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Men of God Should Understand the Importance of Fatherhood

I first noticed the problem as a Gang Detail officer in the early 1990’s. Our city was culturally and ethnically diverse, and we had a gang problem that seemed to transcend ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic boundaries. We had wealthy Korean gangsters, middle-class white gangsters, and upper, middle class and lower class Hispanic and African-American gangsters. I was raising two and four year old boys at the time and I was interested in what caused the young men in my community to become gangsters in the first place. It certainly didn’t seem to be something in their culture; they came from very diverse backgrounds. What was it? The more I got to know these gang members, the clearer the problem became: all of them suffered from “lack of dad.”

god fatherhood

Many of the white gangsters had fathers that were uninvolved, alcoholic or “deadbeat” dads. Many of the Korean fathers were first generation Koreans who never learned the English language, started businesses in our community and worked so hard that they had absolutely no relationship with their sons. Some of the Hispanic fathers were incarcerated and most of our Hispanic gangsters came from a multi-generational gang culture. Many of the African-American gangsters told me that they never even knew their father; they had been raised by mothers and grandmothers without their biological dads. Over and over again I saw the same thing: young men who were wandering without direction or moral compass, in large part because they didn’t have a father at home to teach them. Many studies have confirmed my own anecdotal observations.

I can remember seeing a movie during my tour on the Gang Detail. It was called “Boyz ‘N The Hood“. My partner told me I simply had to see it. I thought it was one of the best movies ever made on the importance of fatherhood. The primary character is a young man who is raised by his mother until he starts to go astray. His mom then delivers him to his father who begins to raise him up in a tough neighborhood but manages to provide him with the moral role modeling he really needed. The movie demonstrated what I learned as a Gang Detail officer: it takes a man to teach a boy how to be a man.

I’ve also learned this first-hand. My dad was largely absent in my childhood and it was tough to understand my role in the world as a man without the daily input from my father. I noticed that as I reached my teen years, I was actually interested in reaching out to my dad and making sure we had a relationship. I needed him. In many ways, I became him in an effort to understand what it was to be a man. I ended up leaving a career in the arts to follow him into Law Enforcement. The power and guidance of a father is an undeniable force in the life of a young man.

As Christians, we ought to get this more than any other group. Scripture is filled with passages that describe the importance of fathers. In addition, the Bible consistently references fatherhood in an effort to analogize God’s relationship with each of us. What does Scripture tell us about the role of Fathers? First and foremost, we are to be teachers:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

This is the role and duty of fathers; to teach our kids to embrace the image of God in which they were created. So today, on Thanksgiving Day, I would like all of the fathers who read this post to recognize their debt to their own fathers. If your father was absent, be grateful that you have a chance to do what he never did. Be a dad. Start teaching your kids. Take the words of Dr. Tony Evans to heart:

“It is a fool who says. ‘I do not tell my children what to believe’, because if you don’t, someone else will.  The drug addicts are commanding your children and your children are obeying.  The lust mongers are commanding your daughters and your daughters are obeying.  For God’s sake YOU command something!”

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

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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

Why Your Kids Can Spend 600-Plus Hours in Church and Not Get Much Out of It

By Natasha Crain

The other day I was reflecting on how much time I spent in Sunday school and youth groups growing up…and how little I understood about the Christian faith by the time I left home. For some reason, I decided to calculate roughly how much time that actually was.

I scratched out the following on a piece of paper:

  • Kindergarten through 12th grade = 13 years (I went to church from the time I was a baby, but I just wanted to include the core learning years in my calculation)
  • 52 Sundays per year
  • 90% attendance rate, to allow for illnesses or being out of town

13 years of Sunday school x 52 Sundays per year x .90 attendance rate = 608 hours

608 HOURS.

And that’s not even counting the corresponding worship services…that’s just the Christian education time!

I don’t know about you, but that number made my jaw drop.

I spent more than 600 hours in church growing up, but by the time I left home, here’s all I really understood about Christianity:

People go to heaven or hell depending on whether or not they believe in Jesus. Once you accept Jesus, you are saved. Christians need to be as good as possible and not sin just to be forgiven. It’s important to tell others about Jesus so they can be saved too.

The result is that I lived the next 12 years with an incredibly blah, shallow faith. I didn’t actually lose my faith—as do more than two-thirds of other kids who grow up going to church—but it was only hanging there by a thread.

Where did those 600+ hours of Christian education go? How can it be that so many kids spend this kind of time in church and don’t leave home with much more understanding of Christianity than could be taught in a week of church camp?

I think I know the answer.

 

The Problem of Unconnected Puzzle Pieces

This is a problem of unconnected puzzle pieces.

Over the years that a child attends Sunday school, teachers vary, curricula vary, and churches vary (as families move). Kids are handed various pieces of Christianity during that time, which they collect and store internally. But unless there is a consistent, focused, goal-oriented spiritual trainer in their life—a parent—those pieces will almost certainly lie around unconnected.

Here’s why.

 

1. Having a bunch of puzzle pieces doesn’t necessarily mean you know what the completed puzzle is supposed to look like.

Imagine that someone handed you all the pieces to complete a 5000-piece puzzle but didn’t give you the box top picture to see how they all fit together. You’d be able to connect a few pieces here and there, but you’d face a lot of difficulty because you wouldn’t know what picture you’re working toward.

Kids collect “puzzle pieces” of Christianity over the years in Sunday school, usually in the form of individual Bible stories. A piece might be the story of Moses at the burning bush, Joseph with his multi-colored coat, or any one of Jesus’ miracles. Most kids who have spent hundreds of hours at church can describe these individual puzzle pieces quite well.

That’s not the problem.

The problem is that they don’t know how those pieces fit together into a meaningful, complete picture of salvation history. In other words, why on Earth should they care to learn that God spoke to Moses in a burning bush? Could anything seem more disconnected from a kid’s reality in the 21st century? After my 600+ hours in Sunday school, I certainly couldn’t have explained the connection between this event and the Exodus, why the Exodus mattered, what that had to with Jesus, and why that’s relevant to my faith today.

It was just an isolated piece of the puzzle of Christianity.

And isolated pieces do not join themselves together to make a beautiful picture.

As parents, we can’t expect that the pieces our kids pick up at church will fall into obvious places, even after 600+ hours. It is our responsibility, and our responsibility only, to be the intentional hand that guides these pieces into place on a bigger picture over time.

 

2. Having a bunch of puzzle pieces doesn’t necessarily mean those pieces will create a picture with meaningful complexity.

When kids first start doing puzzles, those puzzles usually have just 12 giant pieces. They make a picture, but a very simple one–nothing like the artistic complexity of one with 1000 pieces or more.

In Sunday school, kids tend to be continually handed the same pieces over and over: individual Bible stories, help with building Godly character, and some basic life lessons.

If this is effectively the extent of a child’s spiritual training, skeptics will eventually point out that their faith is equivalent in complexity to a toddler’s 12-piece puzzle.  Sunday school tends to be focused on the basics, but kids need so much more than basics today given the challenges they are sure to encounter.

As parents, we are responsible for helping our kids develop a faith with a meaningful level of complexity. The 40 questions in my book are critical for kids to understand today, yet very few of those questions would even be touched on in a Sunday school class. The level of spiritual depth kids need to stand strong in a secular world simply won’t come from the typical Sunday school curriculum.

 

3. Having a bunch of puzzle pieces doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll know what to dowith the puzzle even if you finish it.

When my kids finish puzzles, they want to leave them out for a while to display their work. Their puzzles linger in the corner of the room until I can’t stand it anymore and tell them they’ve enjoyed the puzzles “long enough.” We don’t know what else to do with them other than put them away.

Similarly, when I left home with 600+ hours of church tucked safely under my belt, I truly didn’t know what to do with my faith, other than continue to wear the Christian label and bide my time as a good person until I was zapped up to heaven someday. Those hundreds of hours hadn’t taught me what it means to actually see all of life differently than someone who didn’t believe in Jesus; I had no idea what it meant to have a Christianworldview.

As parents, we are responsible for placing the picture into a real-world context for our kids. 600+ hours of Sunday school may never directly answer questions like, “How does the fact we are created in the image of God impact our view of the sanctity of life?” “Why is it sometimes the most loving action to tell people truth they don’t want to hear?” or “How can we make career decisions that glorify God?” Parents must be proactive in helping kids know what to do with their puzzle of faith. Otherwise, it will likely be pushed to the corner of their life, where it will eventually be dismantled and put away for good.

 

Don’t leave your kids “puzzled” by outsourcing their faith to church. Whether they spend 600 or 6,000 hours in Sunday school, there’s simply no replacement for you.

Visit Natasha’s Website: Christian Mom Thoughts