What do you do if your child has questions about God? For a lot of parents, this can be a scary moment, one that we fear will undo the faith of our precious sons and daughters. We can panic, saying that they’re too young to ask such things, or maybe that they’re wrong to inquire. This is hardly helpful.
But, what is also not so helpful is to answer the question that they’re not asking, to treat the honest questions our children bring to us as a project, offering a bookish reply to a personal fear. One of the best ways we can address our children’s questions is to ask our children questions.
In a recent Colson Center podcast, Shane Morris spoke with Natasha Crain about this very issue. She reminds us all of the importance of engaging with our children where they are and taking the time to find out their underlying concerns before launching on a lecture that will do them no good.
Below is an edited excerpt of part of her comments, but you can also listen to the entire conversation here.
If they have a question about God, what do you think kids are going to do today if they want an answer? They’re going to go on to Google, and they’re not necessarily going to find the best answers, the most informative, fact-based answers there.
If you don’t know the answer to a question that comes up, it is far, far better to acknowledge that and use it as a teaching opportunity rather than to offer an answer that is inaccurate. Because, doing that can actually set them up for some misunderstandings that later snowball into something much bigger. I always encourage parents, it’s better to say, “I’m not sure, let’s find out,” rather than the opposite of giving an answer that’s incorrect.
Now, if you do know the answer, it’s also a very good practice to start by asking your kid some questions. Because I think sometimes when a child asks a question, we can think that we know what they mean, and we start answering something and going into it. And then we realize wait a second, maybe that’s not actually it.
For example, if a child asks something like, “How do I know that God exists?” maybe if you’ve looked at some of this evidence for God’s existence before, it’s tempting to start going down the road of, “Well, let’s talk about the Kalam cosmological argument,” and all this stuff.
But, if you could just slow yourself down and you take a second to ask some questions like, “What brought that to your mind today? This is such a good question. I’m just curious what got you thinking about this.” Maybe the child answers, “I’ve been praying about something and it didn’t happen. So how do I know that God’s actually there?”
Those would be very different conversations. If you had gone about talking about the fine tuning of the universe, you are a universe away from what they’re actually talking about.
Taking the time to ask those questions will lead you to figure out this is more conversation about prayer. What does the Bible say about prayer? What does it not say? In both of those examples, I think whether you don’t know the answer or you do know the answer, digging in a little bit more to understand what’s really going on behind the question is key.