Recently I went to judge at a speech and debate tournament, and much to my surprise I found out that a little book that I made for the junior speakers when I directed a tournament several years before was still being used. This was really my first attempt at writing, and it was a little booklet of apologetic questions and answers that I made for the children aged 6-11 who were competing in the NCFCA-National Christian Forensics and Communications Association.
The NCFCA is a speech and debate league for homeschool students. They offer a speech category for apologetics, which is a fancy word for defending your faith. When my eldest son was in junior high and high school, he spent all 6 years seeking answers to the 150 questions of the faith that were the questions that made up that event of the competition. Participating in this activity was really helpful in forming his worldview, and seeking things out on his own. It gave him an opportunity to answer questions like explain the meaning and significance of sanctification, justification, and propitiation. Which are some really big words, and even bigger concepts for a 12-year-old?
When I wrote this booklet my youngest son was in junior speech and would be competing in Apologetics the following year. I really wanted him to start working on some of those difficult theological concepts, and I remembered how daunting tackling 150 questions of the faith were to a lot of the kids in the league. If you have ever heard the expression, how do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time. Well, I don’t know anyone who has ever eaten an elephant, but I thought it was a pretty good analogy for my youngest son, and the other kids his age, to begin exploring these questions of the faith. One bite or one concept at a time. And if they could start with 10 questions, then they could do 10 more, and another 10 and so on.
So I took 10 of the 150 questions, with at least one question from each of the five categories. So they could have exposure to each of the five categories.
- EXISTENCE AND NATURE OF GOD
- THE NATURE, PURPOSE, AND DESTINY OF MAN
- SALVATION or HOW TO KNOW GOD
- THE PERSON OF CHRIST
Armed with my ESV study bible in hand, I set out to explain concepts like the Omniscience and Omnipresence of God in simple basic terms, along with some key memory verses.
I believe it is important that my kids know what they believe, and why they believe it, because as old adage says, “If they don’t stand for something, they will fall for anything.” Also, as we learn from the warning in Collisions 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Why is this important? Because according to the Barna group, “Parents and leaders have long been concerned about the faith development of the generation born between 1984 and 2002—and for good reason. First, Barna research shows nearly six in ten (59%) of these young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away from either their faith or from the institutional church at some point in their first decade of adult life.” That means that more than half of the kids that currently go to church are leaving the faith!
I think our kids have a better chance of staying in the church and following Christ if they know what they believe and why they believe it. It is our job and responsibility as parents to teach our children in the way they should go, but it is up to them to own their faith and walk it out.
My belief on this subject has been recently challenged, as my eldest son has decided to leave the church we attend as a family in search of his own church home. At first, I was a little hurt by this, because I love having my family all together digging into God’s word, and worshipping with them. But then I realized this is exactly what I taught him to do. He is firmly grounded in what he believes and why he believes it so he will not get swept away by empty deceit or human tradition. As a man, my son does have to make his own way, and he is the one who is responsible for his faith.
There is no foolproof plan or formula that parents can follow that will assure that their kids stay in the church or that they will follow Christ for that matter. However, the bible does give us a promise to cling to, in Proverbs 22:6, that if we teach our kids in the way they should go, that when they are old, they will not depart. It is however, our responsibility to teach our children to love God, to share our faith with them, to lead them by example by spending time in the word, and praying with them.