Six Scary But Important Words Every Christian Parent Should Say to Their Kids About Faith

Six Scary But Important Words Every Christian Parent Should Say to Their Kids About Faith

Last week during our Bible time with the kids, we were talking about God’s love for us and what exactly that means. As the conversation progressed, I asked my kids (ages 6 and 5), “And how do we even know God loves us?” For purposes of that particular conversation, I was simply expecting them to answer that the Bible tells us about God’s character. Instead, my daughter said, “Because you told us so.”

My reply left my lips before I could ponder the full implications of what I was about to declare.

“Oh, no, no, no. I never want you to believe things about God just because I told you so.”

Internal gasp. Did I really just cast a shadow of doubt on my parental credibility? Did I just make my kids think they should take my spiritual guidance with a grain of salt? Did I just lead my kids to stop caring what I have to say about God?

My daughter looked at me with a bit of impatience.

“Mommy, what I mean is that God told the people who wrote the Bible, then they told people, then eventually your parents told you and you told us.”

At that moment, I had a choice. I could have taken the easy road and bought back my statement by saying, “Oh, OK. In that case, yes”…or I could have committed to the underlying value in my original statement by pushing her to think more critically about what she had just said.

I chose the latter.

“I like how you’re starting to think about this. But what about kids who have parents who don’t believe in God, and their parents are passing down that teaching? They don’t believe God exists because their parents told them that’s what’s true. God either exists or He doesn’t, but we can’t determine that just based on what our parents say…different parents say different things. Do you see the problem?”

She nodded tentatively, then I landed the plane in what I realized to be a pivotal moment in my daughter’s spiritual development.

“Honey, there’s nothing more important in this life than what you believe about God and Jesus. But people believe lots of different things about whether or not God exists and who Jesus was. If I let you grow up to believe in Jesus just because I spend the next 12 years telling you over and over that what I’m saying is true, you won’t know what to think when other people tell you something totally different. God has given me the job to not only teach you the truth, but to teach you what excellent reasons there are for believing in Him so you can discover that truth yourself. If someone asks why you’re a Christian when you grow up and all you can say is, ‘because my parents were Christians!’ I will not have done my job well. I need to make sure you know all the good reasons for trusting in Jesus so you can make that decision yourself. Don’t believe just because I do.

My daughter’s eyes twinkled with an unspoken delight in the trust and responsibility I had just handed her. Even at age six, I could tell she thought that was a big deal.

 

Six Things That Will Happen When You Tell Your Kids Not to Believe Just Because You Do

So that’s a pretty scary conversation to have with your kids, right? We may internally want our kids to believe in Jesus for their own reasons, and not just because we believe, but it takes things to a whole other level when you verbalize that desire to them. It’s easy to fear that you’ll lose spiritual credibility or that your kids will care less about what you have to say.

But, in retrospect, I believe that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, after pondering it a lot this week, I think those six words are a vitally important declaration every Christian parent should explicitly make:

Don’t believe just because I do.

When you commit to that conversation, six things will happen.

 

1. You’ll demonstrate the importance of your kids developing a personal, owned faith.

As I’ve written about before, it’s very easy to raise kids who leave home with a “borrowed faith”—one that mimics the external behavior of those around them but never becomes part of their internal identity. A borrowed faith leaving home can be just as dangerous as an already broken faith. The result is often the same, just delayed. By having this conversation, you are effectively putting the faith ball in their court and explaining to them how important it is that they own their faith…something many (if not most) kids would never otherwise consider. Their need to make an active decision about their beliefs will be made obvious.

 

2. You’ll demonstrate how confident you are in what you believe.

By telling your kids you want them to discover the truth of Christianity on their own, you’re effectively saying, “I’m so confident that what I believe is true, I don’t want you to take my word for it. I’m going to help you discover that yourself so you can be as confident about your beliefs as I am.”

That is powerful.

 

3. You’ll intentionally open their eyes to the fact that faith is not a simple belief.

By virtue of the fact you’re telling your kids that you’re going to teach them over time how to discover the truth of Christianity themselves, you’re naturally introducing them to the fact that Christianity is based on good reasons for belief that they can learn about and isn’t a simple belief system based on blind faith (a common assertion from the secular world).

 

4. You’ll give them implied permission to seek, question, and discover.

When you have this conversation, you’re setting the whole tone for spiritual development in your house. You’re letting your kids know that you expect their childhood to be filled with seeking, questioning, and discovery rather than automated acceptance of handed-down beliefs. You’re opening a very important door for future faith conversations.

 

5. You’ll enable long-term confidence that they believe in Jesus for the right reasons.

One of the most common tactics atheists use to make young Christians rethink their beliefs is to claim that they are only Christians because they were born in a Christian home or in a Christian country; in other words, they’ll tell your kids they were indoctrinated based on the situation they happen to have been born into.

But guess what happens when your kids know that’s not why they believe in Jesus?

They’ll be completely unfazed by it.

 

6. You’ll put yourself on the hook for following through.

All of this assumes you actually follow through and mold your Christian parenting efforts accordingly. It means committing to working on your kids’ spiritual development regularly at home. It means learning how to make a case for and defend Christianity yourself (you can’t teach it if you don’t know it). It means being willing to engage in those conversations with your kids. If you tell your children you don’t want them to believe just because you do, you make yourself accountable for taking your efforts to the next level. That’s a good thing.

(If you feel intimidated by that, check out my books. I walk you through the most important conversations about faith that you need to have with your kids in today’s world.)

 

Take the Challenge

If you haven’t had this conversation with your kids, pray about it. Then do it in the full confidence that you’re shaping their view of faith in a way that will benefit them for life. If you’re willing, come back and share here in the comments about what happened in your conversation!

13 Comments

  1. Satscout on October 29, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    That, my dear, was brilliant. 🙂



  2. Troy on October 29, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    Such a well-thought out and relevant post. To those parents who read it, I see them being forced to really reflect on their faith – is it really their own or even as adults, are they subscribing to a borrowed belief?



  3. Joyce on October 29, 2015 at 2:45 PM

    This article is wonderful! I pray many parents will be encouraged and take the time to have the discussions with their child/children! I wish this had been available when I was a young mother! Thankfully, God fills in all the many gaps I left!



  4. Alisa Childers on October 29, 2015 at 7:18 PM

    I have been going through the book of Daniel with my 7 year old every night before bed, and she has been eating it up. Every night she is excited to find out what happens next with Daniel and his friends, and she has even excitedly prayed that God would help her to learn and grow in knowledge like Daniel. I thought we were all good!

    After reading this blog post, tonight I decided to begin with a question. I asked her, “Why do you believe the Bible is true?” Without skipping a beat she said, “Because it’s what you believe.” I was stunned.

    This was a very powerful and important blog post. Thank you for writing it!



  5. Ian on October 30, 2015 at 5:25 PM

    You forgot number 7.

    If left to decide for themselves kids will eventually understand that religion is nonsense.

    It’s only because parents indoctrinate their kids that they believe in crap like that.



  6. Lynnia Watkins on October 31, 2015 at 5:48 AM

    My kids are ten and thirteen, twenty one and twenty-five. I didn’t know how to teach apologetics when the oldest were small, but it has become a priority with the youngest. I think there has to be a shift in the coming generations for them to fully understand, and be able to give a reason for their faith. Borrowed faith is as you say, very detrimental to their spirituality and does indeed cause a faith crisis. I love the work you are doing, and use your posts often in talking with my kids. Thank you so much for taking your time to answer this call in your life. I’ll be praying for you!



  7. Nike on November 1, 2015 at 3:19 PM

    Great post Natasha! My kids are 10 and 7. We have just started learning some memory verses . The current one is Psalm 19:7-9 : the law of the Lord is perfect , converting the soul…… So far, kids are enjoying reciting it.

    Then I decided to ask them if they knew why we were even learning the memory verse. Oldest: so we can be better persons and go to heaven. Youngest: ( in the most honest and confused voice) , well.. What’s even the point of the memory verses if we don’t know if God is real? How do we know if he’s really there? How do we even know if the bible is true and memory verses are true?
    Oops! I was shocked, then I realised the need to go back to the basics. The Case for God’s existence 101, what we believe and why we believe( Christian faith).

    Thanks for this amazing post , very eye opening yet empowering. you are such a blessing to our generation.



  8. Jen Harwood on November 2, 2015 at 7:03 AM

    I have said these words to my kids before, but never thought of them as scary. Perhaps that’s because I did not grow up in a Christian home, so I know the value of thinking for myself rather than thinking only what my parents taught me. I made my own decisions, and keep making my own decisions, and expect to have to train my own kids to do the same. Really we have to do this in all areas of our lives or we will end up parenting our kids (in a bad way) for the rest of their lives (I’ve seen a lot of that!).



  9. Katherine on November 3, 2015 at 8:29 AM

    I came to your blog this morning because I love it … and also in a minor panic because my 9 year old asked me today how we know that the people who wrote the bible aren’t just “playing a trick on us” – as she put it.
    I grew up in the church but lived very much on a borrowed faith that fizzled out in my early adulthood. I’m 35 now and it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve found my way fully back. My husband grew up un-churched and is openly agnostic at this point in his life.
    Our children (9 and 5) already understand, more so than most kids their age, that different people believe different things about God. I’ve always felt guilty that my husband and I couldn’t present a cohesive belief system, but your post made me realize this is an opportunity to help my girls build a strong faith now. I suspect I’ll get to work side by side with them to address questions that perhaps they otherwise wouldn’t have encountered until they were much older and less inclined to ask Mom’s opinion. Thank-you!



  10. Lydia Etuk Udofia on November 4, 2015 at 7:19 AM

    Great post, so true!



  11. Stephen Barber on December 2, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    Excellent post Natasha! I love your straightforward honesty. It shows that you are a woman of integrity; and considering the subject you address consistently (Christian parenting), it also shows that you are a great wife and mother.Your husband and children are truly blessed having you as wife and mom!

    What you say in this particular post is so critical in the development and growth of our dear children. Any Christian parent worth their salt desires to see their children grow up into responsible, well adjusted adults who are not wandering aimlessly through life spiritually; whose life is all about JESUS, not the flesh. They want them to come into their own when it comes to God and what they believe. You are right on the mark in what you told your daughter. I have heard many preachers rightly state to young people that you can’t go to heaven on your parents coat tails. Meaning, each child must have their own personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. They must come to their own realization of this reality: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.” (John 3:1-7)

    The proper way for Christian parents to evangelize their children is to teach and instruct them daily by practice (beloved example), and by precept (Biblical expounding). “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6) One of the best things Christian parents can tell their kids is: “Don’t take my word for it; ask God himself!” Then point them to the Bible, and help develop a love for God’s word in them by loving it yourself so that, with David, they may say, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Ps.
    119:11) Also, pray for them, which is key, because it is God’s Holy Spirit alone that can deal with their hearts and draw them to Jesus; that can reveal Christ to them, as well as their need of him to save them from their sins.

    If there’s one thing our nation is desperately in need of, it is young people who are saved by Jesus Christ and sold out to him; who desire to have a true relationship with him; to know him and make him known to everyone they come in contact with; to have an eternal perspective, understanding the brevity of earthly life and the permanency of eternal life; to live holy lives as faithful witnesses for God’s glory; knowing their own accountability to him, how awesome he is, and how gracious and merciful he has been to them, seeing they are nothing but wicked, filthy, hell deserving sinners on their own. When a child comes to that understanding, we may be certain that they will be used mightily of God for his honour and glory! Which would make the heart of any Christian parent rejoice greatly! Amen!



  12. Kimber on September 16, 2017 at 5:17 PM

    I asked my 9 year old. Why do you believe in God. She said “because the Bible says to”. I asked if she believed what the Bible said was true. She said yes. I asked why. She said because I asked Jesus into my heart.
    I said good, I wouldn’t want you to believe something just cause I do.
    Then she was off.
    I asked my husband the same question. He said “You have to believe in something”.
    Such a deep question. I never thought of asking. Thank you for this blog.



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