As a parent you know it’s coming. You don’t know when, but you know it’s coming. Maybe your child likes to pop them out of the blue. Your child might be the one that rattles them off rapid fire. The BIG questions. How did Jonah breath in the whale? Did God make dinosaurs? Does God really exist? Am I going to hell? Are angels real?
Even though I’m not a parent, I know you get those questions, because as your child’s pastor, I get those questions too. So, I thought I’d share some advice I’ve gathered from my own research and experience.
1. Don’t panic
First things first. Don’t panic. Often our first reaction is to freeze, your heartrate goes up and you start to sweat. Just take a breath, say a little prayer. You got this!
Also know that your child isn’t asking these questions out of skepticism or doubt or disbelief. It’s curiosity. They are processing, examining, and testing all kinds of information and figuring out how it all fits together to make the world work. Since they can’t tangibly test faith like they can other things (don’t touch, it’s hot; blue & yellow make green; cats always land on their feet) they ask questions.
2. Don’t dismiss questions with pat answers
Answers such as “Because I/God said so”, “It just is”, “We just have to believe” are not helpful.
Routinely giving kids these kinds of answers can lead kids to think Christianity doesn’t hold up to questions or examination. That it’s all about blind belief. These types of answers can also lead them to think there just aren’t any answers to their questions, which is discouraging.
3. You don’t need a detailed and complex answer
Simple is good. You don’t need to bust out your old Bible college textbooks and a concordance. They will walk away learning that asking questions gets them boring, unhelpful answers. Gear your answer to the level of the child asking, “Does God really exist?” “Yes, I have experienced Him myself, that’s one reason I believe.” Easy. If you want, tell an age appropriate story of how you have experienced God. Your kids love hearing stories about your life. Especially your own time as a child. At the end they might just say “thanks” and leave it at that, or it might lead to more questions.
4. Find out where the question is coming from
Like I said before, kids are processing information and trying to figure out how it all works together. It could be they are trying to put together 2 pieces of information that don’t seem to fit. For example, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” Big question. What’s behind it? “I learn at church that God loves us and wants good things for us, but my friend’s parents are getting divorced.” You can then have a conversation about that specific situation and take care of their hearts as well as their heads.
5. Make your home a safe place to ask questions
Let your child know that it’s ok to ask questions. We all have them. It’s even ok to have questions about God. Just read some of David’s Psalms, God is big enough to handle even our toughest questions.
6. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”
Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” and don’t stop there. Continue the sentence. “I don’t know, but do you want to find out together?” The question has now turned into a relationship building conversation. Go and search out the answer together. Do a google search on scripture verses that talk about that subject. Email or phone another Christian leader you respect and ask them. I would also suggest taking time to pray together before you start your search, ask God!
Sometimes you’ll hit those questions that don’t seem to have a clear answer. Even the most highly educated theologians don’t all agree with each other on some topics. As we explore faith we are going to bump up against these questions. When you do, focus on what you do know. “We don’t know the answer to that right now, but we do know that God is in control and He has a plan.”
Now, what do you do to wrestle with your own questions about God and faith? I encourage you to check out an Alpha course. It’s a great, relaxed setting for you to explore those daunting questions about God and the world today.