Kids can ask some amazing questions. Then, just as quickly as they ask a question, they can be distracted by another seemingly random question or idea before you even have a chance to answer their first question. Kids who are involved in a church and have a family where faith plays a key role will typically begin to ask questions about spiritual matters. This can be a confusing yet exciting time for both parents and kids. Often times parents will not feel equipped to help their kids process through these questions, so with us just having come through the Easter season which may have sparked some questions in your home, I thought I’d share some thoughts that may be helpful for parents.
The most important thing you can do when your kids start asking spiritual questions is to be excited, interested, and dialogue with them. Even if you don’t know the answers to their questions, as their parent, they need to see you are really interested in their spiritual questions. Be willing to find the answers with them. Don’t just quickly pass them off to a pastor. Parents are often quick to discuss issues related to school, sports, TV, etc, but will then pull back and disengage when it comes to spiritual topics. I believe parents must pay attention to these moments because not only will God use these conversations to shape the spiritual direction of our kids, but He will use them to refine our faith journey as well, which leads to my next thought…
Alongside taking a genuine interest in your kids’ spiritual questions, you need to share your faith journey with them. I’ve seen parents who, with good intentions, want their kids “saved” or baptized, yet these parents have maybe never really considered their own faith journey. One of the greatest things you can do with your kids is to talk about your faith and how it impacts your everyday life. You, as their parent, are their greatest spiritual influence one way or the other.
Our faith journey shouldn’t be reduced down to a single moment or experience even though it will include a few key moments along the way. In Deuteronomy 6, God instructed His people to teach their kids about their faith as they went about their everyday routines. We must do the same.
Now, maybe the hardest question to deal with is “How do I know my kid is ready for salvation or baptism?” Some parents seem to really struggle with this, and as a parent myself, this is not an easy one to navigate. Here are two other things to keep in mind…
- Don’t focus on “getting them saved.” This phrase usually means wanting to make sure they don’t die and go to hell. I’ll share more on this below.
- Give it time and look for certain benchmarks. These will develop at different rates among your kids, so don’t feel as if your kid must make a decision or have some religious experience by a certain age or it’s too late. Ultimately, it must be their decision (not yours), so they need to understand what they are doing.
Here are a few questions/clarification points to guide you…
These questions focus on the basics of our faith. Information does not equal salvation, but kids do need to understand and be able to articulate in their own words the core components surrounding a personal relationship with Jesus. These must be questions THEY start to ask and seek answers for. You cannot force or create their curiosity. Look for these emerging points of clarity…
Do they understand God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit? What did Jesus do on earth? What about sin? Heaven? Hell? Do they show signs of being truly sorry for their mistakes and seeing the impact their sin has not only on them but on God and others?… I usually ask these questions open-ended and begin with phrases like… Can you tell me about _______? Be careful to not lead them into the right answers. Again, this must be their understanding and faith not something you are crafting for them.
Once they show signs of giving the correct answers, we need to carefully discern the “why” behind what they’ve come to understand. For example, if a kid says they want to be saved or baptized, we should ask… Why do you feel you need to do this? Specifically with thoughts surrounding Jesus, we need to discern if they really understand why Jesus came, lived a perfect life, died, and resurrected. Look for signs that show your kid understands the personal impact these questions have on them. Are they just giving answers in general terms, or are they personalizing their responses using pronouns such as I, me, and my? This shows they are beginning to experience a personal sensitivity and awareness toward God.
One thing I really caution parents with at this point is to watch for the “I don’t want to go to hell” answers. If this is the “why” behind your child’s curiosity, then don’t ignore it and you can even affirm it, but just realize they may not have the full picture of following Jesus quite yet. At the same time, don’t rush or pressure your kids because you are functioning with this fear based hell mentality.
If you look at the gospels, Jesus didn’t go around asking people “Do you want to avoid hell?” He instead invited people to follow Him, live as He lived, and yes receive the forgiveness of their sins, but their mere going to heaven or hell was never the motivation behind His invitation. He wanted to deal with people’s hearts and who they trusted with their present and future.
Salvation is not simply a “get out of hell card.” Yes, when it truly happens, we can take confidence in Heaven being our future home, but there’s much more God has for us to experience in the here and now. Your kids (and us as adults) need to want Jesus now just as much, if not maybe even more, than when they die! People, whether kids or adults, must be willing to follow Jesus now and pattern their lives around His ways, so be careful to not push your kids into a formal, spiritual response if there’s a heavy “fear” or “hell” factor playing into the equation.
The final phase flows out of what I just mentioned about “avoiding hell.” Kids need to show an understanding of how they will move forward with Jesus if they choose to become His disciple. I use the word disciple because that’s what we all are as we choose to follow Him… His disciples… The word “Christian” has become so watered down in our culture.
A disciple is someone who lives as someone else has lived. They do what they did and say what they said. For us, Jesus is our Lord and Savior, so we are disciples of His. This means we don’t just pray a prayer, get baptized, and then check out from God until we die and go to Heaven. You won’t find this scenario anywhere in the Bible yet it is somehow so common in our culture today.
Kids need to understand (as best they can) the cost of discipleship. Help them think through how following Jesus as His disciple would impact their decisions at school, home, around their friends, with their siblings, on their ball teams, etc. Again, going back to something I said earlier, as parents, this becomes a great opportunity for us to consider how our faith impacts the way we live, work, and play as adults. They need to see how God wants to use them to share the good news of Jesus with their friends. Yes, kids can become disciple-makers for Jesus!
What about Baptism?
Well, this could easily be another post for another time, but a quick answer is this… If your kid has appropriately processed through the what, why, and how stages, and they are ready to surrender their lives to Jesus, then baptism is the next appropriate step.
All of this to say… Be patient. Don’t force it. Ask good questions. Listen well. Share your faith journey. Affirm their progress and curiosity…
If you feel any pressure to force your kids to “do” something, then just stop, pull back, and realize God does not beat us into submission. He draws us, cultivates our understanding and our hearts, and calls us to follow Him. I believe this all begins at an early age and/or as we’re initially exposed to Him. Let God be God in this process, and you be there to guide them in their questions. If I can help you in any way work through this, then please don’t hesitate to reach out… firstname.lastname@example.org