(Photo Credit: http://joshfults.com)
This weekend, my in-laws had our three kids for an overnight, giving us a much needed break. They picked the kids up around noon on Saturday. My husband and I proceeded to spend the entire rest of the day on the couch, alternating between napping and reading.
Napping and reading!
We are so exhausted that it’s all we could fathom doing on a cherished day free from parenting responsibility.
If you read my blog, you’re probably a parent. If you’re a parent, you’re probably exhausted like we are. I do not take it lightly that I’m going to suggest in this post you need to add more to your job description. But if you care about your kids’ spiritual development (as I know you do!), you have to hear me out.
You need to learn apologetics and be ready to train your children with that knowledge.
What is Apologetics?
An apologetic is a reasoned defense for a belief. Christian apologetics is the defense of why we as Christians believe what we do. The biblical basis for this is 1 Peter 3:15:
“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
Apologetics addresses questions like:
- What evidence is there for God outside the Bible?
- How do we know the Gospels are really eye-witness accounts?
- Was Jesus really God?
- If God is real, why is there so much evil in the world?
- Hasn’t evolution disproven God?
Take a moment and consider if you can honestly answer this sample of questions right now. These questions barely scratch the surface of what you need to be able to address with your kids in today’s world.
Why Every Christian Parent Needs to Care
It’s widely known that at least two-thirds of young adults who grew up in Christian families are turning away from Christianity today. Almost all spiritual leaders agree that training kids with a foundation in apologetics is one of the most important things parents and churches should be doing to address this alarming trend.
You can probably see immediately why, in an increasingly secular world, your kids need robust answers to the tough questions of faith. Apologetics provides those answers. Instead of expanding further on the seemingly obvious, however, I’d like to give you a unique look at why apologetics is so necessary, using a consumer decision-making model that marketers have used for more than one hundred years (I’m in marketing professionally). I believe it has a lot to teach us about spiritual decision making and the role of apologetics. If that sounds complicated, don’t worry – it’s not.
The following funnel represents the psychological steps behind a person’s purchase decisions. We’re going to look at how these same steps can apply to spiritual decisions.
At this stage, a child is learning basic facts about spiritual beliefs and subconsciously assigning importance to those facts. For example, the most basic facts might include things like God is good, God loves me, Jesus died for me, the Bible is important, and I should behave in a way that pleases God. If your kids lived in a forest with no external influences, you could closely guard their understanding of these Christian beliefs and the importance they should have. But awareness is highly impacted by external factors that add other “facts” and change the relative importance of all those “facts.”
One in four Americans under 30 describe their beliefs as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” The spiritual environment in which our kids are growing up is fundamentally changing the Awareness step in the spiritual decision-making process – frequently adding conflicting “facts” to our kids’ awareness, and often decreasing the relative importance of the things they learn from us. Visually, that change looks something like this:
Learning apologetics directly helps our kids critically evaluate the “facts” that enter their awareness so they can determine with confidence what is relevant and what is important. Without such an understanding, the sheer volume of information they are being faced with today easily leads to spiritual confusion and indecisiveness.
It should come as no surprise that the more confusion that resides in the Awareness stage, the less interested many people are in sorting it out. It becomes the equivalent of throwing your hands in the air and saying, “there’s just no way of knowing.” Given that large numbers of people now claim to believe in “nothing in particular,” the statistics bear this out.
Learning apologetics gives our kids tools to know they can sort out competing information in intellectually and spiritually meaningful ways; it naturally increases interest in searching for truth when a person believes there are meaningful answers available. Without developing interest at this stage, a person clearly won’t continue the path to commitment to Christ.
Once people are aware of something and have gained an interest in it, they enter a Consideration stage where they compare the relative merits of it versus other options. Whereas in the Awareness stage, people are more like subconscious “fact collectors and sifters,” in Consideration they are active evaluators who are looking for solutions to problems. People often compare alternatives using mental rules such as what works the best, what they like the best, what they’ve used the most, what important people use, and what costs the least.
Apologetics, at its core, directs people toward making spiritual decisions based on what is true. We can’t make the right choice amongst competing alternatives unless we have the right measuring stick. Apologetics gives kids the right measuring stick – what is true – and gives them the tools for actually doing the measuring. The large number of competing worldviews today makes apologetics absolutely critical at this step.
You might think that once you are aware of something, interested in it, and consider it amongst other options (i.e., the prior three stages), you would be ready to make a decision. This is overwhelmingly not how our mental process works, however. Our intentions to actually make a decision/commitment to something often change over time, due to new information entering our awareness or because of life events that cause us to question what we thought we knew. It can cause a loop where we cycle back to the Awareness stage and start again down the path to making a decision.
Marketing research has shown that the strength of intention to proceed to commitment directly relates to the strength of underlying beliefs from the Awareness stage. Given how much apologetics strengthens the Awareness stage, it is clear that it later influences Intent as well.
Decision (the goal!)
Making a decision for Christ is obviously not the same as making a decision about buying a car. But the psychology behind the steps in our decision making processes have a clear relationship with spiritual decision making. At each step here, apologetics is a key lever for influencing our kids’ ultimate decisions for the Lord. We can’t just ignore that because it seems too time consuming or too difficult to learn. It’s too important. God doesn’t need defending, but our kids need help understanding.
In my next post, I’ll give several ideas for how you can get started with apologetics!
I’d love to hear if you’ve studied apologetics – if so, what questions led you to it? If not, what are your barriers to doing so?