My son loves to build things. Give that kid a few blocks, a couple of boxes, and a some time to himself and a tower of epic proportions will be built. He’s only 4 but he’s had a rather sharp learning curve when it comes to tower building. You see, he likes to build the towers high but he also likes to use the smallest pieces first. As you can imagine, his frustration was evident when he first started building towers because he couldn’t get them very high before they fell over from being top heavy. But now, this kid has it down pat. He builds a strong foundation with his biggest blocks (and he will get all over your case if you put the smallest ones in the wrong place…ask me how I know). His towers are taller than ever and they rarely fall over because… well as the song says, “It’s all about that base.”
Lately I’ve had a number of parents ask me how they can talk to their kids about some of the more sensitive topics that have come up in the news over recent months. To be honest, I’ve struggled with how to respond to them. Partly because I know that people come from a variety of faith traditions. Partly because I don’t think there are easy, simple explanations that I can just sum up in a 600 word blog posts.
But mostly because, I’m not sure we are at that point in the conversation yet.
Studies of Christian homes don’t paint a pretty picture when it comes to some of the basic building blocks of faith in the home.
- For instance, Barna reports that while Bible ownership remains high in America (88% of homes), readership is low (only 37%) with 47% of respondents citing the fact that they were “too busy” to read the Bible.
- A study released by Lifeway asks how often churchgoing Christians read the Bible with only 19% responding that they read Scripture daily and almost the same amount (18%) stating that they “rarely or never” read the Bible.
- Fuller Youth Institute shares that 12% of kids will discuss faith issues with their mom, 5% with their dad and only 9% report regular Bible readings or devotional discussions at home.
So let me me run you through how a typical conversation in our house might run:
“Mom, they are talking a lot about ____________ on the news. What do you think about that?”
“Well, honey, we believe ________________.”
“But Mom, how do you know that? Why do you believe that?”
“Well, as Christians we believe the Bible is God’s word to us, His truth, and it says in the Bible _______________”
Sounds familiar? I mean it’s a pretty simple and logical progression.
Unless of course the only time we talk about the Bible is in this moment. Because then it’s just confusing.
I mean, if the Bible is God’s Word to us and if it is what we use to make decisions about what we believe, shouldn’t we be bringing it up...all the time? Shouldn’t we be reading it to our children and impressing it on their hearts when “we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we go to sleep and when we rise?” (Duet. 6:7) Shouldn’t we be incorporating it into our conversations, reading it in our quiet moments, and studying it in our together moments?
Yes, the Bible does give us direction in regard to situations we encounter Yes, it does contain God’s wisdom for us as we are forming our worldview. Yes, the Bible does provide insight into God’s heart, will, and desire for crises we face the world today.
But the Bible isn’t limited to these moments.
The message of the Bible, the heart of God revealed in its pages, are far more than just why we believe what we do about (insert hot topic of the day). The message of the Bible is greater than our political agenda or our cultural soapbox or even our spiritual calling. The message is one of Love calling, of Hope embodied, of Grace realized. It is an invitation to reconciliation, framed in the call to repentance and clothed in the mantle of love. It’s greatest message is an appeal towards salvation and perfection; an invitation into life with Christ and a return to the original “it is good..”
Our answers to the tough questions need to start with the answers to the life questions; questions that our children may not even know how to ask but sound like, “Am I loved? Do I have a purpose? Is there a God? Does He know my name? Can I know His?”
These answers are found in the Bible and as we read for ourselves and we read to our kids and as we share with them the truth revealed to us in God’s Word, the Bible becomes much more than a rule book we follow or a guide we consult. It becomes for us a connection to Christ, a pathway to His presence for all eternity. It can’t just be our easy answer to the tough questions.
You see, if we start with a solid foundation, namely Jesus Christ, and build on it with the larger building blocks of the Bible, the Church, and the Family, the towers of faith we are building in our children’s hearts have a much better chance of standing, even when the world around them crumbles. But trying to use the bottom pieces as top answers leads to a swaying tower with a weak foundation, easily bending to society’s winds.
The answer to their question starts long before they ask it – it starts with bedtime prayers and whispered blessings, with Scriptures read and verses sung, with spoken truths and impressed commandments. It starts with our own time in the Word, in prayer, in relationship with others and with God.
And it starts and ends in the same place – the love of God in the person of Jesus by the power of the Spirit.
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About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com