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November 24, 2014 / BTM

Five Steps to Help Your Child Remain a Christian Into Adulthood

fivecrossWho is responsible for preparing your child for adulthood: his teachers, or you?

Who is responsible for preparing your child’s faith to last into adulthood: his Sunday School teachers, the Youth Pastor, the Senior Pastor, the campus ministry staff worker, or you?

Of course, YOU is the answer. But how do we accomplish this?

Here are five key elements that every parent’s plan should include.

1. Be realistic about your child’s capability and the threats to his faith. Do you have high expectations for your kids or are you happy enough for them to float through life, as long as they still attend church every Sunday?  How important is your child’s faith to you?  Do you believe that he could actually be a world changer? Is your head in the sand thinking that your child would never be capable of losing his faith?

I’m convinced that children are capable of much, much more than we realize. As the people behind Children Desiring God say, give your kids a faith that they will not outgrow. Stretch them, expect more of them, challenge them. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that your child’s faith is secure – make sure it is!

Whatever point you are at as a family, no matter how old your children are, begin mapping out a plan to give them a solid foundation in their faith. That plan should include theology and apologetics. In today’s world, they need to know what they believe and why it makes sense. Do not assume that your church has this covered; many don’t. Most need supplementing from you. And your children will give much more weight and priority to what a parent tells them than what a Sunday School teacher tells them. Really!

2. Begin when they are young, if you still can.

Begin with the facts about faith with young children – ages 3 to 7. Basic facts about theology and Christian apologetics can be easily absorbed by young children. We began teaching apologetics to our very average 4 & 6 year olds. They still remember those lessons today. There are many examples of what we did with them on this blog – check out my categories menu for examples and ideas.

3. By the time your child is in Grade 4 they are ready to start learning about logic. Does your child try to counter everything you say? Then teach them how to do it well. Teach them what makes a good argument and what doesn’t. Start to put together some of the facts they learned when they were younger into arguments. I’m not trying to raise the roof in your home, but I am trying to harness what is naturally occurring in your child and use it for his good.

We are just getting into this stage now. We have been reviewing the various facts we learned when our kids were younger, but putting them together in ways that our kids have not yet seen. For instance, a while ago I outlined our Finding the Fingerprints of God series that looks at scientific evidence for the existence of God. Our kids learned the various topics through activities, but now we were asking them to give us evidence outside the Bible that God exists. Suddenly they see the relevance of the material they learned earlier. It is exciting to see the lights go on for them.

By the way, making sure you do this early on takes the power away from ideas and arguments that counter Christianity later on. We do the same thing when we try to drug proof our kids or talk to them about intimate physical relationships. If your children have heard about opposition to Christianity from you, he’s not shocked or completely unprepared when he hears them from a teacher or a friend.

4. By high school, you want your teen to begin to be able to articulate answers to ideas that counter his faith. YouTube and the web are great resources for this. There are thousands of sites run by atheists or people who believe in different religions. Each of them make statements or claims against Christianity, the Bible and the existence of God. Your child should become familiar with them and wrestle through them himself.

Give your teen opportunities to see and experience alternative views and take them on a logical test drive. Visit the temples of other religions. Talk with people who do not share your beliefs. Teens and young adults are especially drawn to altruism and the idea of changing the world. Tap into this natural desire and give them opportunities to explore and grow. By the time they leave your house for college or university, you want to be sure that your teen has struggled with his own faith, has encountered the biggest objections to it, is able to articulate counter challenges to those challenges, and has genuinely made his faith his own (he is not just parroting you or borrowing your faith).

NB: The teen years are a time when children are going through a lot of change and may begin to question their faith. This is fine; let them. But challenge them to use the skills they’ve learned to face those challenges. Doubt is not a problem, as long as they don’t camp out there.

5. Model what you teach. Are you living like your faith is really true? Do you only talk with Christians? Do you know what the main secular objections to Christianity are? Can you answer them? Do you know what you believe and do you have reasons for it? Are you in touch with the world your teen is and will be facing?

If you have not spent any time learning reasons for your faith, please start now. I’ve linked to tons of great resources in the past, and repeat them here, here and here. These are user friendly: no PhD required. Just start; you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn. Then share what you are learning with your children.

If you are panicking because your child is already a senior and you haven’t even started on this process, don’t worry. Just start from where you are. However, I suggest you follow a similar approach to what a parent would use if she discovers that her child is losing his faith: turn to fact finding mode and work from there (see my previous post on this topic).

What do you think? Where are you on this journey?

Picture credit: my 9-year old son.

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4 Comments

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  1. Andrew / Nov 24 2014 12:07 pm

    Another wonderful article. I sent you a couple of emails to beyondbtm (at) gmail (dot) com but I’m not sure if you check that email address often (never got a response). Anyway, I completely agree with what you have written above. #5 is key. If you are not living out a service oriented, Christ-centered life, don’t expect your kids to stay strong in their faith. We had a situation where someone who was very active with our youth group for many years, bringing her children to every youth event faithfully every week including mission trips etc….but she had an affair with a married man and you can imagine the crushing blow that was to her children.

    • BTM / Dec 3 2014 4:01 pm

      Thanks for the feedback. What a depressing situation you relate! I think #5 is a huge challenge for us. How many of us can check that one off perfectly (not me!). I think my kids have challenged me the most in looking seriously at how I live and making changes to it. We recently travelled to a country with a lot of poverty (which is why I wasn’t emailing back, sorry about that). I was very challenged in how I responded as a Christian and a parent to what we saw around us. God uses children as well as marriage to mold and shape us. I have learned that perfection in parenting is not always what is needed, but humility when we mess up and the ability to apologise and explain what we should have done to our kids. God bless you, and give you lots of grace as you raise your kids!

  2. HSW / Feb 20 2015 7:33 am

    Can you recommend specific books/curriculum to teach basic apologetics to our homeschooling family? Ages: 1,3,5,7, and 9. Thank you!

    • BTM / Feb 20 2015 10:03 am

      Hello – Yes, there are a few resources out there suitable for those ages. I have quite a number of interactive activities with apologetics-based lessons on this blog site. Look under the following categories on the side bar:

      – Finding the Fingerprints of God (evolution vs. intelligent design/creation)
      – Can we trust the Bible and its authors (textual criticism – how the Bible was put together and why it is dependable)
      – Critical thinking
      – there are a few under Christian worldview
      – Did Jesus rise from the dead – there’s an easter activity and a bible study on this topic
      – There are some videos linked here (https://beyondtm.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/great-and-mostly-free-science-resources-for-tweens-and-teens/) that might work for your older kids
      – check out the posts under the categories Apologetics for kids and Apologetics for parents
      – check out the Prolife apologetics category link
      – Outside of this blog, we are currently going through Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ, Case for a Creator, Case for Faith and Get off my Case books – we’re using the ones that are designed for KIDS. Our sons are 7 and 9 and they are the perfect ages for these books. I find Strobel’s books are reinforcing (but in less of a hands-on way) all the apologetics-based activities we did with our kids when they were younger (through the activities I listed above).
      – Natasha Crain recommended a book (which I am aware of but have not yet used) to help with critical thinking skills: http://christianmomthoughts.com/how-to-teach-your-kids-critical-thinking-skills-a-great-resource/
      – Melissa Cain Travis has written two books to introduce apologetics to kids in a story format. You can see both of them here: http://www.amazon.com/How-Know-God-Really-There/dp/1935495968

      I hope this gives you a start. I have personally found that there are not many resources out there for younger children (and not any with fun, hands-on activities), which is why I spent time inventing my own activities and sharing them on this site!

      If you have a hard time finding some of my links on the blog (they disappear sometimes for some reason) look at my Pinterest site (https://www.pinterest.com/beyondtm/). They don’t disappear from there. Please be in touch if I can help you navigate this further in any way, and please let me know if you come across other resources that you like – I’d love to profile them on this blog.

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