiritual growth (or the lack thereof) in your kids. You may find these conversations spur all of you to be more godly, do more good works, share your faith more readily. It’s definitely something your kids need from you in order to begin taking ownership of their faith.