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5 Attitude Changes That Will Transform Your Christian Parenting in the New Year

By Natasha Crain

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to write a post because my nose has been buried in writing my new book (if you’re new to the blog or missed what I’m working on, you can read about it here!). My deadline is March 1, so my ability to write new blog posts will continue to be sporadic for the next couple of months, but then I’ll be back to writing more regularly again…and I can’t wait. Writing the new book has brought so many important subjects to mind for the blog!

Christian Parenting New Year

In the meantime, I did want to end the year with a post on New Year’s resolutions. I’ve always been a person who loves setting goals, but I’ve noticed that I set fewer and fewer goals as years go by. It’s easy to get complacent and set in our ways, isn’t it?

One of the reasons I think it’s so hard to actually reach the goals we set is that successful changes in behavior require corresponding changes in underlying attitudes. For example, I’ve been trying to stop biting my nails since I was 15. It’s never happened. The problem isn’t that I can’t physically reach that goal; It’s that, deep down, I’ve never truly believed that this is an important problem that really needs my attention.

Despite the importance of our underlying attitudes in reaching goals, we rarely think of goals in terms of attitudes. So, rather than writing a post about New Year’s goals framed in terms of behavior, I’m writing a post about important attitude shifts we should aim to make.

With that in mind, here are 5 important attitude changes that can truly transform how we disciple our kids. For each one, I’m also giving an example of a behavioral resolution—an action point. But rest assured that unless we first take the attitude changes to heart, those behavioral resolutions will quickly fall by the wayside.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #1

From: The Bible is important.

To: The Bible is so important, I need to read it with my kids regularly—and if I don’t, their spiritual development will be significantly compromised.

 As Christians, it should go without saying that the Bible is important. We shouldn’t give ourselves a congratulatory pat on the back for such a belief. But it’s what we do with that belief that will really impact our kids’ spiritual lives. Don’t think for a second that simply paying lip service to the importance of God’s Word will ignite your kids’ interest in it. Without a strong foundation of how to read the Bible, what the Bible says, and why it matters, kids won’t learn how to depend on the source guide for their faith. Instead, they’ll learn to depend on what other people tell them about Christianity.

That’s very dangerous in a world saturated with false information.

So, if you don’t currently read the Bible with your kids, make this the year to start. And don’t depend on devotionals as a substitute—they can be a helpful addition to your family’s spiritual life, but they should never be the starting point.

Behavioral resolution: Pick a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) and commit to reading one or two chapters per week with your kids (decide on the number of chapters based on how much information your kids are able to take in on a given night). For example, you could decide to read the book of John two nights per week over ten weeks. After that, pick another Gospel, or choose one of Paul’s epistles.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #2

From: My kids’ bad behavior will dictate how much time and energy I can spend on their spiritual development.

To: The time and energy I spend on my kids’ spiritual development will have nothing to do with how bad they’re being at any given time.

This is not a conscious attitude for most parents…we don’t set out to let our kids’ bad behavior drive anything. But it sure is easy to let it happen, right? This is something I noticed in my own home this year. I struggled a lot with the constant fighting between my two daughters, which often left me with less than zero energy by the end of the day. They would be mad at each other, or mad at me, or I would be mad at them…and, honestly, the last thing I felt like doing was making the effort on those nights to switch gears and bring it back to God.

But when we start relegating our kids’ spiritual development to the small (who am I kidding…tiny) slivers of time when everyone is in a good mood and feeling like sitting down to discuss what really matters in life, we’ll never make headway. Because it’s so easy to fall into this trap, it’s critical to 1) be aware of the danger and 2) put a plan in place to avoid it (see below).

Behavioral resolution: There’s one key way to support this attitude change—schedule family spiritual time. Start with finding a set time of just 30 minutes to put on the calendar each week. Kids might fight it at first, but over time, if you’re consistent, it will become something your family just expects. And having it planned will help you not succumb to parental fatigue (as long as you don’t cancel it!). This is a great way to do your Bible reading (point 1).

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #3

From: I’ll talk to my kids about faith whenever good teachable moments arise.

To: I’ll proactively determine what to teach my kids about faith and when.

In case you’re behind on popular parenting lingo, a “teachable moment” is when you use an unplanned event to teach your kids about something. Taking advantage of such times is important. But if this is your primary strategy for teaching your kids about Christianity, it’s one of the most ineffective parenting attitudes you can have.

There’s a simple reason for that: Not everything your kids need to be taught will have a corresponding moment naturally arise. In my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, I chose 40 of the most important faith conversations parents need to have with their kids in a secular world. Maybe 10 of them would naturally come up in conversation. But when was the last time you saw a brilliant opportunity naturally arise for addressing whether or not the Bible supports slavery? Or whether or not Christianity is responsible for millions of deaths in history? Or how a loving God could command the killing of the Canaanites? Or what the historical facts of the resurrection that most scholars agree on are?

Yet all of these are highly important conversations to have, given the challenges our kids will hear from skeptics today. It’s our responsibility to know what conversations need to be had and to proactively have them. We can’t just wait around for a corresponding teachable moment to happen.

Behavioral resolution: Pick one faith topic each week to have a conversation about with your kids. If you have my book, this will be easy. Read/review a chapter each week yourself (just 4-5 pages), then ask your kids a corresponding question to facilitate conversation. You could have one night per week (e.g., Sunday) where you spend 30 minutes with your Bible reading time and another night per week (e.g., Wednesday) where you do these discussions. Alternatively, you could do your faith discussion over dinner on a given night of the week, or on your commute to school if it’s long enough.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #4

From: I need to work on my kids’ (collective) spiritual development.

To: I need to tailor my discipleship to the needs of each of my kids.

If you have more than one child, it’s tempting to mentally merge them into a single discipleship “target”—We are the parental unit (the disciplers) and they are the children unit (the disciples). The problem is, just as in non-spiritual matters, every child is unique in his or her needs. We shouldn’t effectively make our home into a one-size-fits-all church program. Kids are ready for and interested in different areas of faith development at different times.

This is where I think devotionals can be a good supplement to the other things you do as a family (the above points). If you’re doing set times for Bible reading and faith conversations as a family, you can choose devotional books to use with your kids individually on other nights. Just be sure to really spend time looking at the ones you pick, as many have very little “meat” and are hardly better than 365 lessons on being a nice person. (In the 5- to 8-year-old range, I’ve found Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment to be simple but solid. For about 7- to 10-year-olds, I’ve really liked The One Year Every Day Devotions: Devotions to Help you Stand Strong. No devotional is perfect, but I at least feel comfortable recommending these.)

Behavioral resolution: Write down three areas where you think each of your kids most needs to grow spiritually this year (Prayer? Learning to read the Bible independently? Understanding the basics of the faith? Studying apologetics? etc.). Then ask each child to write down three areas of their own. Compare your lists and decide on a final list of three goals for the year together. Make an action of plan of what you’ll do to work on those goals.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #5

From: I want to pass on my faith.

To: I want to help my kids develop their own faith.

While it’s common for parents to say they want to “pass on” their faith, it’s not necessarily a good way to think of our role in our kids’ spiritual lives. We have to remember that what we experience with God can never be exported to our kids; It’s unique to us.

I think one of the biggest reasons so many kids turn away from faith when they leave home is that parents spent too much time trying to pass on their own faith rather than helping their kids develop their own.

This attitude change will fundamentally alter how you think of your role as a Christian parent. It’s a lens through which to view all that you do. Are you continually just trying to express what you believe and what you do with that belief? Or are you teaching your kids why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is objectively true—why anyone should believe it? Changing our perspective on what, exactly, it is that we should be doing as Christian parents can make all the difference in the world.

Behavioral resolution: Reflect on how you currently see your job as a Christian parent, and the difference between passing on your faith and helping your kids develop their own. Commit to either beginning or continuing a study of an apologetics topic of interest (for those new to the blog, apologetics is the study of how to make a case for and defend the truth of Christianity). Need a reading plan? I’ve got a bunch for you: Click here.

 

Which of these attitude changes do you feel you most need to make next year? Share your thoughts below!

 

How do I explain abortion to my children?

By Michael C. Sherrard

These kinds of questions keep you awake at night. Knowing how and when to talk to your children about sensitive issues isn’t an exact science. But we better figure it out quick. While we contemplate the best way to do it, our little ones are being taught by someone else. The internet, social media, and public education have changed the rules of the game. With that in mind, here are four practical suggestions for parents and church leaders on how to get ahead of the issue and teach your children about abortion.

explain abortion children

1. START EARLY. 

Parents always struggle with “how soon do I allow my children to see the brokenness in the world?” My wife, Terri, and I err on the side of sooner than later. I want the first time my children to be horrified by the brokenness of our world to be in the safety of our company and in the context of the gospel. Besides, in the tech age, I’d be foolish to think I can keep the filth away. It will find them. My children need to be ready for when they encounter the darkness.

We need to be proactive in teaching our children. This doesn’t mean that we the force the issue, though. A good way to be proactive but not overbearing is to use questions to gently bring up sensitive subjects. They way I broached abortion with my oldest daughter (age 7) was by asking her if she knew why I went on a recent trip to England. She said, “to speak.” I said, “Yep. I went to speak about abortion. Have you heard that word before?” She shook her head no. I left it there. One minute later she asked what it meant, and we had an amazing conversation.

Good teaching requires knowing your children’s knowledge and assumptions. Bad teachers simply lecture and then patronizingly ask, “Does that make sense?” Don’t do this with your children. Instead, ask your children questions to find out where they are on abortion. Are they oblivious, disinterested, or already educated? Find out. Asking questions also allows for self discovery. You’d be amazed at the insight of seven year olds. They are already making sense of the world. They are forming their moral framework. When simply asked a question and introduced to abortion, children often know what to think if it.(1)

 

2. SIMPLIFY THE ISSUE.

Children, and adults for that matter, are confused about the pro-life position. We must simplify it. People need to know that we are pro-life because we believe it is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. Abortion is the killing of an innocent human being. Therefore, we believe abortion is wrong.

Children also need to know the reasons that support this belief. They need to know that along with scripture we are pro-life because science and philosophy direct us to be. Science informs us that from the earliest stages of development the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. And philosophically, we understand that there is nothing morally significant in the difference between an embryo and adult that would justify killing the unborn. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not good reasons to kill the unborn.(2) 

The case for life is reasonable, rationale, and remarkably simple. Children easily grasp it. Use questions to simplify the issue, teach the pro-life syllogism, and explain the science and philosophy that support our conclusion.(3) Here are some questions you can use.

  • “Is it okay to kill humans?”
  • “Are the unborn human, and if not what are they?”
  • “Would it be okay to kill unborn humans because they are smaller, not aware of themselves, dependent on their mom for survival, and living in her womb?”
  • “Are humans valuable because of what they can do like be self-aware and able to care for themselves? Or are they valuable because of what they are, a human being?”
  • “If the unborn are valuable because they are human, what should we do with them?”

There you go. It’s that simple. You can teach your children the scientific and philosophical case for life by having a conversation directed by the right questions.

 

3. TALK ABOUT IT FROM THE PULPIT.

I understand that many pastors don’t want the controversy that might accompany speaking on a social issue, but neutrally isn’t an option when it comes to abortion. Children are very observant. When the church is silent on abortion one of two things is communicated to them: either that abortion is tolerable or that it is unforgivable. Both positions are false.

The sin of abortion is a horrific sin for which the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient. People in our congregation need to hear that abortion is wrong and that there is mercy, forgiveness, and healing for those who have participated in one. When the pulpit addresses abortion, it shows the relevancy of Christianity to our children. It shows that it speaks to all of life. Speaking on it also allows sin to be seen in a concrete rather than abstract manner which makes the gospel more tangible. If you want to faithfully teach your children about abortion, the pulpit must be involved. When it is not, the church undermines the work in the home. (4)

 

4. CARE FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY ABORTION.

Training our children to be pro-life doesn’t mean that we just make then apologists. We want them to serve and love those affected by abortion. Whether this means that they serve in a local pregnancy resource center, or simply show compassion to their friends who have had an abortion, actively loving those affected by abortion must be stressed.

Do this as a family or a church family. Our youth group went and served our local pregnancy resource center by doing odd jobs for them. Our youth painted, cleaned up the grounds, folded clothes, and many other things. They also were given a short presentation by the director educating them on what the resource center did for woman. Many of our kids had no idea what the resource center was doing. This experience opened their eyes to the compassion in the pro-life movement and the reality of abortion in a way that words never could.

 

Parents, church leaders, we must be motivated. Children are almost always ready for more than we give them. Knowing when they are ready for something isn’t always clear. But I would rather make a mistake a time or two of addressing something too early rather than too late. So start early and teach the simple pro-life message in the home and the church, and may we all show the compassion that springs from the love of our Lord.

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(1) Check out “Children asked about Abortion” by my friends at the Human Coalition..

(2) See “How to Defend Your Pro-Life Views in 5 Minutes or Less” by Scott Klusendorf for an excellent, concise summary of the pro-life position.

(3) A syllogism is simply a conclusion that is supported by reasons. This is the pro-life syllogism in case you missed it.

  •  Premise/Reason 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
  •  Premise/Reason 2: Abortion is the killing of an innocent human being.
  •  Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is wrong.

(4) I am a pastor, and I’ve experienced the fruit of speaking an equipping, gospel centered message on abortion. Pastors, you can win on this issue. You don’t need to fear taking it on. For our story and some resources on how to do this is your church, visit the Pro-Life Pastors Initiative at plpi.info.

________________________________

Michael C. Sherrard is a pastor, the director of Ratio Christi College Prep, and the author of Relational Apologetics. Booking info and such can be found at michaelcsherrard.com.

 


 

5 Signs You’re Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids… and 5 Signs You’re Not

By Natasha Crain

Since my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, came out in March, I’ve been blessed to receive 75 five-star reviews of it on Amazon. To all who have taken the time to leave those reviews, thank you! It means a lot!

In addition to those 75 reviews, I’ve also received 2 one-star reviews…from people who haven’t read the book.

One headline says, “How to brainwash and indoctrinate your child instead of letting him/her think for themselves [sic]”. This is followed by his review, which simply says, “This whole concept is a little upsetting to say the least.”

The other one-star review says, “If you don’t trust your children to follow your religion on their own (without constant reinforcing) then either you don’t trust in your kids or in your religion.”

Clearly, neither of these commenters have read the book and are simply rating the idea of doing something—anything—to “keep your kids on God’s side.” I probably receive at least one blog comment to that effect every week: If you’re raising your kids with a Christian worldview, it automatically means you’re forcing your religion on them.

This is, frankly, nonsense.

Let’s take a minute today and consider what “forcing” your religion—or atheism—on your kids would actually look like…and what it wouldn’t.

Forcing Religion Kids

5 Signs You’re Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids

 

1. You encourage them to have a blind faith, whether you realize it or not.

A blind faith is one where a person accepts certain beliefs without question. I’m pretty sure that if you asked most Christian parents if they want their kids to have such a faith, they’d answer with an emphatic, “No!” Theoretically, everyone wants their kids to have a faith more meaningful than that.

But what many parents don’t realize is that you can inadvertently raise your kids with a blind faith by encouraging them to “just believe” in Jesus.  Is this a heavy-handed or malicious forcing of religion? No. But it has a similar effect—it leads to kids having a faith that exists just because yours does.

Atheists who encourage their kids to reject God without question (because believing in God is just so ridiculous) are effectively doing the same thing.

 

2. You answer your kids’ questions about God with disapproval.

When kids ask questions about God, it’s the Christian parent’s privilege and responsibility to take the time to offer accurate and thoughtful answers. If your kids’ questions are met with disapproval, however, you’re teaching them that they should just accept what you believe for the sake of believing it. Again, is this a heavy-handed or malicious forcing of religion? No. But, again, it leads to kids having (some kind of) faith just because you do.

Atheists who are determined to make sure their kids don’t fall for the idea of God and show disapproval when their kids express interest in religion are guilty of the same thing.

 

3. You trivialize other worldviews.

I’ve heard far too many Christians condescendingly laugh at the idea of evolutionary theory, the fact that Mormons have special underwear, or that Muslims believe virgins are waiting in heaven for faithful martyrs. We don’t need to believe that every worldview is true (that’s not even possible), but we do need to make sure we don’t trivialize the beliefs of others by treating them as intellectually inferior. When we do, we’re effectively pushing our beliefs onto our kids by trying to make other beliefs look “small.” Instead of issuing snide remarks, we should be focused on teaching our kids to fairly evaluate the evidence for the truth of varying worldviews.

Atheists who teach their kids that Christianity is an absurd belief system for uneducated or gullible fools should take the same advice.

 

4. You threaten them with hell when they question the truth of Christianity.

If your gut reaction to a child expressing doubt about the truth of Christianity is something like, “You better not stop believing or you’re going to hell!”, you’re strong-arming them into belief.

Yes, hell is a reality spoken of repeatedly in the Bible. Yes, kids must understand that there is real judgment that awaits all people. But trying to make kids believe in Jesus out of fear won’t lead them to a true relationship with God. Parents should meet kids’ doubts with an open willingness to talk about questions…not with threats.

Atheists get a pass on this one since they don’t believe in hell.

 

5. You tie them down with ropes and repeatedly yell, “You will believe the way I do…OR ELSE!”

This is what it would look like to literally try forcing your religion or atheism on your kids. Obviously, that’s not happening. But people will keep using the word forcing anyway.

 

And 5 Signs You’re NOT Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids

 

1. You encourage them to have beliefs rooted in good reason and evidence.

The opposite of raising your kids with a blind faith is raising your kids with a faith that’s deeply rooted in good reason. It’s helping them discover the evidence for God in nature—things like the origin of the universe, the design of the universe and of living things, and the origin of morality. It’s helping them understand that all religions can’t point to the same truth. It’s helping them learn the historical evidence for the resurrection. It’s helping them understand the intersection of faith and science. By teaching them why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true, you’re making sure their beliefs are their own and are not just being pushed onto them from you.

(All of these subjects are covered in my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith. If you need help discussing these things, please check it out!)

Atheists can do the same by not simply expecting their kids to reject God, and by talking about the actual evidence they believe points to an atheistic universe.

 

2. You not only invite your kids’ questions, you raise questions they haven’t even thought of.

Parents shouldn’t see themselves as a Q&A machine. We need to be able to answer our kids’ questions, but we also need to teach them about the questions others raise about Christianity. As I’ve said before, if our kids are someday shocked by the claims of skeptics, we didn’t do our job. By proactively sharing those challenges, we demonstrate that truth has nothing to fear and that we’re not “forcing” them to see only one side of the picture.

Atheists should do this as well, by sharing with their kids the challenges theists raise to their worldview.

 

3. You proactively teach them about other worldviews.

It’s one thing to share the challenges to Christianity with your kids (point 2, above). But it’s another thing to study worldviews in their entirety. For example, you might address the common atheist challenge that miracles aren’t possible, but that doesn’t give your kids a comprehensive understanding of what the atheist worldview is and what its implications are. It’s important that kids get that bigger picture for the major worldviews today so, once again, they never feel we’re forcing them to see only one perspective.

Atheists…you knew it was coming…should be doing this too. If atheist parents just nitpick at Christianity by teaching their kids random snippets of Christian belief and never take the time to offer a comprehensive picture of the Christian worldview, they’re just as guilty of passing on a one-sided perspective.

 

4. You deal with your kids’ doubts by helping them find meaningful answers to their questions.

Parents who address doubts by helping their kids find meaningful answers to their questions—rather than personally threatening them with eternal consequences—are giving their kids the tools they need to make their faith their own.

If atheists have kids who are doubting their atheism, they should equally work to address those questions rather than casually brushing them off.

 

5. You DON’T tie them down with ropes and repeatedly yell, “You will believe the way I do…OR ELSE!”

Ironically, given those one-star reviews, my book is all about why parents need to not push a blind faith onto their kids…and how to, instead, help them make their faith their own.

It definitely doesn’t suggest we should effectively or literally force religion upon our kids. No ropes. No yelling. No threats. Not even a one-sided presentation of Christianity.

But the claims will continue to come because too many people don’t stop to think about what it actually means to force religion on kids…and what it doesn’t.

Fortunately, I now have this post to share and help them out.  I’m sure they’ll be very grateful.


Visit Natasha’s Website @ www.ChristianMomThoughts.com 

3 Key Things Skeptics Will Say to Shame Your Kids for Being Christians

By Natasha Crain

I haven’t blogged in the last couple of weeks because my family and I were on vacation. We went on a wonderful trip to the island of Grand Cayman! I successfully managed to avoid email while I was there, but that made for quite a backlog by the time I returned. As I started going through the emails to my blog address, I was struck by the nature of comment after comment left by atheists on various old blog posts while I was gone: one emotional attack after another and not a single discussion of evidence for/against the truth of Christianity.

I actually get such emails all the time and am very used to it. But seeing them all piled together made me realize how often the objective of skeptics is to shame Christians rather than to engage in fair-minded discussions about evidence—something highly ironic given how much skeptics talk in theory about how important evidence is.

Shaming can have an especially negative impact on kids, who are very susceptible to believing emotion-laden statements. But this, too, is something we can (and should) prepare them for. While shaming comes in all kinds of forms, I can roll 90 percent of skeptics’ comments into some version of three general claims.

Here is what your kids are most likely to hear…and what you can do about it.

 

1. “You’ve been indoctrinated.”

The Implied Shame Claim: You’re just parroting what your parents have drilled into your head throughout your childhood. You’ve been brainwashed and can’t even think for yourself. If you’re brave enough to look at [evidence/science/common sense] instead, you’ll see how crazy Christianity is.

I probably receive at least one blog comment each week about how I’m indoctrinating my kids simply by raising them in a Christian home. Skeptics love to say this. The problem is, it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what indoctrination even means.  As I explained in this post, indoctrination is “teaching someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions and beliefs.” In other words, indoctrination is a problem with how you teach someone something. It’s not inherently related to any particular belief system, though religion is one type of belief system where indoctrination is possible. Atheists can indoctrinate their kids as well.

So, unless a skeptic has been inside the homes of every Christian in America, seen how we are teaching our kids Christianity, and then had appropriate reason to conclude that we don’tcollectively expose our kids to other ideas, it’s utterly meaningless to say that “Christians indoctrinate their kids.”

What Parents Can Do:

  • Make sure you’re not actually indoctrinating your kids. Make sure you are teaching them what other people believe. That doesn’t mean you should teach them that what everyone else believes is true (that’s not logically possible)—it simply means you’re appropriately comparing and contrasting other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.
  • Make it explicitly clear to your kids that you don’t want them to believe in Jesus just because you do. (Read why this is so important in my post, Six Scary But Important Words Every Christian Parent Should Say to Their Kids About Faith.) When you’ve actuallydemonstrated that it’s important for them to own their spiritual decisions, they’ll have no reason to later question whether they’ve been “indoctrinated” when someone suggests it.
  • Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity (you’re going to see a recurring theme on this bullet point). In that very process, you’ll be comparing and contrasting truth claims from various worldviews and your kids will know first-hand that you didn’t “indoctrinate” them.

 

2. “If you allow yourself to think critically, you’ll see there’s no reason to believe in God.”

The Implied Shame Claim: Don’t you want to be a critical thinker? Someone who is rational, reasonable, and uses their brain? If you have faith, you’re throwing all that out the door. You’re choosing to believe something in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

“Critical thinking” is a buzz phrase today. Technically speaking, critical thinking is the “objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgment.” The funny thing is, skeptics always assume that such thinking necessarily leads to their own conclusions. The logic goes like this:

  1. Critical thinking means forming beliefs based on evidence.
  2. There’s no evidence for God.
  3. If you believe in God, you’re not thinking critically.

The problem with this logic is the second statement—the foregone conclusion that there’s no evidence for God. A more honest assessment would be that Christians and atheists disagree over what constitutes legitimate evidence for God. As much as many skeptics would like to make critical thinking their own domain based on this implied argument, the reality is that neither Christians nor atheists are willing to believe in something without evidence; Christians believe there is evidence for God. That’s why conversations about who’s thinking more critically than whom are absolutely pointless. There are Christians who think well and Christians who think poorly; atheists who think well and atheists who think poorly. This says nothing about the evidence itself.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Be intentional in talking to your kids about definitions. So many times, Christians and skeptics talk right past each other with conflicting meanings of the same words. In this case, discuss the words critical thinking and faith (skeptics incorrectly assert that faith means believing something in spite of evidence —see chapter 8 of my book for help with this conversation).
  • Discuss the implied argument of the three points listed above and explain that this is the logic behind skeptics’ claims that Christians don’t think critically. When you expose your kids to the thinking behind the shame claim, they won’t be fazed by it later.
  • Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity (yup, here it is again!). It’s one thing to show them the faulty logic (see the point above)—it’s another thing to teach them how to combat a faulty premise themselves.

 

3. “Christians are less intelligent than atheists. Studies show it.”

The Implied Shame Claim: You’re stupid if you’re a Christian and that’s not just my opinion—it’s beenproven.

You may be surprised to hear that a number of studies have found a negative relationship between intelligence and religiousness—in other words, they suggest that the more intelligent a person is, the less likely they are to be religious. Many passionate atheists are well aware of these studies and use them as ammunition for their arguments that religion is for the poor, ignorant, or unintelligent.

My professional background is in market research (I have an MBA in marketing and statistics) so I decided to personally review the studies that are constantly referenced by skeptics. I explained my findings in detail in my post, Are Christians Less Intelligent Than Atheists? Here’s What Those Studies REALLY Say, and further in Chapter 16 of my book.

Here’s the bottom line of what you should know: Over the last 80+ years, many studies have been done on the relationship between intelligence and religiousness. In 2013, researchers pulled together all the ones that quantified that relationship. Of the 63 studies they identified, roughly half showed no relationship at all. The other half showed at least some kind of negative relationship (the more intelligent you are, the less likely you are to be religious). That said, statistically speaking, it’s not very helpful to simply know there is “some kind” of relationship. You have to know how strong the relationship is to know if it matters. So researchers combined the results of all these individual studies to evaluate that question overall…and found the strength of relationship to be very weak. What do I mean by very weak? A -.17 or -.20 correlation is considered to be a trivial or negligible relationship by most statisticians. In other words, hardly worth mentioning. There is no reasonable basis for suggesting Christians are less intelligent than atheists according to this data.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Give your kids an appropriate framework for considering this kind of claim before you even discuss specific studies: Even if we could reliability measure which group is collectively smarter (we can’t), the answer wouldn’t tell us anything about the truth of Christianity. Intelligence doesn’t equate to always having the right answer. The important question we must constantly point our kids back to is, Which worldview is an accurate picture of reality? (Not which worldview theoretically has the smartest adherents.)
  • If your kids are teens, take the time to read my summary of these studies and findings and then discuss (links to my blog post and book above).
  • Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity (I told you this would keep coming up!). How else will they know how to set aside distracting claims like this one about intelligence and answer the key question, Which worldview is an accurate picture of reality?

 

So, you must have caught the recurring solution that combats all of these attempts at shaming:Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity.

Consider for a moment why that in particular is the antidote for almost any shaming attempt. Shame by definition is “a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace.” In other words, the root of shame is feeling inadequate.

In order for our kids to feel (more than) adequate when they encounter shaming attempts, they need to have the deep conviction that what they believe is really true. Only then will they be able to fully see these shame claims for what they are—shallow and baseless emotional attacks—and be able to say confidently with the apostle Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

 

If you need help talking to your kids about the evidence for the truth of Christianity and how to address secular claims with your kids, please check out my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith.

Visit Natasha’s Site @ ChristianMomThoughts.com


 

Resources for Greater Impact:

3 Key Things Skeptics Will Say to Shame Your Kids for Being Christians

 

How to Get Your Kids to Ask More Questions About Their Faith

By Natasha Crain

The most popular post on my blog is one I wrote last year called, The Number One Sign Your Kids are Just Borrowing Your Faith (and Not Developing Their Own).

That post has been read by more than 80,000 people and shared almost 14,000 times. Clearly it resonated deeply with people.

So what was the sign that your kids are just “borrowing” your faith?

They rarely, if ever, ask questions about it.

Many parents wrote to me and said the post made them realize that they were doing a lot of talking about God…but their kids weren’t doing a lot of talking back.

If your kids aren’t showing much proactive interest in talking about faith, I have a very easy and effective solution to share with you today: Start a questions night.

For the last several months, our family has set aside a night each week in order to simply sit and answer any questions our kids have about faith. They absolutely love it. And I can tell you that they weren’t asking these questions before we started the questions night. They knew they could always ask us questions, but that doesn’t mean they actually did. Setting aside a special time for questions opens the doors of communication in ways that don’t necessarily happen otherwise.

These question nights have facilitated some of the most important conversations we have ever had with our kids.

Here are 9 tips to help you get started with your own!

 

1. You don’t need to know how to answer all your kids’ questions before you launch your questions night.

Whenever I mention to someone that we have a questions night, the first response is always, “I don’t think I could answer my kids’ questions!”…followed by an uncomfortable laugh. If that’s what you’re thinking as you read this, please don’t let that concern stop you from doing it! You will never know how to answer all of your kids’ questions. No matter how prepared you are, they will ask questions you’re not sure how to answer…so there’s no point in waiting.

 

2. When you don’t know an answer, there’s no need to be embarrassed…just use it as a chance to teach your kids how you find answers yourself.

I’ll never forget one of the first questions my daughter asked: Why did Jesus have to be baptized if He wasn’t a sinner?

I have to admit I had never thought about that (if you’re interested in the answer, here’s a nice quick article). I laughed and told her that was a really great question that I hadn’t even thought about. Then I showed her how we could use my study Bible to find an answer.

Here’s the thing to remember: When your kids stump you, they’re proud of themselves…not ashamed of you. Praise them for asking a great question, then use it as an opportunity to demonstrate how to find the answers together. My kids love thinking of questions so good we can’t answer. And we love it too.

 

3. Explicitly tell your kids that any question is OK.

If your kids are old enough that they may have doubts about their faith, they may not open up with those questions by default. Other kids might fear their questions are too basic and won’t want to admit they don’t understand something they feel they should. Be sure to explicitly tell your kids up front that all questions are welcome and you’ll never bedisappointed by or angry about something they want to know.

 

4. If you think your kids might need time to warm up to the idea of asking questions, have some ready to go in advance.

If you’re not sure that your kids will hit the ground running with the new questions night, pick a couple of interesting questions in advance to throw out on their behalf. That way you won’t be sitting around awkwardly staring at each other in silence. If you need some ideas, check out my list of 65 questions every Christian parent should learn how to answer.

 

5. If you have more than one child, “open the floor” to questions but make sure everyone has the chance to ask something.

When we first started doing this, we went around in a circle, having each of our kids ask a question on their turn. The good side of doing it that way is that it encourages everyone to be thinking. The bad side is (1) that it can kill the momentum of the night if one kid is not feeling particularly thoughtful (everyone will be sitting around waiting for them to come up with something), and (2) that if your kids are competitive (as mine are), they’ll spend more time thinking up a good question for their impending turn than listening to the current discussion. We found the whole night flows better when you simply let everyone throw out questions as they have them. Just make sure that if someone didn’t ask something on their own, you give them the chance to.

 

6. Don’t assume young kids don’t have big questions to ask.

For a while, it was only my twins (age 6) asking questions. My 4-year-old rolled around on the floor, seemingly bored by the more “advanced” conversation going on around her. When I asked her each time if she had a question, she gave me an embarrassed look and said, “Nooo!” She was intimidated by the questions from her older siblings.

But one night she finally spoke up and said she had a question.

“Mommy, why did God create soldiers who kill people?”

I was more than surprised that this was a question on my 4-year-old’s mind (I still don’t know where it came from).

If you have young kids, don’t assume they don’t have big questions. Kids as young as 3 or 4 can benefit from doing this! It might take time for them to speak up, but you just might be surprised how much they’re already thinking.

 

7. When your kids ask a question that the Bible doesn’t clearly answer, be honest about that and use it as a key teaching opportunity.

Quite often, I find myself answering a question with “the Bible doesn’t tell us for sure” or “the Bible doesn’t give us all of the details on that.” For example, my kids often ask questions about heaven—what it will be like, what we’ll be doing, etc. I tell them that the Bible doesn’t give us all the details, and that there are many things like that.

But I don’t like to leave it there. I think it’s an important time to teach them about the three points I described in my post, How to Handle Questions God Didn’t Answer: God’s revelation is not broken, we can trust that God has revealed all we need to know, and it should be our life’s work to understand the answers He has given us.

 

8. When your kids ask a question that’s been a struggle for you personally, tell them as much.

This might sound counter-intuitive, but I actually love when the kids ask something that’s a difficulty in my own faith. As for many people, the problem of suffering in the world has always greatly troubled me. When the kids ask questions on this subject, we discuss free will and its implications, but I’m quick to tell them that this has always been hard for me (and many others) to understand. I explain to them that it’s easy to look at those things and see them as evidence against God. I’m very honest about it. But after I acknowledge that, I use it as a perfect opportunity to talk about how much evidence there is for God and why we are Christians despite those difficulties.

Getting real about your own faith challenges gives you credibility with your kids and helps give them a more realistic understanding of what a living, breathing faith looks like.

 

9. If you miss a week…or two…or three…don’t give up on it.

There was a period of about a month when we got busy and didn’t do our questions night. It would have been easy to let it go at that point. But when we told the kids one evening that it was time to do it again, they cheered and all ran into the living room to sit down. They started waving their hands in the air to be the first to ask something. And we literally couldn’t stop the questions from coming.

After just one month.

Again, they could have asked us those questions at any time. They didn’t need a “questions night.” But in the hustle and bustle of life, those questions often don’t naturally arise. So give it a try in your own family. It could completely transform your kids’ spiritual life.

 

Here’s a challenge to all of you as an easy start toward this. Ask your kids today, “What is one of the biggest questions you have about God, Jesus, or the Bible?” Come back and share what they asked and what happened in your conversation!

 

For more articles like: How to Get Your Kids to Ask More Questions About Their Faith visit Natasha’s site at ChristianMomThoughts.com

3 Perspectives Every Child Needs for Their Spiritual Journey

By Natasha Crain

I’m not a big TV watcher. In fact, the only guilty TV pleasure I have is watching Dateline NBC. I’m fascinated by the true crime stories and seeing how seemingly typical people get involved in crazy things.

Dateline recently featured the tragic story of Ian Thorson, a young man who got tangled up in a cult, eventually leading to his death. Thorson was born into an affluent East Coast family with all the trappings of opportunity. He was a laid-back surfer who went on to graduate from Stanford University. After graduation, he surprised his family by postponing a career and deciding to travel the world in search of “deeper meaning.”

While abroad, he got involved with a renegade Buddhist monk who promised enlightenment in return for total devotion. Through a long series of events, this eventually led to Thorson participating in a desert cult experience which resulted in his death (the full story is here).

Ian’s story pained me, as I marveled at how such an intelligent young man went so off course in his search for spiritual fulfillment.

I write a lot on this blog about how we need to equip our kids with specific Christian knowledge and experience to spiritually prepare them for the world. But as I watched Ian’s story, it reminded me that there are three spiritual perspectives that are critical for every child to have as well.

 

First, our kids must have a sense of spiritual priority.

A lot of young people like to adopt the glamorous-sounding label of being on a “spiritual journey.” But all too often, that spiritual journey is really a euphemism for “I don’t really want to commit to any stifling religious rules and doctrines so I’m going to just keep floating through life until I come across something that feels fulfilling.” It’s critical that we communicate throughout our Christian parenting that there is nothing more important than deciding what you believe.

How do we give our kids a sense of spiritual priority?

We demonstrate spiritual priority in our daily lives. There are no shortcuts here. If we’re not actually living a Christ-centered life, no words will convince our kids that our relationship with God is truly what is most important to us.

Here’s a quick gut check to tell you how you’re doing in this area: If your whole family stopped believing in God tomorrow, how different would your home be? (Convicting, isn’t it?)

 

Second, our kids must have a sense of spiritual urgency.

It’s one thing to acknowledge your spiritual life should be a priority. It’s another thing to live your spiritual life with a sense of urgency.

As humans, we’re usually shocked by unexpected death. That shock, however, is firmly rooted in an underlying assumption that everyone is going to live to a ripe old age unless a doctor has said differently. The uncomfortable truth is that any one of us could die tomorrow. We must always be spiritually prepared. Very few kids innately see life this way, so they need our guidance.

How do we give our kids a sense of spiritual urgency?

We cut the fluff. Romantic notions like “life is a journey, not a destination” lull kids into thinking they have all the time in the world to make decisions. For Christians, life is firstabout the destination, then the journey. The destination is eternity with God and what we do in the journey here on earth should be inextricably tied to that fact (Romans 14:8).

Here’s a letter I wrote to my kids as an eventual reminder that they need to live like they’re dying…tomorrow.

 

Third, our kids must have the right spiritual objective.

If I had the opportunity to go back in time and ask Ian one question, I would ask him this as he boarded the plane to head around the world: “What is your objective?”

I bet his answer would have been something like “to find meaning” or “to seek fulfillment.” Young people (and older people) too often search for subjective general meaning or fulfillment at the expense of looking for what is objectively true. One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is a grounding in the right spiritual objective: Seek what is true.

How do we do that?

It’s an emphasis we need to weave throughout all of our faith conversations. It’s a constant acknowledgment that we are Christians because we believe Christianity is objectively true … not because it makes us feel good, not because it gives us meaning (all kinds of beliefs can give a person meaning), not because it’s what we like the best. Our kids must clearly understand that the search for truth reigns supreme.

Not sure how to communicate why Christianity is true? Start here: Getting Started with Apologetics.

 

What other perspectives do you think kids need when they set off for their “spiritual journey?”

 

Visit Natasha’s Site Here: christianmomthoughts.com

Click here to visit the source site of this article

 

50 Recommended Apologetics Resources for Christian Parents

By Natasha Crain

At the end of my last post (If Your Kids Are Someday Shocked by the Claims of Skeptics, You Didn’t Do Your Job), I promised to follow up with a “master list” of my recommended resources for helping you get better equipped for Christian parenting in a secular world.

It’s taken me a while to get this together, but I think you’ll find it was worth the wait: I now have an entire section of my site (6 pages) devoted to these recommendations! In the future, you can get to it at any time by clicking here: RESOURCES

I really encourage you to take some time and click through each of the links below to discover books that will help you deepen your understanding of the case for Christianity so you can share that knowledge with your kids.

They need it.

Without further ado, here you go! Click on the links below that best describe your interests.

I’m a parent who wants to teach my kids why there is good reason to believe Christianity is true. Give me a complete reading plan designed specifically for parents!

I want to learn about the evidence for God’s existence.

I want to learn about the evidence for the truth of Christianity specifically.

I want to learn about the reliability of the Bible.

I want to learn about age of the Earth and evolution issues.

I want to learn about apologetics resources written specifically for kids.

 

Click here to see the source site of this article.


 

Resources

 

 

65 Apologetics Questions Every Christian Parent Needs to Learn to Answer

By Natasha Crain

In prior posts, I’ve talked about why parents have to care about apologetics (the reasoned defense of Christianity) and I’ve shared resources for getting started with apologetics. I realize, however, that it can seem pretty ambiguous to have a goal of “learning apologetics.” We need to know the specific questions we most need to study and discuss with our kids; the ones that non-believers most frequently challenge Christians on and the ones that most frequently turn young adults away from faith after spending 18 years in church.

65 Questions FB ad

That’s the purpose of this post.

I want to give you a very specific list of 65 apologetics questions every Christian parent needs to learn to answer and discuss with their kids (in age appropriate ways). Of course, any such list is subjective. I created this list based on my own study and experience with engaging in these topics, with a special emphasis on the issues challenging young adults today.

You may not think I’ve narrowed it down much by giving you 65, but there are hundreds of questions that could have been listed! In case this looks overwhelming, I’ve highlighted in red my “top 20.” Start with those if you’re new to these topics.

I encourage you to take some time and challenge yourself here. Read each question and give yourself a “point” for each one you feel you could thoroughly answer. What would your score be if you had to answer these questions today?

 

Questions About the Existence and Nature of God

1. What key arguments are there for (and against) God’s existence?

2. What are the practical implications of an atheistic worldview?

3. Why would a good God allow evil to exist?

4. Why would a good God allow suffering to exist?

5. Why would God command the death of so many people in the Bible (e.g., the Canaanites)?

6. How can a loving God send people to hell?

7. Why does God remain so “hidden?”

8. Why does the “Old Testament God” seem different than the “New Testament God?”

9. Why would God need people to worship Him (isn’t that egotistical and arrogant)?

 

Questions About Truth and Worldviews

10. What is the difference between absolute and relative truth?

11. How can it be reasonable for Christians to claim knowledge of an objective truth?

12. What is the role and danger of using “common sense” in evaluating truth claims?

13. Isn’t hell an unreasonable punishment for not believing in a specific set of truth claims?

14. How can Christians think their personal religious experiences with God are any more “true” than those of adherents to other belief systems?

15. Do all religions ultimately point to the same God? Why or why not?

16. What are key similarities and differences between the world’s major religions (e.g., Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism)?

17. Is Christianity a less intelligent worldview than atheism? Why or why not?

 

Questions About Jesus

18. What extra-biblical evidence is there that Jesus existed (as a historical person)?

19. What major Old Testament prophecies did Jesus fulfill?

20. Was Jesus wrong about the timing of his second coming? Why or why not?

21. What are the key passages in the Bible that show Jesus claimed to be God?

22. What does the Bible say about the exclusivity of Jesus with regard to salvation?

23. Why did Jesus have to die on the cross for our sins to be forgiven (couldn’t God have just pardoned sins without a gruesome death involved)?

24. What are the four minimal facts of the resurrection that are “so strongly attested historically that they are granted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones?”

25. What are the main theories non-believers have about the resurrection (e.g., unknown tomb, wrong tomb, disciples stole the body, authorities hid the body, etc.)?

26. Why do Christians believe a supernatural (bodily) resurrection explains the minimal facts better than all the other theories?

27. Why does it matter whether or not Jesus was resurrected (and that the resurrection wasn’t simply a metaphor)?

 

Questions About the Bible

28. Who selected what books are in the Bible?

29. How were the books of the Bible selected?

30. Why were some “books” we know about today (e.g., the Gospel of Thomas) left out of the Bible?

31. How can we know that the Bible we have today is a reliable record of the original writings?

32. What major “contradictions” exist in the Bible (and what are the explanations)?

33. Does the Bible support slavery? Why or why not? (Don’t laugh at this and the next two questions…these come up constantly in discussion with atheists.)

34. Does the Bible support rape? Why or why not?

35. Does the Bible support human sacrifice? Why or why not?

36. What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

37. How do Christians determine what parts of the Bible are prescriptive and which are descriptive?

 

Science and Christianity

Young Earth Creationism

38. What is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)?

39. What are key pieces of scriptural support for the YEC interpretation of creation in six 24-hour days?

40. How do YECs determine that the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old?

 

Evidence for an Old Earth (i.e., billions of years old)

41. What areas of science have implications for the age of the earth?

42. What are major methods scientists use to estimate the age of the earth, and what is their consensus on the estimate?

43. What is the relationship between belief in a global flood and the age of the earth?


Old Earth Creationism

44. What is “Old Earth Creationism (OEC)?”

45. What are the major reasons OECs reject the YEC interpretation of creation?

46. What are the key pieces of scriptural support for the OEC interpretation?

 

Intelligent Design

47. What is Intelligent Design?

48. Why do Intelligent Design proponents consider it a scientific theory and not a religious one?

49. What are the major reasons Intelligent Design proponents reject evolution as a sufficient explanation for the existence of life?

50. What does it mean that the universe appears to be “finely tuned?”

 

Evolution

51. What is evolution (from a purely scientific perspective)?

52. What are the key pieces of evidence for evolution?

53. What are the key questions evolution has not answered?

54. What do people mean when they talk about “macroevolution” versus “microevolution”?

55. Why do evolutionists reject the theory of intelligent design?

56. What are the theological implications for an acceptance of evolution?

57. What are the theological implications specifically for Adam and Eve not being literal, historical people?


Other Science and Christianity Questions

58. Why would Jesus-loving, Bible-believing Christians differ on their view of origins?

59. How can Christians believe miracles are possible, given what we know about science (e.g., the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection)?

 

Other Important (and Common) Questions

60. What does it mean (biblically) to have faith, and how is that different than the popular definition of faith?

61. If Christianity is true, why are there so many Christians whose lives look no different than those of non-believers (aren’t many Christians hypocrites)?

62. Why are there so many denominations (and does the fact of many denominations invalidate the truth of Christianity)?

63. Is Christianity “responsible” for millions of deaths throughout history? Why or why not, and what implications does the answer have for the evaluation of Christian truth claims?

64. What happens to people who have never heard the Gospel?

65. Why don’t miracles happen as frequently today as they did in the Bible?

 

You needed something to work on in 2016, right? I know I have my work cut out for me! I’ll be blogging about these topics over time, with my usual emphasis on delivering the message to our kids. Want to be sure to see each post? Sign up for my email list below!

Does anyone want to share their “score?”  Are there questions that stand out to you which aren’t on my list? Please add them below!

“Editor Note: Natasha Crain’s book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith, provides answers to 40 of these questions, written specifically for parents.”

 

Click here to visit the source site of this article.