None of us came to trust God on the basis of good arguments alone. Rather, in his grace, the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of our hearts to see his worth. As we pray and trust God to do the same in the lives of young people we love, he frees us from teaching them from a place of anxiety. He helps us to be patient as we prayerfully wait for him to accomplish his work in their hearts.
How do I know the Bible is real? What about the gods in other religions?, one of my kids asked at the age of four. I was a bit caught off guard because she was being raised in the church and homeschooled at the time. Her questions weren’t coming from outside influences, but her own mind and heart.
As adults, we are called to disciple the next generation in our homes and churches. So what do we do when they ask us big questions? How do we respond when they question their faith?
Whether you’re a parent, aunt or uncle, or Sunday School teacher serving young people, here are some ways you can walk with children and teens through their questions and doubts.
1. Be a safe place for questions and doubts.
I often tell teens at church that I’m passionate about church being a safe place for them to bring their questions because I have worked through doubt my whole life. Sometimes, I’ll give them examples of questions I’ve wrestled with. My desire is that their uncertainty wouldn’t drive them away from the church, but to find the answers God has for them.
Children and teens need to know that we welcome their questions and doubts. Two ways you can show them that it’s safe to bring them up is:
Not being afraid of hard questions. Don’t immediately interpret doubts as unbelief or rebellion. Many times, questions are actually spiritual growing pains as children learn to reconcile their observations about the world with what the Bible says. Their faith in God is prompting questions where there seems to be a disconnect. Thus in many ways, questions and doubts can be an opportunity for their faith to grow deeper through testing. It is an opportunity for them to experience on their own that God is trustworthy.
Letting them know doubts and hard questions are normal parts of the Christian life. It can be scary, even shameful, for children to admit having doubts about what they’ve been taught in church or at home. Let them know that you understand this. Assure them that the Bible and history of Christianity is full of people who asked tough questions and still followed Jesus.
2. Invite them to look at the Scriptures with you.
One way that kids can grow in their trust in the Scriptures is actually by bringing hard questions to it. If the word of God is true and has handled the scrutiny of many throughout the ages, then it is able to handle the questions they have today.
Often, the questions children and teens have aren’t so much a challenge to the truth as much as it is an attempt to make sense of it. They aren’t attacking Christianity from the outside, but testing its trustworthiness from the inside. Though their questions may seem like challenges to the Bible (e.g. If God is really in control, why is there suffering? What about other religions? What about science?), but these are questions the Scriptures actually do address and that Christians have historically wrestled through and answered. Thus, these questions are opportunities to show them how God’s word is relevant, compelling, and has explanatory value in real life.
Other times, children and teens will know what the Bible says, but have trouble believing it. These are also opportunities to examine God’s word together. However, before going there, make sure you really understand the question being asked. Before jumping in to answering with truth, make sure it’s the truth they need.
When I was first trained to work with middle schoolers, my leaders emphasized that “at the heart of every question is a question of the heart.” The question at hand is important, but there may be more going on under the surface.