Article re-printed with permission from Changing the Face of Christianity.
What happens when a young child asks a probing question, a REAL question about God, Christ,…the truth? Imagine a young child in her teens in a Christian school. Imagine a young man in “Sunday School” at church. Imagine them asking real questions such as “Why can’t I see God?” or “In the Bible, Jesus keeps referring to God as His father. But you say God and Jesus are the same thing. How is that possible?” or “Why would God take my younger brother away in that car accident?”, etc…
How we answer these questions can have a profound impact on the future spirituality (or lack of spirituality) of those impressionable children.
We have two choices when kids ask these questions:
- We can attempt to explain as best we can these mysteries, doing some real research and soul searching ourselves so we can thoughtfully respond. We can take these children seriously as honest seekers who just want honest answers. We can expose them to a greater understanding of the fullness and complexity of God by digging deeper into the Bible with them.
- We can tell them to stop asking questions and to just take it on faith…just believe. We could scold them as class disruptors. We could ridicule them and make them feel silly or stupid for asking questions. We could even punish them for having the audacity to question the teacher or to question God or the Bible.
Now, I hope you are equally shocked by even the possibility of responding the 2nd way as I am. You may even be saying, “Does that really happen? Are you serious?” I am.
I’ve encountered MANY atheists, agnostics, or non-believers who started out as children of Christians…going to Sunday School, Catholic school, or a private Christian school of some sort. They had questions…lots of them. How questions were answered, in many ways, determined their lack of belief.
There are people who can hear a simple truth and believe it without needing to dig much deeper. Jesus referred to this as the faith of a child in Mark 10:15.
Mark 10:13-15 (NIV)
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.
14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Then there are people, much like me, who require more intellectual responses. We don’t just WANT to understand…we NEED to understand.
So, how do you deal with intellectually leaning children…especially when they are young, confused, questioning…and yet still open?
Again, two choices. I urge you to choose #1. Treat them like true seekers that are important enough for us to give a reasoned response….regardless of their age. If you don’t know the answer, tell them so. Work WITH them to find the answers.
Here is what happens when you rebuke a child with questions:
Here is a quote from author Stephanie D. Norris about her book called “Crisis of Religion” . “I could distinctly remember that as a little child (1st or 2nd grade), I instigated some probing questions into a couple Biblical issues that hoisted conflicting contradictions in my head. Instead of my Sunday school teacher answering my questions, and addressing my deep concerns, he conversely scolded me, hauling my rational queries over the coal. He then admonished me to desist from asking such probing questions anymore, but to just believe and accept whatever the church told me.”
Here is another quote from a conversation I had with another Atheist: “When I was 12, the nun who was my teacher grabbed me and shook me while telling me I would go to hell if I didn’t stop making trouble by asking questions in catechism class.”
The result is skepticism and disbelief…not faith. The result, more often than not, is a lost soul.
Here is the bottom line: We don’t need to fear questions. We don’t need to be ashamed or embarrassed when we don’t know the answer. There ARE answers for many of these questions…you must find the answers.
- We MUST NOT reject the person asking the questions (regardless of age).
- We MUST NOT ask these types of students to believe on faith…when they need more.
- We MUST NOT tell them to be quiet and just behave.
These children require special attention…yes MORE than you may have bargained for. It might require you finding answers yourself to questions you’ve never thought to ask. It might require a greater sacrifice of your time to invest in the lives of these special children (who God loves) to truly Disciple them…and teach them.
Being a teacher of children is serious business. How you respond to difficult questions can lead to a lost soul, or to an eternal blessing for generations to come. It’s your choice. Choose wisely.
Where to find answers? Google “Christian or Bible answers” and you will find many sources. Here is one source I found: http://www.rbc.org/bible-study/answers-to-tough-questions/home.aspx
Lastly, I invite you to share your stories with me. If you have a positive story about an inquisitive student who’s faith was strengthened after a teacher took the time to disciple them through their questions, please share it with me. If you have a story where questions were rebuked with negative consequences, I’d like to hear those as well. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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