How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home

Slide1Every Imperfect and Normal Family wants their kids to turn out right. So, we establish goals for character development and try to create an environment where our kids can mature. Church, school, sports teams, family relationships… each of these provides a context where our kids can learn to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Unfortunately, our “good” objectives might have absolutely nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we inadvertently end up raising pagans instead of Christians.

 We end up teaching the wrong thing because we have the wrong objectives.

Too many times, (Christian) parents have it as their goal to make their kids good and moral. It is as if the entire purpose of their family’s spiritual life is to shape their children into law-abiding citizens who stay out of trouble. The only problem with this goal is that it runs in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches. The gospel is not about making bad people moral, but about making dead people alive. If we teach morality without the transforming power of the gospel and the necessity of a life fully surrendered to God’s will, then we are raising moral pagans.

We end up teaching the wrong thing because we have the wrong objectives.

This sentiment was stirred in me afresh when I read an interview with Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer. He was reflecting on how the “Christian message” he was trying to teach wasn’t Christianity at all…

“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . .

And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god.”

So what is your objective?

Do you teach your kids “be good because the Bible tells you to” or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters.

I want my kids to be good. We all do. But as our kids grow up, the truth of the gospel can easily get lost somewhere between salvation (where we know we need Jesus) and living life (where we tend to say “I’ve got this”). My experience is that the vast majority of parents are encouraging moral behavior in their kids so that God will bless their (usually self-centered) pursuits. It’s the American Dream plus Jesus. And it produces good, moral pagans.

Because the world has enough pagans. Even plenty of really nice ones.

Consider the key objectives you have for your kids. Seriously, take a minute to think about what would deem you a successful parent. If your goals are focused on your kids’ behavior, their happiness, or their accomplishments (but don’t include a dependence upon Christ and a submission to His will and work), then you might want to make some adjustments.

Because the world has enough pagans. Even plenty of really nice ones. What we need is kids who fully grasp the reality that they have nothing to offer, but who intimately know a God who has everything they need.

*I have added a follow-up post that offer some suggestions of How to Guide Your Kid to a Faith That Lasts. I hope it’s helpful!

*Check out my brand new book: The Talk(s): A Parent’s Guide to Talking about Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables. It has been developed to assist parents as they help their kids navigate our hyper-sexualized culture. Whether your kids are 6 or 16, it provides practical help to help your kids to make wise choices in a messed-up world. Find out more at www.infoforfamilies.com.

 

About Barrett Johnson

Barrett Johnson is the husband to Jenifer and the father of five great kids (including four adolescents). He serves as the Family Minister at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church outside of Atlanta and his blog, INFO for Families, has more than 40,000 views each month. He has recently released his first book, “The Talk(s): A Parent’s Guide to Critical Conversations About Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables.” It has been created to help every parent to equip their kids to make wise choices in a sexually-charged culture. Find out more at www.infoforfamilies.com.

Don’t be Superficial when Children Ask Tough Bible Questions

superficial, fake people, fake christian, outward appearance

Photo by o5com

Having a superficial faith becomes evident when called upon to teach children in Sunday School. I don’t mean to suggest that to be a Sunday School teacher you must know everything. That’s unrealistic. 

What happens when a young child asks a probing Bible question, and you don’t know the biblical answer?

I Don’t Know the Answer!

However, what happens when a young child asks a probing Bible question, and you don’t know the biblical answer? We must go beyond our lack or knowledge or faith. Instead of faking it and trying to put on the outward appearance that we know the answers, we must dig deeper.

Imagine a young child in her teens in a Christian school. Imagine a young man in “Sunday School” at church. Imagine them asking real questions such as “Why can’t I see God?” or “In the Bible, Jesus keeps referring to God as His father. But you say God and Jesus are the same thing. How is that possible?” or “Why would God take my younger brother away in that car accident?”, etc…

Eternal Impact of Your Answers

How we answer these questions can have a profound impact on the future spirituality (or superficial faith) of those impressionable children.

We have two choices when kids ask these questions:

  1. We can attempt to explain as best we can these mysteries, doing some real research and soul searching ourselves so we can thoughtfully respond. We can take these children seriously as honest seekers who just want honest answers. We can expose them to a greater understanding of the fullness and complexity of God by digging deeper into the Bible with them.
  2. We can be smug and tell them to stop asking questions and to just take it on faith; just believe. We could scold them for being a class disruptor. We could ridicule them and make them feel silly or stupid for asking questions. We could even punish them for having the audacity to question the teacher or to question God or the Bible.

Now, I hope you are equally shocked by even the possibility of responding the 2nd way as I am. You may even be saying, “Does that really happen? Are you serious?” I am!

Many non-believers started out as Christian children and they had questions. Poorly answered questions or rebuke led to their lack of belief.

Many Atheists are Former Curious Christians

I’ve encountered MANY atheists, agnostics, or non-believers who started out as Christian children…going to Sunday School, Catholic school, or a private Christian school of some sort. They had questions…lots of them. How questions were answered, in many ways, increased their superficiality and led to their lack of belief.

There are people who can hear a simple truth and believe it without needing to dig much deeper. Jesus referred to this as having the faith of a child (Mark 10:15).

Mark 10:13-15 (NIV)

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.
14
When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
15
I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

I’m not suggesting that people who believe like a child are somehow fake or have a superficial faith. They may just be more in touch with and willing to accept God’s truth. If they don’t seek to learn more and test their beliefs, I think it can lead to a skin-deep faith that can and should be avoided.

Some People Need Intellectual Answers

Then there are people, much like me, who require more intellectual responses. We don’t just WANT to understand. We NEED to understand. Having a superficial belief is not an option for us.

So, how do you respond to intellectually skeptical children…especially when they are young, confused, questioning…and yet still open?

Seekers Deserve Reasoned Responses

Again, we have two choices. I urge you to choose #1. Treat them like true seekers that are important enough for us to give a reasoned response, regardless of their age. If you don’t know the answer, tell them so. Work WITH them to find the answers. This way you will both develop a reasonable faith.

Here is what happens when you rebuke a child with questions:

Here is a quote from author Stephanie D. Norris about her book called “Crisis of Religion”:
I could distinctly remember that as a little child (1st or 2nd grade), I instigated some probing questions into a couple Biblical issues that hoisted conflicting contradictions in my head. Instead of my Sunday school teacher answering my questions, and addressing my deep concerns, he conversely scolded me, hauling my rational queries over the coal. He then admonished me to desist from asking such probing questions anymore, but to just believe and accept whatever the church told me.

“My teacher grabbed me and shook me while telling me I would go to hell if I didn’t stop making trouble by asking questions in catechism class.”

Another Atheist Quote

Here is another quote from a conversation I had with another Atheist:
When I was 12, the nun who was my teacher grabbed me and shook me while telling me I would go to hell if I didn’t stop making trouble by asking questions in catechism class.

The result is skepticism and disbelief…superficial faith. The result, more often than not, is a lost soul.

Don’t Fear Questions

Here is the bottom line: We don’t need to fear questions. We don’t need to be ashamed or embarrassed when we don’t know the answer. There ARE answers for many of these questions…you must find the answers.

  • We MUST NOT reject the person asking the questions (regardless of age).
  • We MUST NOT ask these types of students to believe on faith…when they need more.
  • We MUST NOT tell them to be quiet and just behave.

These children require special attention…yes MORE than you may have bargained for. It might require you finding answers yourself to questions you’ve never thought to ask. It might require a greater sacrifice of your time to invest in the lives of these special children (who God loves) to truly Disciple them…and teach them.

Teaching is a BIG Responsibility

Being a teacher of children is serious business. How you respond to difficult questions can lead to a lost soul, or to an eternal blessing for generations to come. It’s your choice. Choose wisely.

Where to find answers? Google “Christian or Bible answers” and you will find many sources. Here is one source I found: http://www.rbc.org/bible-study/answers-to-tough-questions/home.aspx

About Brad White

R. Brad White is the Founder and President of Changing the Face of Christianity Inc. Brad is a former atheist and became an "on fire for God" Christian in 2005. In 2008, Brad became incredibly burdened by what he perceived as a Christian faith far off course, and Christians far from living the teachings of Jesus Christ. In 2010, Brad submitted to the calling to reverse these negative Christian stereotypes, by starting "Changing the Face of Christianity" (a 501c3 Texas non-profit corporation). Read more about R. Brad White