Several years ago a friend asked how she could broach the topic of God with her teenager. She was a new Christian, so church attendance hadn’t been part of their family routine, although her kids had joined her recent visits and liked it. Then, out of the blue, her eighth-grader complained that he no longer wanted to attend church. Wisely, she asked her son “why?” but found he had no concrete reason. She knew she stood at a crossroads–one most Christian parents face at some point.
She wanted her kids to love God, but…
She didn’t want to pressure.
She wanted to talk to her kids about God, but…
She didn’t want to make her family feel weird.
I understood her dilemma. Spiritual conversations haven’t always been easy for me. This might seem like an odd confession from a Bible teacher and pastor’s wife. But it’s true.
When JP and I first started dating I dreaded spiritual conversations, largely because I felt intimidated by my lack of knowledge compared to his. With people I cared for deeply, I feared talking about God because so much was at stake.
In retrospect, I wavered between being 1)super intimidated and 2)hyper invested. Neither allowed me to talk about God in a way that was just plain normal. As a result, I probably made a whole lot of conversations about God weird.
I suspect you may be nodding your head, thinking, Yep. I can relate.
And yet, I knew then–as you know now–talking about God is important. Especially with those we love, like our kids.
So, how do normal people talk about God in a normal way?
When my friend came to me for advice about how to broach the topic of God with her son, she asked one simple question; the best one, really.
“Where do I start?”
I thought a moment before asking a question of my own. “Have you ever told your son your story?”
“What do you mean?”
“Does your son know what led you to explore a relationship with God after years of neglecting one? Does he know why you decided to become a Christian? Or how? Does he know how your relationship with God changed your life? How it changed you?”
She nodded her head, “no”.
I paused before adding, “If you start with him, he may feel defensive, but if you start with you, he’ll likely be interested. Most kids want to know what goes on in the hearts of their parents–even if they pretend they don’t.”
This was a whole new way of opening the door of conversation. My friend always figured she needed to talk about the theology of God–what we believe and why. She never considered leading with the transformation of God. It was so…well, personal.
And that’s the point.
There’s a two-fold benefit to sharing our spiritual story with our kids (or anyone we love, really):
- They get an intimate view of the real us.
- They get an intimate view of a real God.
The next generation craves intimacy and authenticity. But in our fast-paced, social media crazed world they rarely get what they desperately long for. Sharing our story is an invitation to intimacy with us. And with God. There’s a beautiful simplicity to sharing our story: It requires no more than a willingness to be authentic, genuine and real.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the facts about God are unimportant. Understanding the truth about God is critical. After all, how can we really know God if we don’t really know God?
What we need to know to talk about God normally:
In their insightful new book, So the Next Generation Will Know, Sean McDowell, Ph.D. (Associate professor or Christian apologetics and son of the famous apologist, Josh McDowell) and J. Warner Wallace (A Dateline featured cold-case detective–how cool is that?) give practical ideas for sharing Biblical truth with the next generation. Lots of books describe what is true about God and why we should believe it; this book helps parents, grandparents–anyone who loves kids, teens and young adults–understand how to explain what is true, given the unique challenges kids face today. It’s a great read that will empower you to talk to your pre-teen, teen or young adult in a way they’ll want to listen.
But what if you need answers to tough questions your child, teen or young adult has about God? My fellow writing friend, Natasha Crain, has the best blog resource I know: www.christianmomthoughts.com. A mom of three, she writes and speaks about raising Christian kids in a secular world.
And if you need answers to your own spiritual questions, check out my dear friend and fellow author’s blog, www.jeanejones.net. Jean E’s blog was just named one of the top 18 apologetics sites in the U.S.
All of us want to be able to talk about important things with our family members without feeling weird. The most important thing we can talk about is God. Don’t avoid it. Don’t stress about it. Simply embrace this truth:
Normal people talk about God in a normal way, in their normal life.
You are loved (and so are your kids),
P.S. If you have a resource that’s been helpful, please share it with the rest of us by leaving a comment. Your insight or resource might be what someone else needs now!