Kids, Science and God

Full confession. I am no expert in science. In high school, I had a couple of football coaches as science teachers. In college, my biology professor is what I can only describe as an angry atheist. He seemed to spend as much time bashing God and Christianity as he did teaching biology.

In spite of those negative experiences, there is something fascinating about science. Perhaps because it is a way to examine how amazing God’s creation really is. The problem is that science and Christianity have drawn battle lines that can hurt both of them.

Science has lost a lot by refusing to accept the existence of God (as a discipline – many scientists are still Christians). Christians can miss out by refusing to let children gifted by God in science to participate in the field for fear they will be pulled away from God. This means there are fewer Christians in science today than perhaps there should be.

Your kids exposure to science can undermine their faith under the right circumstances. It doesn’t have to be that way. Taking some precautions can help strengthen the faith foundations of young people who will be exposed to scientists who are atheist or agnostic.

  • Expose your children to Christian scientists and their writings and studies. There is peer pressure in science to agree with the “party line” rather than search for truth – regardless of what it reveals. There are plenty of well educated, Christian scientists, however. At times they are kept out of the journals, because of their beliefs. They, however, are reputable and have published books and studies with a different perspective on the data. Answers In Genesis is a great resource of these writings. They have free resources as well as ones you can purchase. Many are written specifically for kids and teens.
  • Teach your children about bias and how it can impact the interpretation of data. We attended church with a gentleman who had a PhD in astronomy and ran a secular university. He had a very detailed scientific argument for why the flood makes much of the radiocarbon dating inaccurate. For scientists who don’t believe in a worldwide flood (even with lots of physical evidence) radiocarbon dating is infallible. The eruption of Mt St. Helens a few decades ago rocked the scientific world because phenomenon they had claimed took millions of years to happen, happened in a few weeks during the eruption.
  • Textbooks and science teachers aren’t always up to date on the latest studies. Even scientists who are atheists are moving away from the idea of random evolution. As more instruments can detect the intricacy in creation, they have had to admit the idea of that many things happening by accident is beyond impossible. Now, they aren’t ready to embrace God – some are crediting “intelligent life” on other planets – but it’s still a huge step away from Darwin. They have made other steps towards acknowledging God creating everything as described in the Bible – like the pre-Cambrian explosion – where all types of creatures suddenly appeared at the same time. (Of course, stopping short of acknowledging God.) Your children’s teachers may have textbooks that don’t address these shifts or they may not have read more current information.
  • Continually remind your kids God’s truths are THE truth and the truths of others may or may not be true – no matter how much evidence they think they have. If you are old enough, you have seen science declare eggs, fat, sugar and other things good for us and then bad for us in an almost dizzying cycle. Each time they have had plenty of data to support their claim…until the data came out that reversed their conclusions.
  • Science doesn’t have to reject God in order to be “good” science. In fact, some scientific fields have quite a few Christians in them. If your kids are interested in science, they may find things that help us live healthier or better lives. They just need to be aware that they will need to protect their faith against assaults and peer pressure. Discuss the ways they can do that before they begin encountering a lot of people who may mock their religious beliefs.
  • Science can point your kids to God. There is a sweet kids’ devotional book Indescribable by Louie Giglio. It contains a 100 devotions that use interesting things in science to point kids to God. Answers in Genesis also has plenty of resources for kids about things like dinosaurs that acknowledge God and contain solid science. Our parent website Teach One Reach One Ministries has free science project activities connected to Bible stories for those who want a way to do science experiments with their kids while also teaching them about God.

You don’t have to teach your kids to hate science if you want them to grow up to be faithful, productive Christians. You do need to prepare them though, so those teaching them science don’t weaken their faith. It’s worth your time and effort.

Teaching Your Kids God’s Principles

Periodically, aspects of secular culture invade Christianity. It’s well disguised, because it is often promoted by theologians and the ministers who are taught by them. Unfortunately, many of today’s theologians are thinly veiled agnostics or atheists and it impacts how they view scripture.

One of the most common ways of currently undermining scripture is by claiming that much of it wasn’t written to apply to us. The argument is that an Old Testament prophecy only applies to the specific group of people to whom it was given. Or that a New Testament epistle only applies to the original person or church to whom it was written.

On the surface this sounds logical. If the people in Nineveh hadn’t repented when Jonah preached, God would have destroyed them. The specific prophecy wasn’t about the country next door.

Paul’s letters to Timothy, Titus or Philemon did indeed contain specific instructions for those people. If he wanted Barnabas or someone else to do something specific, I’m sure he would have written them, too.

What these types of theological arguments often miss though, is that in addition to specific commands, God has underlying principles. He knew some things stay the same over hundreds or even thousands of years, but other things change. He also may not have cared to list each person who would ever be covered by His blessings or every single possible sinful activity in a category.

When God makes a promise or gives a warning to a specific group of people, there are often underlying principles that apply to all of His people. When God says He loves His people – even in an Old Testament book – I don’t need my name mentioned specifically to know I’m included. When God repeatedly says He detests lies and lying, He doesn’t need to list every possible way a person could lie or obfuscate the truth for the principle to be obvious.

This rejection theology also ignores the fact that almost as quickly as scripture was written down, it was passed among the people to learn what God wanted them to do. They didn’t seem to think most of the books weren’t written specifically to them and therefore didn‘t apply.

We have strong evidence the gospels and epistles were quickly passed from city to city and congregation to congregation and were considered to be inspired by God. There is no evidence they assumed the commands and principles didn’t apply to them, even if they weren’t the original addressee.

Why is this so important to teach your kids? Because ignoring biblical principles is one of the most common ways Christians currently use to excuse their disobedience and their sinful choices. Teens have always had a talent for this. (“God didn’t specifically say it was wrong to get high on cocaine.”)

The ignoring of biblical principles has seeped into the lives of adult Christians now and even into pulpits. Listen carefully for how many times someone teaching, preaching or having a conversation says something like, “I know the Bible says xyz, but…”. The “but” is usually followed by some version of it wasn’t meant for me to obey, because if God had known what I know, He wouldn’t have said that. Or even worse, implying that God did not inspire scripture.

Teach your kids to remember those conversations between Adam, Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. Remember the argument that seemed to sway Eve? Satan basically claimed, “God only told you not to eat the fruit because…” and of course, “You won’t really die.” He was trying to convince her God’s rules were not meant for her. He wanted her to believe her wants were more informed, more important, than God’s commands and principles.

Satan’s tricks haven’t changed in thousands of years. We just tend to forget what they are and to be watchful for them. Teach your kids to watch for those biblical principles and not to believe the argument that biblical principles no longer matter to God or apply to them.

Simple Ways to Point Your Kids to God

A recent Barna study found kids and teens who grew to be faithful, productive Christians as adults had been exposed to an average of about 2 hours of spiritual content a day.

Before you start to panic, the good news is that it doesn’t all have to be formal instruction (Note: Sending your kids to a Christian school, doesn’t remove the need for you, as their parents, to provide spiritual content for them.) Things like praying and having people over to eat count towards the total.

In fact, there are lots of rather simple things you can do to increase your kids’ exposure to spiritual content each day. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Have faith conversations in the car. If you’re a parent, you probably spend a lot of time in the car with your kids. As you talk about life, make sure to point them towards God whenever possible. These spiritual discussions are a key factor in building a strong faith foundation.
  • Have drive by prayers. Don’t close your eyes if you are driving, but get in the habit of having short prayers motivated by things you see as you drive. Anyone can notice something and lead a drive by prayer for it.
  • Make time for family devotionals. You make time to read your kids lots of secular books and encourage them to read independently. Why? Because you have heard it will help them do better in school. Make an effort to read the Bible to your kids and encourage them to read it independently. Having a strong faith foundation is even more important than doing well in school.
  • Make worship services and Bible classes a priority. When you regularly skip church and Bible class for other activities, you send the message that those are things are good to do only if there isn’t anything better available.
  • Serve others and share your faith. Serving others and sharing your faith should be as much of your family DNA as your last name and your holiday traditions. You will initially do these things as a family. As your kids grow older, their individual service and faith sharing should be as common as what you do as a family.
  • Let your kids have their friends over. Hospitality is a major part of the home life of kids who grow up to be faithful Christians. It doesn’t have to be formal entertaining either. Letting them invite their friends to your house counts. So do visits by neighbors and extended family.
  • Do things with other Christian families. Don’t wait for your church to plan something organized. Meet another family at the park, take a hike with a group from church or grab a fast food lunch after church with others.
  • When you take your kids to a museum, look for sections covering cultures in the Bible. Many museums have sections with artifacts from the Egyptians, the Romans, the Assyrians, the Greeks and other cultures in the Bible. You may find lots of artifacts mentioned in the Bible like oil lamps, Torah scrolls, mummies (Jacob and Joseph’s bodies were mummified in Egypt), even some of the idols like Baal. (Note: In some museums, artifacts from Israel will be found in a section called Levantine or Levant culture.)
  • Take your kids outside. The Bible teaches us that creation points to God. Take your kids on a hike, to the beach, to an aquarium or zoo. Point out how amazing God is and how much He loves us.

Helping your kids build strong faith foundations and grow to their godly potential takes intentionality. Once you make the time though, the things you need to do are actually rather basic. Don’t let anything stop you from teaching your kids about God.

Family Faith Stories Your Kids Need to Hear

Teaching your kids about God requires more than just reading the Bible to them. Your children need to understand why Christianity is so important to you. They need to know what all of God’s commands and principles look like in real life.

One of the best ways to have those conversations is to share family faith stories with your kids. Children love to hear family stories. Why not make some of your family stories about the faith you and your family have in God?

So what are good family faith stories to share with your children? Here are some of our favorites.

  • Baptism stories. Not just of the baptism itself, but what you were thinking at the time. Share why you think it was important to be baptized. Explain why you are glad you became a Christian. Talk about how you felt coming up out of the water. Sometimes the details of a baptism can have funny elements to them and it’s okay to share those, too. In fact, those little fun details can make the more serious parts of the story more memorable.
  • Stories of times you were aware of God working in your life. Don’t let words like “luck” and “coincidence” creep into your family stories. God is still working in the world today. Give Him the credit He deserves when those amazing things happened in your life.
  • Stories of experiences that made you keenly aware of God’s existence. Often these stories involve an experience in God’s creation – nature – but they don’t have to be limited to that. Sometimes God is just as present in a beautiful piece of music or art or something else we usually attribute to humans. God gives us talents, so the results of using them are also part of His creation.
  • Stories of answered prayers. Stories of times when God granted your requests are important for children to hear. Perhaps even more important are the times when God asked you to wait or denied your request. Share with your kids how you learned of God’s amazing wisdom as time revealed why granting your request would not have been in your best interest.
  • Stories of your Church family helping you become more faithful. Many young people struggle with seeing the advantages of being engaged in Christian community. They see the problems people cause, but miss noticing the advantages. God wants His people to be part of a vibrant Christian community. Telling your kids stories of how fellow Christians helped you through difficult times, encouraged you or helped you grow and mature can help your kids understand why God wants them to be involved in a local congregation.
  • Stories of times when you learned obeying God’s commands really was best for you. Some of God’s commands may seem outdated to your kids. Yet, God meant those commands for all time. It’s crucial to show your kids how God will always be wiser than people.

You may have other faith stories to share with your kids and that is wonderful. Encourage other family members to share their faith stories, too. The more faith stories your children hear, the more they will understand how God works and why being a Christian is so important.

4 Ways to Develop Intrinsic Motivation in Your Kids

When parents want a child to do something, they often fall back on two parenting standards, the “carrot” and the “stick”. The “carrot” is offering some sort of reward if the child obeys or accomplishes a goal set by the parent. The “stick” is some sort of negative consequence given for disobedience or failing to reach a parental goal.

The problem with both the “carrot” and the “stick” is that they are methods of external motivation. The parent has to continue supplying rewards or threatening consequences to get the child to exhibit the appropriate behaviors. While this can work in the short run, it has one large fatal flaw.

Extrinsic motivation does little to change the child’s heart. It focuses merely on the visible behaviors of a child. External consequences are a necessary part of parenting. They help remind a child that disobedience has consequences. Rewards can be helpful on rare occasions as an encouragement for a child to begin tackling a large task. Neither though really focus on developing the godly heart we want our children to have.

To help children develop that godly heart, it’s important to find ways to encourage the intrinsic motivation that usually accompanies it. A child who is intrinsically motivated and has a heart for God will still make mistakes and sin. They are much more likely, however, to grow to be faithful, productive Christians as adults.

So what do children being raised in Christian homes need from their parents to develop the intrinsic motivation to obey God? Intrinsic motivation is based on a genuine interest and ambition towards completing certain actions. To have that intrinsic motivation to obey God, your kids will need:

  • Knowledge of God. They don’t need to just know a bunch of Bible stories and other scriptures that tell them what God wants from His people. They need this knowledge of what is in the Bible to understand who God is – in general – but also specifically to them. That knowledge can begin giving them that internal, passion for loving and obeying Him.
  • Understanding of God’s wisdom and plans. Understanding how wise God is and God’s plans are key parts of both having passion and ambition for obeying God. Who wouldn’t want to go through life following God who holds all wisdom and has a plan for them to live eternally in Heaven with Him? Obviously, there are many more details, but the principle is the same. Without understanding why God wants them to obey Him, it will be difficult for your kids to internally motivate themselves.
  • Valuing God. There are a lot of aspects of this valuing of God. Your kids have to have that passion and ambition for following, worshipping and obeying God. It will come in part when they truly value their relationship with Him and want that relationship to grow stronger and deeper. If they don’t value God in their lives, they probably won’t spend a lifetime worshipping and serving Him.
  • Gratitude. It’s often the gratitude for God’s gifts, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and everything else God has done for us that leads people to becoming Christians who are active, faithful and productive servants of God. A quick glance through the epistles in the New Testament reveals the immense gratitude the writers had for everything God had given them. If your kids aren’t grateful for God’s blessings, for Jesus dying on the cross for their sins, for the opportunity to spend eternity in Heaven with God, they will struggle to follow Him and share their faith with others.

Helping your kids develop the intrinsic motivation to worship, serve and obey God is vitally important. It’s worth taking the time and effort to help them develop hearts that are truly God’s.