Welcome to my new site! (If you’re an email subscriber, you’ll have to click over to see what I’m talking about.)
Every year or so I like to give the blog a facelift. I get tired of looking at the same thing, and I’m sure you do too. This year, as you might expect, I redesigned the site to feature my upcoming book. In honor of the site launch, it seemed appropriate today to post content from the book for the first time (with my publisher’s permission).
I realize there is only so much time in the day to read, and only so much money in the world with which to buy books. By posting actual book content here, I hope to give you a good feel for the style, purpose, and content of my book so you can decide if it’s worth your time and money.
So here you go: Below is the entire introduction to my book. I hope you enjoy it!
What Your Kids Need for a Confident Faith [Introduction from Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith]
I remember the exact day I realized I had no idea what I was doing as a parent.
My twins were four months old and were lying on a blanket in the living room. From birth until that moment, I confidently thrived as a new parent. I had two little humans who had predictable needs that I could manage and fulfill in my controlled home environment. I was one of those people who piled the books high on various philosophies of infant sleep scheduling, feeding, and development. I wanted to do everything perfectly. My twins were sleeping 12 hours per night by 10 weeks old, with 3 precisely scheduled naps and 8 precisely scheduled mealtimes during the day. As a true type A person who gets excited about taking charge, I was totally in my zone.
Then came that day when I stared down at the two four-month-olds lying on the floor. Their eyes expectantly searched mine, as if waiting for me to do something. I ran through my mental checklist of daily baby activities, but it wasn’t time to eat, sleep, or poop. (Yes, I even documented every bowel movement for weeks to ensure my kids were within the expected range.) It wasn’t until that moment that I realized my knowledge wasn’t going to be sufficient for the job much longer. A palpable wave of fear suddenly washed over me: Now what?
I had no idea what to do next. My babies were ready for more, but “more” involved a never-ending sea of child development possibilities. It was no longer enough to keep them alive via my poop journal and sleep schedules (gasp!). Now I would have to help them thrive. I suddenly realized that day that what I had mastered so far wouldn’t be enough.
When our twins were toddlers, my husband and I started thinking about new areas of parenting with seemingly endless possibilities: how to raise our kids to learn about, love, and follow Jesus. Frankly, I had no idea how to do that beyond taking them to church each week. As someone who was raised in a Christian home yet later spent years fighting spiritual apathy and doubt, I was all too familiar with the complexities of faith. If I had so much trouble figuring out my own faith, how on Earth was I going to help my kids figure out theirs?
To help me in the process, I casually decided to start a Christian parenting blog so I could connect with other parents and share ideas for building a Christ-centered home. That turned out to be a fateful decision. My blog did introduce me to other Christian parents… but it also introduced me to a world of skeptics.
Portrait of a Hostile World
After I had been blogging for several months, I became interested in learning about the creation-versus-evolution debate and spent time studying it in-depth. I wanted to share what I had learned with other Christian parents, so I created and posted a flowchart showing the six major views people have on the subject (see chapter 33).
The post went viral—amongst atheists.
Within a few hours, it reached over 26,000 people and received almost 300 comments, most of which were personal attacks against me or the intelligence of Christians in general. Here’s a sampling of the responses to my post:
“Yeah, facts and rational thought aren’t very important for these crazies.”
“Intelligent and religious are mutually exclusive. There is no god. End of debate.”
“Please, don’t tell me people actually believe this.”
“Debating a Christian is impossible. They rely on ‘faith’ (fantasy) where an atheist relies on evidence.”
“If your children are smart, they will ask for proof… unless you already brainwashed them to the point they won’t DARE ask why out of fear that some imaginary sky being will torture them for eternity for asking such a simple question.”
“Remember, folks, these people are breeding!”
I have to admit, I was shocked by these attacks. I grew up in a Christian home and, as an adult, rarely had friends or co-workers who were antagonistic to faith. Once I had kids, my world got even smaller. Without the luxury of significant free time, I found myself limiting friendships to a handful of people who were like me—in the same life stage and sharing the same values. I simply had never been so challenged in my faith as I was the day I received those scathing comments. I’m grateful now, because that day changed my life.
It was then that I realized how utterly unprepared I was to explain to nonbelievers—and, ultimately, my kids—why I believe in Jesus.
I knew that had to change.
I immersed myself nearly nonstop in learning how to make a case for and defend Christianity—a discipline called Christian apologetics. Although my passion for apologetics started because of my role as a blogger, I discovered in the process why an understanding of apologetics is even more important for my role as a parent. I learned that attacks on Christianity—like those I experienced on my blog—are driving young people away from faith in droves.
Our kids desperately need our help. Here’s what’s happening.
Outcomes of a Hostile World
61% of kids who were involved in church as recently as their teenage years become spiritually disengaged by their 20s—not actively praying, reading the Bible or attending church.
This finding, based on the extensive surveys of researcher George Barna, is the alarm that has sent pastors, youth leaders, and young adult ministries desperately searching for answers. Multiple independent groups have since conducted their own studies and have identified the same trend—with some estimates of those turning away from Christianity as high as 88 percent.
Why is this happening? Having studied the various survey results in depth, I think it’s fair to summarize the collective problem in one sentence: A lack of robust spiritual training has resulted in a featherweight faith for many of today’s young adults, and that faith is being blown away by attacks from our secular culture.
Young people are turning away from faith because they’ve accepted the popular claims that Christianity is irrational, antiscience, intolerant, and based on an irrelevant ancient book. These claims have compelling answers from a Christian worldview, but young people aren’t leaving home equipped with those answers. For example, fewer than 1 in 10 Christian families read the Bible together during a typical week, and a study of 11,000 teenagers showed that only 12 percent of youth have regular conversations with their mom on faith issues. Most kids growing up in Christian homes aren’t receiving anything remotely resembling the spiritual training they need to have a lasting faith.
After young adults turn away from Christianity, they’re turning to atheism or agnosticism. The percent of Americans identifying as Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox has decreased 6 percent just since 2007. Meanwhile, the percentage who identify as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular” has grown by 4.3 percent. This trend is even more striking among young adults. Thirty-eight percent of atheists are now 18 to 29 years old, compared with 29 percent of the general public. The decline in Christians clearly corresponds to the increase in these groups.
Even with steadily rising numbers, the total percent of atheists and agnostics is currently only 5 percent in America. That number is highly misleading, however, when it comes to quantifying their spiritual impact. Atheists and agnostics represent much more than 5 percent of the voices kids will hear in the media and see online because so many of them are passionately engaged in advocating their worldview. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. They’re as free to share their beliefs as we are. But it does mean young Christians are actively being drawn into a worldview battle that wasn’t so prominent even 10 years ago. Unfortunately, they’re losing their faith in that battle because they haven’t been equipped for the fight. If you want to keep your kids on God’s side, you’ll have to make sure they’re armed.
Solutions for a Hostile World
So what should Christian parents do? We need to raise our kids with a faith that’s specifically prepared for the challenges they’ll face. Let me explain.
We take this idea of specific preparation for granted in our everyday lives. If we’re going to the beach, we bring a beach ball. If we’re going out in the rain, we bring an umbrella. If we’re going camping, we bring a tent. And if we’re aiming to do something highly challenging, we make extra sure we’re prepared. For example, imagine you want to climb Mount Everest. If you don’t know and physically prepare for the specific challenges you’ll face—for example, the temperatures, the oxygen level, and the elevation gain—there’s no way you’ll make it to the top. No one would blindly show up at the mountain having done a few jumping jacks.
How much more important is the goal of raising kids to know and love Jesus? Yet most Christian parents are doing the spiritual equivalent of a few jumping jacks at the mountain of their kids’ faith development. They have little idea of the spiritual challenges their children will face, and consequently aren’t doing what is specifically needed to prepare them for those encounters. Simply taking them to church each Sunday isn’t going to cut it (nor should it).
Here’s my call to action: We have to stop winging our Christian parenting and start getting in shape to prepare our kids for what’s ahead.
Consider this book your personal trainer.
How This Book Will Help You
Based on my experience engaging with skeptics of Christianity, I’ve selected what I believe are the 40 faith conversations parents most urgently need to have with their kids (over time, of course—I’m not suggesting that “urgently” means in the next couple of weeks!). This “training plan” will (1) introduce you to today’s hot-button topics of faith, and (2) give you concise, easy-to-understand answers that will prepare you for these discussions with your kids.
What this book does not do is actually script the conversations you should have. But there’s a good reason for that: Every family has a unique set of personalities, ages, interests, relationships, and spiritual histories, so an effective one-size-fits-all conversation plan would be impossible to create. In order for dialogue to be meaningful, you’ll need to tailor your discussions for your own family.
Although the chapters are somewhat independent of one another, I recommend that you read them sequentially, from chapter 1 to 40. The conversations have been arranged in a framework that will help you build your knowledge in the most logical and impactful way.
On a final note, in case you’re wondering how you would ever have time to talk with your kids about the subjects in this book, rest assured that I completely understand how you’re feeling. I have three young children. My time is also sucked away by explaining for the one-millionth time why sharing is important, shuttling kids to sports events, and figuring out how to get my kids to (please, please) stop fighting. I get it. The thought of talking with your children about challenging issues of faith in the midst of all that can sound unrealistic or flat-out impossible. But it’s not. It’s really not. You’ll be surprised at how often opportunities arise to talk about faith once you’re on the lookout for them.
So let’s get to it! First up: What evidence is there for God’s existence?