A Christian apologist is an individual that can defend Christianity against objections. Unfortunately few adults can defend their own faith, so we expect less from our children. However, raising our daughters to be Christian apologists can help empower them in multiple ways.
A Child’s Question Sparks a Conversation
My eleven-year-old daughter asked me yesterday, “Is it okay if I learn about other religions?” The question was part of a conversation about how other religions object to Christianity. Thankfully, I already had an answer to her question because my husband and I had thought through this before. We knew we wanted to raise a Christian apologist.
God has given us the mandate to raise up our children according to His word. We are to instruct them in the ways of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that they will not depart from them. But their minds are so vulnerable and as parents we have to make decisions on how much to expose to them to and at what age.
Fear Sometimes Guides Our Parenting
Fear sometimes grips us and we want to keep them wrapped in a bubble. When my daughter was a toddler, I would desperately begin to run to her whenever she fell. My husband would stop me midway, bear hug me, and while holding me back whisper, “It is okay. She is okay.”
He didn’t want a child that needed mommy at every bump and bruise. My little rambunctious, curious child became one of the toughest kids I knew. One time she ran full force straight into a glass table, hitting her forehead head on and falling flat on her back. To the surprise of us all, she stared at the ceiling for a few seconds and then got back up and started running again. No tears.
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Later, I appreciated the wisdom in my husband’s actions. I recognized I was letting fear drive my response instead of thinking what was actually in the best interest of my child.
We want our children to know that we are there for them, but to also learn how to manage and handle the bumps and bruises on the way. When my child hurt herself, I learned to watch, give her time to assess her own situation, and only step in when she really needed me or the injury was actually serious.
Helping Kids Wrestle with Difficult Questions Can Be Good
But now we worry about things other than scraped knees or bruised foreheads. We worry about how the world may draw my daughter away from God.
As parents we have three options. Option 1: We can expose them only to a Christian world view and “guarantee” for the 18 years they are with us, that they will “choose” the Christian faith. Option 2: We can introduce them to secular thoughts and ideas, risk that those ideas may take root, but continue to teach them Christian values and ideas. Option 3: We can let them see and be exposed to whatever they want and just pray and hope they will not stray from the faith.
Kids That Can’t Answer Tough Questions About Their Faith, Are More Likely To Walk Away From the Church
My husband and I have chosen option 2 and here is why. I have made mental notes of the stories I have heard of Christian children, raised in the faith, who later walked away. One common denominator seems to be that they faced questions to their faith that they could not answer. There are probably many other reasons why they walked away and the parents may have done everything right, but this one reason has always stuck out to me.
We know that ultimately we will not be able to control whether our children stay in the faith or not. However, we can help them wrestle with difficult questions now so that it doesn’t take them by surprise later.
Kids That Learn to Wrestle Through Difficult Questions Develop a Mental Toughness
Similar to when my husband and I wouldn’t immediately intervene when our daughter fell, we don’t intervene every time a difficult question comes up. We let our daughters consider the question. Think critically through it. We watch “from a distance” and as we see fit, provide feedback, explanations, or further resources as needed.
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We have 18 years with our children before they go off into the world. We have 18 years to help them build a strong faith and that means helping them answer all the hard questions using their own critical thinking skills as well as spiritual tools we have taught them (prayer, Biblical knowledge, etc). So when my daughter asked me if she could study about other religions, I said “Absolutely.”
If Christianity is the true faith, than it should be able to stand against any other faith, belief, or idea and I believe it can. I don’t want my daughter’s first exposure to other religions to be when she is out of our home. I want her to be exposed while she is at home and we can talk and discuss and wrestle with all the issues at hand. I don’t want my fears to keep her in a bubble. I want to raise a little apologist who can confidently answer any objections to Christianity that any one may throw at her.I don't want my fears to keep her in a bubble. I want to raise a little apologist who can confidently answer any objections to Christianity that any one may throw at her. Click To Tweet
Exposure to Other Cultures and Ideas Can Also Help Kids Learn to Love
But I want her to be a lot more than just a good debater. I also want her to see people of different faiths for who they are. They are just people. I want her to be exposed to other cultures and not see people that are different than herself as “the enemy” or to be fearful of them. I want her to know and understand how they came to believe what they believe and I want her to love them whether they agree with her or not. I want her to feel comfortable in their midst all while being fully grounded as a follower of Jesus always responding to their objections with love, grace, and respect.
Parenting is not easy and my husband and I are constantly evaluating, and re-evaluting our parenting strategy. This is where our heart is right now and I do have to say that I am enjoying the conversations I am having with my eleven-year-old. She is curious and insightful and keeps me on my toes. And I just pray that in whatever areas my husband and I may fail, that God will fill in the gaps.
Why Tackling the Hard Questions, Empowers Your Daughters
One of the other benefits of tackling tough questions with your daughters, is that it empowers them. Just by the mere fact that they are girls, our men dominated world will many times dismiss their thoughts and ideas. They will have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously.
But if they can hold their own on questions about evolution, and why a good God would let people suffer, and why other religions do not offer salvation, you will have equipped them. You will have empowered them. They will not walk away from conversations feeling dumb and silly. They will walk away from conversations with an assurance of their faith and the boldness to continue speaking the Gospel truth.One of the other benefits of tackling tough questions with your daughters, is that it empowers them........... They will walk away from conversations with an assurance of their faith and the boldness to continue speaking the Gospel… Click To Tweet
I am interested in your thoughts! Share your comments below!
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Luisa, I love this! I taught in a private Christian school system for 11 years and I always taught my students about Creation and evolution and they would always ask me why I taught evolution if I didn’t believe it was true. I said that I wanted them to be able to make a choice as to what they believed, and you can’t choose unless you have options. So many times we think we can squeeze out any outside influences in our kids’ lives and they’ll end up on the straight and narrow because they don’t know anything else. But the truth is that, although a strong Christian parental influence and teaching truth is vital for our kids, they will never be strong enough to choose God for themselves if they don’t experience what’s out there. We just need to give them the tools that they need to be discerning, and the desire for the Holy Spirit to work in their lives for their good!
It is great to get the opinion of an educator! And it is great to know that your students went into the world having had the tools to make the decision for themselves. I just think it makes for a faith that is based on more solid ground.
Great approach to raising confident, secure young women who also understand being respected. It would be just as important if your children were boys.
Thank you Beth! You are right, this would be important for boys as well!
Thanks for providing this great insight for parents. That fine line we walk…being protective but fostering growth…it’s easy to step too far one way or the other on occasion. So great that your daughter asked you this question! And even more so, how God used her question for you to share this struggle in writing!!
Thank you Jamie!
I SO agree with you. Our kids have to know these things. They must know that followers of other religions are people whom God also loves (for God so loved THE WORLD…), and they must know how these people came to follow their traditions and belief systems. Otherwise, how could our children ever interact in our pluralistic society, and how could they ever love and talk and serve their way into a relationship with these “others” that would even allow them to be good neighbors and to speak the Gospel to them? You are also right that we cannot keep our children in the faith. Only God can. They’re his children more than ours, after all. I love what you said here: “Just by the mere fact that they are girls, our men dominated world will many times dismiss their thoughts and ideas. They will have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. But if they can hold their own on questions about evolution, and why a good God would let people suffer, and why other religions do not offer salvation, you will have equipped them.” There’s a lot of wisdom here, Luisa. I love your posts!
Thank you Melinda! I am glad these posts are resonating with you. It is refreshing to hear from people that get this, but unfortunately it doesn’t always seem to be obvious to every one. I enjoy reading your posts as well and thankful that we can be an encouragement to each other.
Spot on for me Luisa – if you only describe one side of a coin, one version of a topic or concept, then we are not helping the other person think and they cannot come to the same conclusion as us. The “truth” has no need to be protected.
I love how you put it Bob, “The truth has no need to be protected.” Thanks for your comments!
Your daughter’s question is a great question, Luisa 🙂
You are right; often we let fear control us, rather than thinking about what is right to do in the situation.
I think option 2 and 3 are what I’d subscribe to. I’m conservative, but liberal when it comes to thoughts 🙂
Your blog post reminded me of the early history of Christianity. Back then Christianity lived peacefully together with other religions. It was first later that it got bloody and messy.
God bless you and your family!
Thank you Edna for your thoughtful comments!
You are welcome, Luisa 🙂