Leading Your Child to christ

Raising children and promoting spiritual growth

Contents

CHAPTER ONE

Introducing Your Child to God

CHAPTER TWO

Teaching Kids About God’s Big Story

CHAPTER THREE

How To Share the Gospel With Your Child

CHAPTER FOUR

Make Time to Talk About Faith

CHAPTER FIVE

4 Challenges to Your Child’s Faith

CHAPTER SIX

7 Ways Your Kid Can Connect with God

CHAPTER ONE

Introducing Your Child to God​

No maps. No GPS. Few street signs. Those are three important reasons why I don’t drive in developing countries. I’d get lost. Raising our kids to follow Christ is a lot like trying to navigate in an under-developed country — there is no parenting map, no spiritual GPS. We head in the direction that seems best, trying to find our way by trial and error.

But we don’t need to feel lost. As we journey through each stage of our children’s development, we can point them toward spiritual markers that will help them find true faith — becoming vibrant followers of Christ.

Spiritual marker for early childhood: respect

For parents of young children, the journey of raising Christ followers starts with the task of instilling respect for God and His authority. The psalmist tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).

While most of us enjoy teaching toddlers fun Bible stories, we can’t stop there. Early childhood materials may solely emphasize how “Jesus is your friend.” Warm fuzzy feelings build affection for Jesus, but they don’t build the foundation for spiritual wisdom. Awe, wonder and respectful fear of God lay that groundwork.

So how do you instill this respect? Teach your young children these truths:
God is strong. He can do anything.
God always keeps His promises.
God gives us rules that we must obey.
Even if Mommy or Daddy can’t see what you are doing, God sees it.
God disciplines us because He loves us.

Spiritual marker for primary years: wisdom

Wisdom is the ability to apply God’s Word to life situations. So to grow in wisdom, your children must first learn God’s Word. From ages 5 to 8, add biblical teaching to your daily routine. At this age, your children probably love to learn. Make sure you emphasize the following four areas

Who is God? Is He an angry ogre ready to club you when you disobey? Is He a passive observer who is tolerant of everything? Is God what you make Him to be? Or is He the righteous, powerful and loving Creator found in the Bible?

Use Bible stories to teach about God. Take the story of David and Goliath for example. What can we learn about God from it? Many children’s materials conclude, “You can do anything if God is on your side.” But that is backward. The story’s application ought to be, “Make sure you are on God’s side.”

What is truth? Your kids will be bombarded throughout life by truth claims from the media, teachers and friends. If you are not successful in teaching them that truth and wisdom come from the Bible, they will struggle greatly with faith challenges later.

This means you must regularly include statements like the following in your conversation: “We can always trust what God says”; “God’s Word is always right”; “Obey the Bible, and you’ll never be sorry.”

Who is man? Our humanistic culture treats man as basically good. That’s why children often struggle with accepting the Bible’s claim that man is sinful. If they’ve not experienced abuse, abandonment, addictions or other deep hurts (as I hope they haven’t), they probably see the people around them as good. Your children will not appreciate the need for a savior until they see themselves and others as sinners.

Who is Jesus? Growing up in a society that professes to value tolerance will challenge your children’s faith. They may be called “intolerant” and “hateful” for claiming that Jesus is the only way to God. When your children sit in a classroom of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and atheists, will their faith in Jesus stick? To withstand this pressure, your children need a secure knowledge of who Jesus is and why He is the only Way.

Spiritual marker for pre-teen years: grace

The primary goal for 9- to 11-year-olds is to receive God’s grace. The majority of people who trust Christ as Savior do so before they are teens. Said another way, if your children do not come to faith in Christ by the time they are teens, the likelihood begins to quickly decrease that they will do so. That means you must do two things: First, make certain that your children fully understand the Gospel. Second, ask God to help you discern the authenticity of their decision. Countless kids “respond” to the Gospel outwardly because of pressure from a Sunday school teacher or parent, while in their hearts they remain reluctant to submit to Christ.

To understand your children’s faith, ask questions: “Can you explain why Jesus died on the Cross?” “What does someone have to do to go to heaven?” “Why do you think you are a Christian?” Responses such as “I prayed a prayer” or “The teacher told me I was a Christian” may indicate they are trusting in the wrong thing.

Beyond accepting God’s grace, your children also need to learn how to give grace to others. “That’s not fair” may be the most common complaint of middle elementary kids. Siblings war over the size of a piece of pie, who sits in what seat in the van and who has to do the most chores. This age group is especially concerned with getting their fair share. But grace — forgetting what’s fair and giving others more than they deserve — is the best way to be like Jesus.

Teaching your kids grace is a tall order. Their selfish nature will battle it. Friends will take advantage of it. So if they are going to learn how to give grace, they will need to see it consistently modeled by you.

Spiritual marker for teenage years: trust

Young adolescents are beginning to wonder what their lives will hold. These years are a prime time for discussing the importance of trusting God with their future.

Here’s one way to begin that conversation: Discuss Proverbs 3:5-6 with your children. Talk through it carefully: “What does it mean to ‘trust in the Lord’? How about ‘with all your heart’? Why is God’s understanding so much better than yours? What does it mean, ‘He will make your paths straight’?”

Buy a plaque with this passage on it and hang it in their room. Have them memorize it. Underline it in their Bibles. Make it a strong focus in your conversations.

When I was 13, I told God I wanted Him to have complete control of my life. I strongly believe that decision kept me out of all sorts of trouble during my teen years. In the same way, God can use your middle schoolers’ commitment to Him to guide your children through the coming years.

Spiritual marker for high school years: perspective

“Why did God let my best friend die in a car accident?” The lack of adequate answers can send their faith tumbling.

Older teens may begin wrestling with tough questions for the first time: “Why is there evil in the world?” “Why is my teacher so unfair?” “Why did God let my best friend die in a car accident?” The lack of adequate answers can send their faith tumbling.

First, provide the perspective that God is sovereign in all things. Your teens need to hear your stories about the times when God worked difficult things out for good. They need to see you trust in God. Always stay open to your teens’ questions, even if they are hard to hear. If you don’t have an answer, admit it — then find the answer together.

As your children grow, take note of their life stage and adjust your spiritual training accordingly. My prayer is that each of your children will grow up to be, as author George Barna puts it, “an irrepressible follower of Jesus Christ who accepts the Bible as truth, lives by its principles, seeks ways to impact the world and continually deepen his or her relationship with God.”

From the bestselling author of Kingdom Man and Kingdom Woman, Raising Kingdom Kids equips parents to raise their children with a Kingdom perspective and also offers practical how-to advice on providing spiritual training as instructed in Scripture.

Leading Your Children to the Savior

by Kelly J. Stigliano

My children were 4 and 5 when they believed in Jesus for salvation. At that age, they were like sponges soaking up the love of Jesus and spiritual truth. Together we would watch for “God sightings,” such as ants carrying their heavy loads or seeds maturing into beautiful flowers. Observing the world around us provided many natural opportunities for teaching my children about creation and the Gospel. 

In order for children to put their faith in Jesus, they need to understand several basic truths:

Their sin and need for a Savior
The significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection
God’s faithful presence in a believer’s life
One powerful way for these truths to be conveyed in the home is for parents to talk about them and live them out each day, so kids can learn from both their actions and their words.

Recognizing their sin

My friends Tina and Harry raised their children with an open dialogue about sin and the importance of asking for forgiveness. Praying together before and after discipline showed their children the seriousness of their infractions and the value of having a clean heart before God. They also demonstrated God’s love by offering their forgiveness freely, and displaying unconditional love and mercy.

For the concept of dealing with sin to become real to children, they need to

Understand that they mess up (Romans 3:23)
Admit to and accept the consequences of your wrong actions (1 John 1:9)
Realize God loves them whether they succeed or fail (Romans 5:8)
Accept that only God has the power to change their heart (Ezekiel 36:26)


The significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection

While this principle seems obvious, parents often neglect to tell their children the basic story of the Gospel, assuming they already know that Jesus came to earth as a baby, willingly shed His blood on the Cross, and died and rose again to pay the penalty for sin.

Children can understand the concept of grace — or undeserved favor — through our parenting. When you offer your child grace, relate it to the grace God showed us in sending His Son and forgiving our sin. We can model our own need for a Savior when sin is evident in our lives.  

My friend Blanca says each of her children came to know Christ while sitting on her lap. In each case, a simple talk about sin and the Gospel or a follow-up conversation about a speaker’s message on salvation opened the door for her to ask if they’d like to believe in Jesus.

For the truths of the Gospel to become real to children, they should first understand that

  • Jesus loves us so much that He came to earth for us (John 3:16)
  • He taught us how to live and know His Father
  • He died on the Cross in our place
  • Jesus defeated sin and death through His resurrection — our Savior lives!

God is close

When my friend Christie’s kids were little, she reminded them how important children are to Jesus. She read them Genesis 5:1: “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” Then she reminded them that God created them, too, and they are precious to Him. That prompted them to understand that Jesus wanted to be close to them.  

I used to tell my kids that they could talk to Jesus at any time; He’s just a thought away and always with them. 

For God’s nearness to become real to children, help them understand that
God promises to always be with them (Hebrews 13:5)
Jesus came to earth, died and rose again to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)
God gives believers a helper called the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26)


Leading by example

As hard as it is for us to comprehend, God loves our children even more than we do. He desires that they have a personal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus. The most important introduction I’ve ever made is the one that led my children to God through a relationship with Jesus. Showing them Christ in my everyday life was essential to them making this decision.

Angelica says she does her best to live out Deuteronomy 11:19, which instructs parents to talk about God’s commands with their children at all times of the day, both at home and while they are out. As she walks her daughters to school every day, she uses the opportunity to tell them the stories of Bible heroes, such as Abraham, Joseph and Esther.

As you live out your faith on a daily basis, leading your children to Christ can be organic and beautiful. We can help them understand their sin and need for a Savior and teach them that God loves them and is always available to them. As we do this, we pave the way for them to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and put their faith in Him.

CHAPTER TWO

Teaching Kids About God's Big Story

by Michelle Anthony

Here are a few ways to help your kids open their eyes to this bigger picture:

When I was a child, I loved when my father told me bedtime stories that had me as the main character. Usually my father wove in a few of my friends (or foes) and perhaps even a pet. With thoughts of myself as the heroine, I drifted off to sleep knowing that all was right in my little world.

As parents, we’ve all noticed how small the world of a child is. Kids see everything from their vantage point, focusing on how situations affect them. It is only as they mature that they begin to see the world as much bigger. One of our roles as parents is to train our children to shift away from this self-centeredness.

And while today’s culture is telling our children that life is “all about me,” we can teach them to recognize that life is really “all about God.” There is a big story here — a grand narrative weaving throughout history. And we are all a part of it. We can help our children glimpse the wonder of this bigger story, which has been gradually unfolding for thousands of years. And we can help them recognize that God has chosen a part for each of us to play.

Here are a few ways to help your kids open their eyes to this bigger picture:

Teach the chronology

Customarily, we teach Scripture through fragmented stories, in ways that aren’t linear. Baby Moses is the key figure one day, Noah another day, and Jesus is the key figure on another occasion. Many children who know the stories can’t tell you whether Abraham was born before David or if baby Jesus was alive when baby Moses was.

What we sometimes miss when reading individual Bible stories is that there’s an underlying thread that reveals God’s Word as a giant love story — a story of the Creator pursuing His created ones and desiring a personal relationship with each one of them. When reading or telling a Bible story, we can help our children place it into the larger continuum, reviewing when and where that story took place. We can keep visual outlines handy so they can see the sequence of events, and how what they are reading fits into God’s long plan to save humanity. They can see what has happened so far and what is still to come.

By putting each story in context of the grand story, we help our kids recognize Jesus the Redeemer and God our Father as the main characters, even when it appears that someone else is.

Recognize the ultimate hero

Kids love heroes. And when all is said and done, God — through His Son, Jesus — is the ultimate hero! In the big story, good and evil war with each other, evil seems to overtake the world, but then Jesus shows up and conquers sin and death, and those of us who recognize Him as Lord and Savior are saved. Ultimately, He will make everything right.

Often, kids only see pieces of this heroic tale. We all love the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels — in those accounts, Jesus loves us and shows us how to love others. He helps us understand who the Father is and how our relationship with Him should be. But we need to make sure that we portray a fuller picture of who Jesus is. He is both Shepherd and King. He is both gentle and powerful. He is both humble and victorious! Yes, Jesus humbly gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins, but He also conquered death. This is what makes Jesus the kind of hero worth living for. Knowing that He is the ultimate victor gives each one of us the courage to walk with Him even when life is hard.

Tell your story

Take a moment to think about your own story. Think about your family of origin. How did God use the circumstances in your life to bring you to himself? When did you realize that there was more to life than living for yourself? How did that affect your decisions? This is all the essence of who you are — it is a story your kids need to hear.

At an early age, our children can begin to hear parts of our story and to be eyewitnesses to how God is continuing to shape it. I enjoy telling my children aspects of my own faith story in the context of the age they are, the experiences they are facing and how I felt God guided me when I was encountering similar situations.

Even parents who did not experience a relationship with God as children or teenagers can share how the events of their lives led them to faith or how they could have benefited from knowing a God who loved them and had a place for them in His big story. Whatever your story is, it gives your kids insight into life and faith in the concrete context of the here and now. More importantly, it gives them the hope of something bigger than the perceived enormity of their present situation.

Your kids in God’s story

Of course, the main goal in teaching our kids all of these things is to help them recognize the epic story that they are uniquely part of.

And what a blessing it is when they see this grand story as something far more than words! One afternoon, I picked up my daughter from a preschool playgroup and asked her if she wanted to get some ice cream. She was thrilled at the prospect. Then we saw a homeless man standing near a stoplight. “What does his sign say?” my daughter asked. I told her that he didn’t have a home or job; maybe he was hungry. This disturbed her greatly. As I tried to explain how this sometimes happens, she interrupted to announce that we should just feed him. She wouldn’t back down, saying we should take the money we were going to use for ice cream to buy this stranger a meal.

I later learned what my daughter and her dad had talked about that morning at breakfast. He read her the parable of the good Samaritan, and then, before leaving for work, told her, “Today, I want you to look for somebody who needs your help. Be alert! God has someone for you to help today.” All day long she had been looking. So much so that when she saw this man who needed a lunch, it was immediately compelling for her.

Our family has since realized that similar opportunities to join God’s ongoing narrative are in our life every day — sometimes we’re just not looking. When we are awakened to what God is doing all around us, we accept the gift and the responsibility to become part of the greatest story ever told.

How to Raise Strong Believers

Natasha Crain offers practical advice for strengthening your children’s faith and equipping them to defend it in a discussion based on her book Talking With Your Kids About God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have.
Listen to the Broadcast:

This Hardcover Bible features a full color children’s Bible combining the bestselling, kid-friendly New International Reader’s Version text of both the Old and New Testaments with more than a thousand features meant to excite and encourage you to read and apply the Scriptures.

CHAPTER THREE

How To Share the Gospel with Your Child

by Ann Vande Zande

Whatever our children’s ages, we as Christian parents have an awesome responsibility to help them understand and respond to the Gospel. Coming to grips with the Gospel and their need for a Savior is key to our children’s faith journey.

“Am I going to die if I accept Jesus?” my 5-year-old daughter, Amelia, asked one day.

“You won’t die right now,” I reassured her.

As we talked more, I learned that she had recently heard the Gospel at church, and in her mind, that message boiled down to one simple message: “When you ask Jesus into your heart, you go to heaven.” Apparently my daughter hadn’t prayed to accept Jesus because she didn’t want to die just yet.

We talked some more about what the Gospel really meant. Amelia was visibly relieved after our conversation, and she said that she wanted to pray to accept Jesus. So we headed downstairs to we could pray with her daddy.

Whatever our children’s ages, we as Christian parents have an awesome responsibility to help them understand and respond to the Gospel. Coming to grips with the Gospel and their need for a Savior is key to our children’s faith journey.

The Gospel message

Maybe your child knows several Bible stories by heart, or maybe he is just now learning basic truths of Scripture. Whatever your child’s level of biblical literacy, establishing a core understanding of God’s full plan for humanity — how these stories and truths are all linked together — is the first step.

That big story starts in the garden. For our kids to truly understand Jesus’ sacrifice, they must recognize that God’s loving relationship with humankind is drastically altered by the presence of our sin.

Teach your children that God created a beautiful world and then made humans in His image. According to Genesis, Adam and Eve had a relationship with God, but they chose to disobey His will for their lives. They hid because they were ashamed, recognizing that their disobedience separated them from God.

God is perfect and holy, and our disobedience — our sin — cannot stand in His presence. But God sought out Adam and Eve because He still loved them. He clothed them with animal hides, a symbol of how death is necessary to pay for humanity’s sins.

For generations after that first act of disobedience, humans made animal sacrifices to pay for their sins. But God always had a better plan for forgiveness. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die and pay the penalty for our sins, to conquer death once and for all by rising from the grave.

Since all humans are separated from God, we all need to accept this gift of grace. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Read this verse with your child, explaining that forgiveness is an unearned gift because of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

One way to explain the need for a Savior is to ask your child to think about a child meeting someone important, such as the ruler of a country. But she has only one outfit, and she wears it all the time so it’s torn, stained and has an awful stench. She wants to smell better, so she sprays herself with perfume. But now she smells worse — a stench covered by a sweet smell. She is in no condition to go before a king.

Whenever we try to fix our sin with our own effort, we don’t remove the filth. We just cover up the problem. Confessing our sin and asking Jesus to save us means that the stains and smells are gone. He has paid the penalty. We are made clean. The separation is gone. We are fit to stand in the presence of the King.

Help your child understand that he, like all humans, has sinned and can’t do anything good enough to make up for those sins. Help him also recognize that a simple “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. Look for signs of genuine repentance, a personal response to God’s free gift of forgiveness. As your child grows, your conversations on these concepts will grow deeper.

How to answer questions

“Where is heaven?”

“Does Jesus really live in my heart?”

Sometimes we lose sight of the value of our children’s questions. They are an opportunity to explore the Bible together while building knowledge that strengthens their faith.

For younger children, it’s important to keep terms and concepts as simple as possible. Take hell, for example. Without explaining complicated doctrine, address the reality of an eternity without God. Help your children understand that everything good comes from God. Talk about some of the “good” things that fill your life at home or at school. Next, consider the same scenario but take all the good away — all presence of God gone from a situation or place. What would school be like if only the bad or evil remained? Finally, multiply all evil joined together in one place for all of eternity.

Be prepared

As your children begin to grasp how the Gospel affects their lives, they will increasingly show more interest. Your child might exhibit genuine repentance over sin, which isn’t just regret over getting caught and being punished, but more about wanting forgiveness. Pay attention for questions regarding heaven and hell, forgiveness of sins, the nature of God or other concepts. These all indicate that something is going on deep inside. Your child may be ready for the decision to trust Jesus as Lord of her life.

When that faith is obvious in your child, ask if he’d like to pray. Romans 10:9 assures us, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” If your child is ready, provide support either by having him repeat a prayer after you or by coaching.

Afterward, record the date and celebrate your child’s decision! Continue to be deliberate in your support, even when doubts and confusion arise, trusting the Holy Spirit’s work to continue the good work going on in your child.

Raising Kids With a Thriving Faith

Phil Vischer and Dr. Scottie May explain how parents can take a pro-active role in the spiritual training of their children.
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CHAPTER FOUR

Make Time to Talk About Faith

by Mark Holmen

In today’s world, time is one of our most precious commodities. In our increasingly busy lives, we must make the best of the time that we have. So when is the best time to discuss our faith with our children? The only reasonable answer is anytime.

Car time

 Doesn’t it seem that the most time you spend together as a family is when you’re in the car, on your way to the next thing you have to do? Try turning off the radio and asking your children what highs and lows they had during the day. Then take a moment to pray for the event that you’re headed to next.

 
Sick time

 Another significant block of time that you have with your children occurs when they are sick and have to stay home from school. While no one looks forward to his or her child being sick, it does provide time to have a healthy conversation. Sick time gives you a chance to watch videos or listen to music together. So why not choose videos that will naturally lead to talking about issues of faith and life?

 
Bedtime

There might not be a better time to talk about faith than at bedtime. Share the highs and lows from the day and then take time to pray for each other. With teenagers you can ask, “What’s on your schedule tomorrow that I can pray for? Do any of your friends need prayer for anything?”

 
Mealtime

Taking a moment to give God thanks and praise before eating establishes a ritual that remains with children into adulthood. (Think Johnny Appleseed, God is Great, the Doxology, etc.)

 
Vacation time

Traveling together over a long distance or just getting away on a long weekend trip can be a great time to reestablish faith-talk in your family. Tithe 10 percent of your vacation time to God. Do a family service project, take some quiet time to read the Bible together, or have a family devotion each day. On the final evening of your vacation, spend time in prayer and worship. This doesn’t have to be elaborate—simply listen to a few contemporary Christian songs and take some time to give thanks for the time you’ve spent together. Take turns sharing one thing that you were thankful for on the trip and one thing you look forward to when you get home.

One-on-one time

One of the best things that you can do as a parent is to establish the ritual of one-on-one time with each of your children. It can be weekly or monthly, but it needs to be built in to your life rhythm. A failure to establish this time will leave you saying later in life, “I should have done that.” Spend a weekend alone with each of your children, or establish a monthly date night when you see a movie or have dinner together. The particular activity is far less important than your commitment to spend time together.
The reality is that you do have time to talk about faith with your children. You just need to take advantage of some of these slices of time. Yes, you’re busy, but keep in mind that time is what you make of it.

Natahsa Crain writes about 30 conversations that every parent must have with their kids concerning faith.

CHAPTER FIVE

4 Challenges to Your Child's Faith

by Natasha Crain

“Faith doesn’t work together with reason.”

“Science has disproved God.”

“Where is your God now?”

“Do you really believe dead people can live again?”

These are just a few of the questions kids may be faced with as they grow up as Christians.

“There’s not a shred of evidence that Jesus ever existed.”

It wasn’t the first comment I’d received from someone questioning Christianity. Over the years, my website has attracted hundreds of skeptics wanting to challenge my posts. Although I’ve been a Christian since childhood and I wanted to respond, I felt unprepared to knowledgeably discuss such claims as:

“Science has disproved God.”

“The Bible is filled with contradictions.”

“Christianity is a copycat of pagan religions.”

But the day someone commented that there was no evidence Jesus even existed, I knew I had to be better informed. I discovered apologetics, the discipline of studying how to make a case for the truths of Christianity. Apologetics helped me better understand the historical evidence for Christ’s ministry and resurrection and gave me good responses to claims against Jesus’ existence.

As I studied, I learned that many young people today are walking away from Christianity because they don’t understand the evidence that refutes the same challenges I’ve encountered. Sadly, many Christian parents are unaware of how to include this information in the discipleship of their kids.

If you are one of these parents, you can begin educating yourself by learning how to respond to the following four challenges to our faith:

Tackling the Tough Questions Kids Have About Christianity

Christian apologist and culture expert Alex McFarland gives practical advice on how parents can discuss the tough questions of faith with their children, while equipping them to continue their own faith journey in the process.
Listen to the Broadcast:

“Faith doesn’t work together with reason.”

Not long ago, I was talking with some parents about how to best disciple children. One mom had a view of faith very different from my own. “I tell my daughter that belief in God is just a matter of faith,” she said. “It’s like with Santa Claus. Some people believe; some don’t.”

Sadly, this mom seemed to have accepted the misconception that faith is the opposite of reason, no different from a child’s belief in Santa. Unfortunately, many parents agree with this false dichotomy between faith and reason. “We just need to have faith,” they tell their kids when someone criticizes them for holding “unreasonable” beliefs.

Help your kids recognize that they need not choose between faith and reason. Faith, by itself, is a commitment to a belief. It can be based on good or bad reasons. A well-placed faith is supported by good reason, and a poorly placed faith isn’t supported by reason.

Christians are instructed to have a reasonable faith in response to the evidence God has provided, such as the intelligently designed world we live in or the fact that humans are uniquely wired to understand a moral code. We must understand the evidence and be prepared to share when asked (1 Peter 3:15).

Application
Help your kids see that Christians should welcome conversations based on reason and logic. Explain that there is a clear distinction between a well-placed and poorly placed faith. Look for examples of both, talking about how these compare to our faith in God.

For example, I recently noticed that my son was in the kitchen examining spoons in the silverware drawer. “They’re not always clean,” he said.

“So you have reason to believe the dishwasher isn’t effective,” I said. “To trust it would be poorly placed faith!”

We laughed, but that little moment led to a good discussion about how faith in God is based on good reason.
“Science has disproved God.”

If faith is grounded in reason, it follows that our kids need to understand what those good reasons are and how to look deeper into the ways God has revealed himself to us.

The Bible is our main source of knowledge about God, but Christians often overlook the natural world as a source of God’s revelation to us. What, if anything, do you think you would be able to know about God from looking at the world around you?

Our physical world declares God’s glory, proclaiming the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1). Christians must recognize that true science — an honest observation of the created world — is not incompatible with our faith.

A good place to begin is . . . well, with beginnings. It’s an accepted scientific fact that the universe had a beginning. We also know that anything that starts to exist must have a cause. We don’t see things popping into existence without a cause. So our vast universe necessarily had a cause. And in order to create things like space, time and matter, that cause would be outside of space, time and matter. This description is entirely consistent with the Bible’s picture of Creation and of who God is.

Astrophysicist Hugh Ross and his colleagues have observed over 140 properties of the universe, such as the strength of gravity, that appear to be precisely adjusted to support the existence of life. It’s extraordinarily improbable that these factors would all, by chance, line up just right for life to flourish. This strongly suggests that our universe is the product of a purposeful intelligence beyond nature.

Application
Ask your child to imagine learning about God without the benefit of the Bible: “What could you learn about God from looking at the world around you?” Read Romans 1:18-20 and discuss what the Bible says we can learn from nature. Use this as a steppingstone to future conversations about what our world reveals about the Creator.

“Where is your God now?”

As terrorist attacks and other man-made tragedies fill headlines, comments like this demonstrate how the problem of evil enters everyday conversations. It’s an age-old dilemma: If God really is good, He would eliminate evil, and if He is all-powerful, He could eliminate it. But since evil exists, does God exist?

I’ve been contacted by many parents whose kids have decided that the existence of evil and a good God can’t be reconciled; they’ve concluded that God must not exist.

We must anticipate this challenge. Answering it starts with helping our children remember that God created humans with the gift of free will. I ask my kids to imagine what life would be like without the possibility of ever choosing evil. What if we were only able to do good and love God? It doesn’t take long to understand: We’d be like robots blindly obeying commands.

True goodness can’t be forced; we must choose it. But that freedom allows us to make evil choices, too. God made evil possible by giving us the power to choose, but humans are responsible for bringing evil into the world.

It’s equally important for young people to understand that atheists have their own problem with evil. If God doesn’t exist, there would be no objective standard for calling anything evil. Without a moral authority over humankind, what we call “good” and “evil” can only be a matter of opinion. Yet our deepest intuition tells us that certain behaviors are objectively evil. And since these objective moral “laws” truly exist, the best explanation is that a moral lawgiver exists, as well (Romans 2:14-16).

Application
News stories unfortunately provide ample opportunities to bring this subject to the forefront of discussion. Use a news story to ask your child, “How do you think this kind of evil can happen if God is good?” Discuss the nature of free will. Then explain that only in a world where God exists can we objectively label the wrongdoing as evil.

“Do you really believe dead people can live again?”

Imagine your kids running in from outside, shouting, “We just saw three pigs fly over!” You likely wouldn’t believe them. Pigs can’t fly!

For many people, this is the same logic by which they determine that the claims of Christianity, such as the Resurrection, are not true. An atheist once told me, “I know there was no Resurrection because I know from science that dead people stay dead.” Other skeptics agree: The claims of Christianity don’t fit the workings of the natural world.

It’s important for our kids to understand the inherent flaw here. Christians and nonbelievers all agree that dead people don’t come back to life naturally. But miracles like the Resurrection are not events that Christians believe happen according to the laws of nature. Miracles, by definition, happen supernaturally — by God’s direct action in our world.

It follows, then, that if God exists, miracles are possible. If God doesn’t exist, miracles are not possible. Nature is all there is. This is a key distinction for kids to understand. Miracles like the Resurrection are events with a cause from outside of nature. They aren’t limited by natural laws!
Application
Ask your child, “Why do you think Christians believe Jesus came back to life when we know that all other people who die remain dead?” Clarify that the Resurrection is a miracle claim and that miracles are events with a cause from outside of nature, so they don’t necessarily follow natural laws. Emphasize that if God, the Creator of our universe exists, then miracles are absolutely possible and even expected.

These conversations are only a starting point, but they provide a framework for responding to the main intellectual challenges Christians face today, and they will lead to discussions that equip kids with a more confident faith.

CHAPTER SIX

7 Ways Your Kids Can Connect With God

by Christie Thomas

Some kids find it easier to connect with God through their intellect, while others may prefer using their surroundings, routines or service. Pastor and author Gary Thomas refers to these temperaments as “sacred pathways.”

Although your child may have a combination of these pathways that make it easier to be drawn closer to God, one or two of them may stand out a bit more than others.

One day in the spring, as I drove my car, I told my 4-year-old son, “The grass was dead all winter, but now it’s coming back to life. Do you know someone who was dead but came back to life?” His answer, of course, was Jesus! We then had an interesting conversation about the resurrection and power of God — all because of green grass. 

I wish this type of conversation would happen more often with my children. I tried starting a similar conversation with an older son, but had less success. One reason is that my kids have different spiritual temperaments, just as they have different bodies, personalities, interests and emotional dispositions. Their spiritual temperaments often affect how they learn about God.

Pastor and author Gary Thomas refers to these temperaments as “sacred pathways.” Thomas notes that Christians all have different and acceptable ways of demonstrating their love for God. “Our temperaments will cause us to be more comfortable in some of these expressions than others — and that is perfectly acceptable to God,” Thomas writes in his book Sacred Pathways. “In fact, by worshiping God according to the way He made us, we are affirming His work as Creator.”

Some people find it easier to connect with God through their surroundings or routines, while others may prefer service or using their intellect. A child’s dominant spiritual pathway provides more potential points of connection with God. Although your child may have a combination of these seven temperaments, you’ll find that one or two of them may stand out a bit more than the others.

Helping Your Kids Express Their Faith

Tracey Garrell describes how, as a stay-at-home mom, she helps her children live out their faith in school.
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The Traditionalist


Most children begin life with a need for routine. Traditionalists not only thrive in this environment, but as they grow, they continue needing structure in their faith. Consistent worship times, structured prayers and reliable and meaningful celebrations benefit these young children.

As traditionalists grow older, they may lean more toward another temperament, while still relying on the basic faith structure they’ve grown up with. Others will become more defined in their traditionalist temperament. They may create their own daily rituals or homework routines; these children thrive on consistency.

To incorporate faith-routines into their lives, create special celebrations for Advent, Lent and Pentecost — celebrations that may feel restrictive to non-traditionalists, but will bring life to someone of this temperament. These children also thrive when they pray at certain times of day or when their prayer times are based on external cues, such as a school bell.

Bible characters to check out:

Abraham (built a lot of altars)

Esther (built up her courage to break a rule to save the Jews)

Bible passages to read together: Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 

The Naturalist

Some children may be wired to connect with God through nature. Just like some adults feel closest to God when on the top of a mountain or while fishing, many children feel closest to God while enjoying His creation. They may understand spiritual metaphors better when they are related to the natural world. God uses nature — weeds, gardens, pets, clouds and people — to draw these children closer to Him.

In the case of the naturalist child, a parent will need to help him approach creation mindfully and with an ear bent toward the Creator. If your children are young, you can and should take the lead in pointing out how God’s creation draws us toward Him, similar to the conversation I had with my son. Eventually it will be a natural way for your child to connect with God. Otherwise, they may have a tendency to give nature credit for itself. Talking about nature as a creation of God is key to drawing the naturalist’s eyes to the Creator.

Bible character to check out:

Elijah (a prophet who moved around a lot)

Deborah (judged Israel under a date palm tree rather than from a tent)

Bible passage to read together: Psalm 19:1-6

The Sensate

Children, by nature, are incredibly responsive to sensory input. Some, however, are truly moved by it. In a similar way to the naturalist being moved to worship by natural surroundings, the sensate is moved to worship through the tickling of the senses: art, music, delicious food, intoxicating smells, new textures and dance. This may seem foreign in our culture of bare-walled churches, but heaven itself is often described as a beautiful, exuberant multitude of voices praising in every language (Revelation 15:4; 19:6-7).

To help sensory children connect in a meaningful way with God, proactively point out the aesthetic and tactile beauty of things that God made to arrive at teachable moments. You can ask her, “How does that smell/taste/music make you feel?” or “What does that reflect about faith/God?” If you don’t help them understand that God gave the world its aesthetic beauty through the arts, the culture may convince sensory children that beauty for the sake of beauty is important. Therefore, your short, teachable moments are key for the sensate.

Bible characters to check out:

David (and his many psalms)

Mary (sister to Lazarus) 

Bible passage to read together: Ezekiel 1-3:15

The Caregiver

I have a son who follows me around when we’re at home. He loves swishing toilets, making beds and baking, and is constantly looking for little ways to help. In fact, when he is told he can’t help with a certain task, he becomes upset. I have a suspicion that he will find it easier to develop a relationship with God while serving others. Not every child will enjoy serving food to the homeless. To a child like mine, it may feel like pure joy.

The temptation of a caregiver is the same struggle felt by Martha: She was so busy serving Jesus that she forgot to use that service as a way to get to know her Savior. It is fairly simple to expose a child to Christian service. It is another thing altogether to show him how to let his service draw him closer to Christ. When you talk about the child’s acts of service, have him consider which were done with a pure motive to bless others in Jesus’ name and which were done out of pride or feelings of righteousness. Finding the right motivation is key for this child.

Bible characters to check out:

Lydia (a seller of purple cloth who showed hospitality to Paul)

Stephen (supervised the care of widows and orphans in the early church)

Bible passage to read together: Matthew 25:31-46

The Activist

Have you ever met a child who became incredibly upset over injustice? We’ve probably all seen news stories of children who latch onto a particular cause, dedicating their young lives to it. We may be tempted to shield our children from the evil in the world, to keep them in their safe bubble of family and school, but if we choose to ignore the world beyond us, an activist child will become completely overwhelmed by it when she discovers what is happening.

As a parent, your job is to allow your child to witness the ills of the world, in manageable and age-appropriate chunks, to help her develop God’s passion for the downtrodden. Most activists won’t need to be told to stand up for a cause. You will more likely need to hold her back to help her find balance, once she’s recognized God’s heartbeat. However, the temptation of any activist is to become proud in her stand against evil, forgetting her relationship with God. The role of the parent will be to help her seek God’s will, wisdom and humility in her work, using her activism to draw closer to God’s love and truth.

Bible characters to check out:

John the Baptist (prepared the way for Jesus)

Shiphrah (one of the midwives who saved Israelite babies from Egyptians)

Bible passage to read together: Isaiah 58

The Intellectual

When I was a teenager, one of the first things I bought from the Christian bookstore was a concordance. My friend thought I was strange, but I had a deep need to understand God’s Word better. Some children share my deep curiosity and find it easy to dive deep into topics that interest them. The topics may not appear to be “intellectual” as an adult sees them, though. In fact, it may look more like an obsession with dinosaurs or bacteria, but children who love to learn often connect with God in the same way.

As a parent, your job is to feed your child’s intellectual fire with challenging material. It may be books that make him think deeper about faith, Bible studies that you do together or even buying him a concordance for his birthday. Many intellectuals also make excellent teachers because they love to share what they have learned. The temptation here is to become arrogant in knowledge and prideful in the treatment of others, exchanging the Tree of Life for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as Adam and Eve did. Parents can help children balance their growing body of knowledge by encouraging them to live out what they’ve learned in their relationship with God and toward others. If the intellectual pathway rings true for your child, consider partnering with him to a teach a Sunday school class for younger children or allow him to teach younger siblings.

Bible characters to check out:

Ethiopian eunuch (accepted Jesus after Philip ran alongside his chariot)

Priscilla (who opened her home to Paul and learned about Jesus from him)

Bible passage to read together: Acts 8:27-38

The Enthusiast

As a child in the tabernacle, Samuel clearly heard the voice of God. He spent his life following direct orders from God and prophesying to the Israelites. His life was filled with the mystery of nighttime voices, direct revelation from God and even calling down thunderstorms in the name of God. To many, this sounds terrifying and impossible, but to our children with the enthusiast temperament, this type of relationship with God sounds incredible.

You may have a child who is enthusiastic about discerning God’s voice and seeking His will. Parents with an enthusiast child will need to learn how to welcome their child’s connection with God and help develop her discernment skills through biblical knowledge and understanding. Reinforce the truth that God will never contradict His Word. If your child believes she’s sensing the prompting of the Holy Spirit, help her to search through the Bible to find a scriptural foundation that affirms God’s perspective.

Bible characters to check out:

Samuel (the prophet)

Anna (a prophetess)

Bible passage: Ephesians 5:15-20

All members of one body

Most Christian parents assume that our way of connecting with God is the way our children will or should connect with Him. But there is no one size fits all approach to faith. “God wants to know the real you, not a caricature of what somebody else wants you to be,” Gary Thomas notes. “He created you with a certain personality and a certain spiritual temperament. God wants your worship, according to the way He made you.” 

An intellectual parent will tend toward deep Bible study with her children, while a caregiver will focus on finding family service projects and a naturalist will spend a lot of time out in nature with his children. If I am an extremely extroverted enthusiast, it might look odd to me if my introverted child would rather sit in quietness and contemplate God’s love or ponder a section of Scripture. I may feel that my child lacks faith, but the truth may be that my child connects with God in a different way than I do.

God, who delights in our differences, desires to draw each of us to Him. I can, and should, look for teachable moments, but these may look different for each child. As parents we should also consider helping our children find mentors who connect with God in the same way that they do, particularly if their spiritual temperament is the complete opposite of ours.

So what is our role as parents in our children’s personal connection to God? Our role is to open our eyes to the unique way God is communicating with our children. Then we can respond by finding ways to partner with Him to encourage their relationship with Jesus. 

“Introducing Your Child to God” is copyrighted © 2009 by Larry Fowler; “Leading Your Children to the Savior” is copyrighted © 2017 by Kelly J. Stigliano; “Teaching Kids About God’s Big Story” is copyrighted © 2015 by Michelle Anthony; “How to Share the Gospel With Your Children” is copyrighted © 2017 by Ann Vande Zande; “Make Time to Talk About Faith” is adapted from Faith Begins at Home, published by Regal, and is copyrighted © 2007 by Regal; “4 Challenges to Your Child’s Faith” is copyrighted © 2019 by Natasha Crain; “7 Ways Your Kids Can Connect With God” is copyrighted © 2016 by Christie Thomas. Used by permission

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