5 Common Answers to Kids’ Questions about God That Can Do More Harm Than Good

5 Common Answers to Kids’ Questions about God That Can Do More Harm than Good

A couple of years ago, my husband and I were invited to a dinner party with a few other new parents from our kids’ Christian elementary school. After we worked our way through appetizers and the requisite small talk, the conversation turned to our respective faith backgrounds. One of the moms confessed that, as much as she loved the Lord, she struggled with how to share her faith with her son—so she had enrolled him at a Christian school where others might be able to do a “better job.”

Another mom replied, “Well, I don’t worry too much about it. I just tell my daughter that believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus. Some people believe, and some don’t. It’s a matter of faith.”

I glanced over at the mom who said that, ready to laugh with her at the idea of placing God and Santa in the same category.

But she wasn’t laughing.

She had just matter-of-factly shared what she honestly thought was a helpful way of explaining belief in God’s existence to her daughter.

Now, if an atheist had overheard this dinner party conversation, he or she would have delighted in my friend’s comparison of God and Santa because that’s precisely how atheists want us to think . . .

  • God and Santa: two entities with no evidence to demonstrate their existence.
  • God and Santa: childish beliefs people should outgrow once they understand there’s no evidence to demonstrate their existence.

Without realizing it, this mom was playing right into the hands of atheists. She was talking about God in a way that could actually damage her daughter’s faith eventually, given the types of challenges she’s likely to encounter.

As Christian parents, it’s critical that we understand our job isn’t to just talk about God in any way we can.

How we talk about God matters.

I was reminded of this fact—and my God vs. Santa experience—when I joined a Christian parenting Facebook group recently. Within a couple of days, I saw someone post that her 12-year-old son was suddenly struggling to believe in God and was asking his mom how we know God exists. She asked the group what she should tell him.

Dozens of parents chimed in, but almost all of the answers offered were in the “God and Santa” category—answers that can actually do more harm than good. It was really disheartening.

So today I want to share five kinds of responses I saw—and see often—that we should avoid when our kids ask questions about God’s existence.

5 Answers That Can Do More Harm Than Good

1. (Just) have more faith.

I don’t know if any word today is more misused than “faith.” For example, several people replied something to the effect of, “It just takes faith. Tell him this is what faith is all about.”

This answer implies that even when we don’t think God exists, we just need to somehow summon up enough “faith” (sheer force of will?) to hold on to our beliefs. But that’s not what biblical faith is all about. Biblical faith is trusting in what we have good reason to believe is true—not committing ourselves ever more strongly to a blind leap in the dark with no rational basis.

When we understand that, we can see why it doesn’t make sense to answer a child’s question about God’s existence by telling him or her to just have more faith. Faith comes from the conviction that something or someone is worth trusting. The answer, therefore, isn’t to tell kids to focus on the outcome of conviction—it’s to increase their conviction by giving them solid reasons to believe God exists.

 

2. (Just) pray.

Many people said that the mom should start praying fervently for her son and tell him he needs to pray as well. I would say that too.

But it should be clear from every part of the Bible that we must pray and take earthly action. Noah didn’t just pray to be saved from the flood; he built an ark. Joshua didn’t just pray to conquer the Canaanites; he marched around Jericho. Paul didn’t just pray that the gentile world would come to know Jesus; he spent the rest of his life on missionary journeys.

So, yes, pray. But don’t stop there. Kids need to learn why there’s good reason to believe there’s actually a God to pray to.

 

3. That’s (just) the enemy attacking you.

I’ll never forget reading a detailed “About Me” page written by a young man who grew up in a Christian family but eventually lost his faith…and became a vocal atheist. Over and over, he came back to the fact that his family and church didn’t answer the specific questions he had. Instead, they continually reiterated that he was under attack from the enemy and he just needed to mentally fight against his doubts. For a long time, his faith hung on by a thread; he no longer believed in God but told himself that it was only Satan making him think that way. Eventually he gave up and let go of the thread.

As with the first two points, there is certainly truth to the reality of spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” People were quick to point this out to the mom on Facebook.

But the fact that someone may be under spiritual attack doesn’t lessen the need to offer them specific answers to their questions. Offering those answers—in this case, the evidence for God’s existence—actually grounds them in the truth that allows them to withstand spiritual attack.

 

4. General restatements of Christian belief that don’t address the question asked.

Several of the Facebook responses said something like, “Remind him [the child] that God loves him and Jesus died for him.” Well, yes, God does love him and Jesus did die for him. It certainly never hurts to remind anyone of that. But if a child is asking how we even know God exists in the first place, this kind of statement is unlikely to help him or her through a spiritual crisis.

 

5. Silence.

Another suggestion was to just be patient, as this is a “phase” many kids go through. Silence, however, says so much. To a child doubting God’s existence, it says, “I don’t have good answers for your questions so I’ll just be over here in the corner waiting this whole thing out.” And if mom and dad don’t have good answers, kids are unlikely to assume good answers exist elsewhere. Silence is not golden.

 

Need Help with Better Answers?

Parents, questions of God’s existence are foundational to our kids’ faith. We have to get these conversations right, particularly in a world that challenges the fact of God’s existence each and every day.

That’s exactly why I wrote my new book, Talking with Your Kids about God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have. I wanted to help parents not just talk with their kids about God, but do so in the ways most needed by kids growing up in a secular world. In the book, you’ll find five sections that will prepare you to discuss how we know God is real and what we can know about Him from many different angles (check out the full table of contents here):

  • The Existence of God
  • Science and God
  • The Nature of God
  • Believing in God
  • The Difference God Makes

Every chapter even has a step-by-step conversation guide. If this looks like a valuable resource for your family, church, or school, please take a minute to pre-order it now at christianbook.combn.com, or amazon.com. It comes out in just a few weeks, and your early support encourages retailers to stock it!


Let’s work together to give our kids the answers they deserve. We don’t want anyone ever to grow up thinking there’s no more evidence for God than there is for Santa.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2).

14 Comments

  1. Dan Daniel on August 17, 2017 at 11:10 AM

    Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth



  2. Rachel on August 17, 2017 at 12:26 PM

    Great article ! so true.
    it’s so sad when parents are not equipped to answer their kids questions



  3. Jaime Hampton on August 17, 2017 at 12:46 PM

    I love this, Natasha! So true. The thing I love most about your book(s) & blog is the way they take the fear out of meeting these hard questions head-on, giving parents a springboard to get quiet kids to start talking about God and giving those of us with more vocal children amazing references to use to address their specific questions. I absolutely can’t wait for your new book to come out!



    • Suzanne on August 18, 2017 at 3:30 AM

      I agree and hear similar comments wevare in a different world than 30 or 40 yrs ago when borrowed faith was more the norm. Young children need to ecperience Scripture as real in their daily lives. We need to approach this challenge head on. I know the Barna Group showed a graph of the relevance of the Bible and millenials were under 30% vs boomers over 60% Suzanne Walker



  4. Sue Mattson on August 18, 2017 at 9:38 AM

    For your comment #2 I would add it is true that you don’t just pray. However, the action must be in obedience to what God tells you. Both Noah and Joshua did what God specifically told them to do. Jesus said he did only what the Father told him to do. When we pray we must be ready to listen to what God tells us to do. If we don’t seem to get a specific answer, then study the Bible and be patient.



  5. Cornelia Cree on August 18, 2017 at 5:55 PM

    Good article. Kids ask a question but then there is the other question really in their minds. That underlying question is the one you need to answer if you can be sure you know it. For example, a question about “will God protect us if there is an earthquake” might really be, “can I count on you and daddy not to divorce?



  6. Isi on August 21, 2017 at 1:48 AM

    I agree with your comment on our actions being led by what God tells us to do, the Bible clearly says they that are led by the Spirit are children of God. Now, since that is established, what is God’s word saying concerning the question of doubt our kids might have? In order words, what is our response in obedience to God’s word concerning this particular issue?



  7. Andrew on August 21, 2017 at 1:26 PM

    These parents with the bad answers likely share blame with their pastors who don’t provide the necessary equipping instruction from the pulpit.



  8. Bob Seidensticker on August 22, 2017 at 7:05 PM

    Let the children decide for themselves; don’t force belief on them. Personally, I think God is very much like Santa Claus, and the evidence for both are about the same.

    Christian parents often worry about college challenging their children’s faith. But if Christianity is historically true, shouldn’t college *increase* their faith as they get smarter?



  9. […] 5 Common Answers to Kids’ Questions about God That Can Do More Harm than Good: http://christianmomthoughts.com/5-common-answers-to-kids-questions-about-god-that-can-do-more-harm-t… […]



  10. Rachael on August 30, 2017 at 9:02 PM

    I became an Atheist at age 11 because neither my parents nor my youth group pastors could answer my questions. So I thought that Christian were nice but dumb and it wasn’t until I read a book when I was 15 that actually had answers that I became a Christian.



  11. […] lacking in context) * Mark Gilbert: Is the Catholic Church a Christian church? * Natasha Crain: 5 Common Answers to Kids’ Questions about God That Can Do More Harm Than Good * Mike Robinson: Wow! The Power and Proof for the Resurrection of Christ * Nathan Hoff: Why […]



  12. […] A couple of years ago, my husband and I were invited to a dinner party with a few other new parents from our kids’ Christian elementary school. After we worked our way through appetizers and the requisite small talk, the conversation turned to our respective faith backgrounds. One of the moms confessed that, as much as she loved the Lord, she struggled with how to share her faith with her son—so she had enrolled him at a Christian school where others might be able to do a “better job.” Another mom replied, “Well, I don’t worry too much about it. I just tell my daughter that believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus. Some people believe, and some don’t. It’s a matter of faith.” I glanced over at the mom who said that, ready to laugh with her at the idea of placing God and Santa in the same category. But she wasn’t laughing. She had just matter-of-factly shared what she honestly thought was a helpful way of explaining belief in God’s existence to her daughter. Now, if an atheist had overheard this dinner party conversation, he or she would have delighted in my friend’s comparison of God and Santa because that’s precisely how atheists want us to think . . . God and Santa: two entities with no evidence to demonstrate their existence. God and Santa: childish beliefs people should outgrow once they understand there’s no evidence to demonstrate their existence. Without realizing it, this mom was playing right into the hands of atheists. She was talking about God in a way that could actually damage her daughter’s faith eventually, given the types of challenges she’s likely to encounter. As Christian parents, it’s critical that we understand our job isn’t to just talk about God in any way we can. How we talk about God matters. I was reminded of this fact—and my God vs. Santa experience—when I joined a Christian parenting Facebook group recently. Within a couple of days, I saw someone post that her 12-year-old son was suddenly struggling to believe in God and was asking his mom how we know God exists. She asked the group what she should tell him. Dozens of parents chimed in, but almost all of the answers offered were in the “God and Santa” category—answers that can actually do more harm than good. It was really disheartening. So today I want to share five kinds of responses I saw—and see often—that we should avoid when our kids ask questions about God’s existence. continue reading To read the rest, click here! […]



  13. Esther Ee on September 7, 2017 at 12:22 PM

    AMEN! I need this as a mother of two.. I Just found this Blog! God Blessed you more Natasha! I will read this again and more of your Blogs, but now let me share it 🙂