When Kids Question Their Faith (Part 2)

by Sean McDowell

You’re now a father and have a thriving apologetics ministry of your own. What advice would you give to parents whose kids express doubts about Christianity?

Sean: First, I’d tell them not to panic. I generally see kids doubting their faith as a good thing. As a teacher, I spend much of my time and energy trying to convince kids that their beliefs about God really matter. When young people say they doubt their faith, I know that they are at least thinking about important issues, and they want to know the truth. This is a good start!

However, it’s important to recognize that not all doubt is equal. Doubt can be driven intellectually, but more often than not, it is driven by emotional or volitional reasons. And while emotions are good and normal, they’re not always correct. Unfortunately, those emotions get projected onto an intellectual question, and it becomes really easy to confuse the two. Astute parents can see through the doubts to their kids’ hearts and help them sort out the emotions from the intellectual concerns.

Josh: If your child’s doubt is rooted mostly in emotion, it’s a good idea to share how you came to the conviction of your own faith. What led you to believe it was true? It’s also critically important to reinforce that your love is not based on the conclusions your child comes to. He needs to know his doubts will never change your love for him. This sets a child free to look for truth intellectually, not based on emotion.

Sean: Remember that the freedom kids feel to express their doubt is largely due to the relationship parents have built with them before they hit this period. And if kids know they are unconditionally loved and cherished, they will be much more receptive to the involvement and loving guidance of their parents during questioning periods.

What would you say to parents of children who have completely rejected the Christian faith?

Sean: I can only imagine how painful this would be for parents. I have talked with many moms and dads who have gone through this, and my encouragement is to just never give up. Keep praying and believing that God can change even the hardest of hearts. Focus on building a healthy relationship with your child.

Josh: Right, reinforce that your love for him has nothing to do with his faith. Second, take an honest look at your own life, and ask if there is something in your marriage, family or personal life that has led to this. Often hypocrisy causes young people to question the faith of their parents. Third, pray privately for that child, and be sure not to embarrass him or her publicly. Keep the doors of communication open. Let your child talk and share his beliefs without correcting him or being judgmental. Try to understand what your child really believes, and ask God for wisdom to help channel those beliefs toward good…

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RECOMMENDED RESOURCES: Teaching Children The Gospel: How To Raise Godly Children / Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith and How to Bring Them Back / Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church / More suggestions…