Helping Kids Learn to Ask Questions About Their Faith
Back in April of 2014, I shared how we were trying to get our kids into the habit of asking questions about their faith in order to assist them in making their faith their own (i.e. not borrowed from us). We found a way to do this by piggybacking on the ‘Wonder Wednesdays’ concept that our kids’ school uses to encourage questions in the classroom. Each Wednesday at dinnertime, we invited our kids to ask us questions about God and faith. There were no restrictions on the number or nature of the questions. We would then take the time either to discuss answers to the questions over dinner or research the answers and get back to them about their questions.
It’s been a bit of an eye opening experience for a number of reasons that I wanted to share with you. There have been some positives and some negatives, and a lot of learning and insights on our part with this activity. I’ve been trying to think about how we can improve our ability to keep the concept going and instill the habit of asking questions in our kids and as a family. Here are some specific lessons learned from our journey in trying to develop this habit.
Our kids struggled to consistently come up with new questions
At first our kids were able to identify questions for us fairly readily. This was exciting and a very interesting peek into their minds. To be honest, the questions surprised me as well. They were not ones I would have come up with myself.
However, we found that trying this on a weekly basis was didn’t work very well. Consistently coming up with new questions every week was difficult for our kids. It became obvious that the realm of questions that they considered relevant to God or faith was narrow. They brought up questions about the Bible or theology, which was great, but they didn’t necessarily make connections outside of these into broader life. This in itself was great insight for us on where they were at and how they subconsciously defined ‘faith’.
Instead of preaching, help your kids to think for themselves
We wanted to use our kids’ questions to generate a discussion that all of us could participate in, rather than just answer the questions for them. This way, our kids would learn some deductive thinking and logic at the same time as answers to their questions. But that is a bit easier said than done at times (especially if you really think you know the answer and your kids don’t)!
We tried getting into the habit of turning the question around on them (“Well, what do you think might be the reason that God can be everywhere at the same time?”). At first, their natural answer was “I don’t know”, but with prodding we’ve gotten better at giving them a chance to voice some ideas rather than just listen to us preach.
There is an art to learning how to ask questions
Our 10-year old made a very insightful comment about this. He had just finished a project on ceramic and said “Before my ceramic project, I didn’t have any questions about ceramic, but now I do because I’ve learned something about it. It’s the same with questions about God; as I learn more, I get more questions.” Your kids will likely have to interact with material and information in order to generate questions about it, which means that you’ll have to be proactively teaching them new material all the time.
Questions are not enough
Purely answering our children’s questions about God, faith, and Christianity will not be enough to helping them build an unshakeable faith. We need to initiate some of that learning ourselves. Have you thought about what topics you think your children will need to understand in order to have an unshakeable faith by the time they’ve moved out from under your roof? If not, why not? If so, what are you doing to implement that teaching in a purposeful way? I’m giving myself a boot in the pants on this one as well – we have about 7 more years with our 10 year old until he’s off to college and I already know how quickly time flies!
I suck at keeping weekly or regular habits going
In our home, my husband and I develop the road map and many of the topics we want to work through with our kids together, but most of the day-to-day implementation is my responsibility. I’ve discovered that while I can plan lessons for PD Days and summer vacation, and keep up daily habits like Bible reading, I don’t do overly well with weekly or bi-weekly habits like Wonder Wednesdays! However, my oldest son is excellent at remembering things like this, so if I was smart, I’d ask him to take over the lead for this. Hmmm, an idea to consider…and an opportunity for some leadership and responsibility – just what a 10 year old needs!
If you fail or get off the rails, start up again
I have to say that we majorly fell off the rails in this important habit. I recently tried to resuscitate the Wonder Wednesday idea again. Our kids had a number of new questions for me and I had a really great time researching the answers to their questions. Again, they weren’t ones that I would have delved into of my own accord, but I discovered just how much I have to learn from their questions as well. They were more attentive than normal when we discussed the answers to their questions because they were their questions. Maybe with my 10-year old’s help we can keep the momentum up this time and make some more progress in making questions a regular part of our family’s faith walk.
Do you purposefully encourage your children to ask questions about their faith? What has your experience been like?