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How to Help a Child Understand and Defend Their Faith

You have helped train your children or grandchildren in the Christian faith. They are familiar with key Bible characters and stories, even memorized Scripture passages. You’ve explained the Gospel. They know that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose again. They have even had some significant experiences that have profoundly shaped them. They should be safe, right?

What will they do when someone makes a claim and provide “evidence” that the resurrection never happened? Or that the Bible is full of errors? Or that Christianity is guilty of horrible evils in history? Suddenly, “because mom or dad, grandma or grandpa said so” doesn’t work. Even as early as grade school, children are hearing other voices that seek to undermine everything that you and other spiritual authorities taught them.

Young people will not remain faithful to a faith they do not understand and cannot defend. In a post-Christian culture, it is more critical than ever for young people to know what they believe, why they believe it, and are prepared to defend themselves from attacks to their faith. Throughout church history this has been known as apologetics. Apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith. Peter states that Christians are to be prepared, “to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). A portion of Paul’s ministry included a defense of the Gospel, “I am appointed for a defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:16). Apologists are individuals who defend Christian beliefs and practices against attacks, provide arguments for the truthfulness of Christianity over other worldviews, and refute unbiblical ideas or theories. The goal of apologetics is to persuade belief by presenting a rational basis for Christianity, to defend the truth by answering questions or the objections of unbelief, and to reveal the foolishness of false ideas so they do not capture the heart and mind of our children. Apologetics is an important aspect of your discipleship ministry to your children or grandchildren and can be divided into the following four categories:

  • Prove. Develop a case for Christianity utilizing biblical, scientific, historical, archeological, and personal testimony to establish the truthfulness of the Christian worldview. Show that Christianity is true, credible, reliable, and aligns with the real world. 

  • Defend. In every generation there are many attacks against Christianity and children need to be introduced to these distorted ideas, learn to test them against God’s Word, and be able to identify truth from error. The two primary areas of attack: The Son of God and the Word of God. 

  • Refute. Compare and contrast with other religions and belief systems to verify the Christian faith and dismantle false and erroneous views. Refute arguments made in support of different beliefs by showing they are unreliable, irrational, unverifiable, or simply do not make sense with what we see in real life.

  • Persuade. Work to clarify biblical truths, answer objections, address criticisms, provide answers and eliminate any intellectual difficulties that stand in the way of coming to faith in Christ. The goal is to encourage alignment with God’s Word, apply the truth of God’s Word to life, and establish a lifelong commitment to the Gospel. Apologetics is a partner of evangelism where we seek to convince children to accept truth claims about Christianity and trust Christ. Give your child every reason possible to embrace the Christian faith and reject counterfeit beliefs. 

7 Tips to help children understand and defend their faith:

  • Utilize questions to grow the faith of future generations. Your goal is twofold: become an askable parent or grandparent and become skilled at the art of asking good questions. Use questions to create serious spiritual dialogue, to encourage critical thinking, and discover what children believe.

  • Take objections from a child seriously. Do not mock an objection or dismiss a question. Spend as much time and energy as needed to fully explore a topic with a child. 

  • Anticipate attacks and arguments that a child will face in the teen and adult years. After teaching a biblical truth to a child or grandchild, present the faulty argument, prove why it is false, give reading material that establishes the truth, and continue to point out in conversation over the years the erroneous arguments. 

  • Built an apologetics library for each child. These make great gifts. Suggested books include Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, Tactics by Gregory Koukl, Answers Vol. 1-4 by Answers in Genesis, Quick Answers to Social Questions by Bryan Osborne, Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions by Ken Ham, Debunking Evolution by Daniel Biddle, True For You But Not For Me by Paul Copan, and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

  • Expose children to the truth in real life experiences. Allow older children to see a live ultrasound so they learn the horrors of abortion, or visit the creation museum to teach the truth of creation and then visit a natural history museum to show the error of evolution.

  • Look for examples of false beliefs or erroneous messages in movies, music, books, and television. Point them out, ask questions, and discuss why something is problematic. Always point back to Scripture so that it is not your opinion, but based on the authority of God’s Word.

  • Utilize the Truth Method. The truth method is intended to teach a biblical truth, identify a message from the world, and analyze it to determine the good and reject the bad using five steps.
    1. Teach a biblical truth through instruction and discussion. What biblical truths do your grandchildren need to be taught to stand strong in their faith?
    2. Recognize the idea or concept the world is communicating. What lies or half truths threaten their faith today?
    3. Understand the claim by analyzing it. What is actually being said?
    4. Test the idea according to the Bible. What does the Bible say about the topic?
    5. Hold fast to what is good and reject what is bad. What should be rejected and why?

Rise up parents and grandparents. The battle of ideas is real and it’s taking no prisoners. We are in a battle for the hearts and minds of our children and grandchildren. Helping a child detect errors and discern truth in the age of fake news, social media, and conspiracy theories is critical and you are uniquely positioned for such a time as this.

What Does it Mean to be a Gospel Shaped Grandparent?

After a speaking session about intentional grandparenting, a grandmother approached me to say how much she appreciated my emphasis on intentionality. “I’ve decided to be intentional about getting my granddaughter to come to church with me. If I can just get her to church, she will be exposed to the Bible and the Gospel.”

As I explored this more with her, it became clear that this grandmother did not understand her responsibility to share the Gospel with her granddaughter. It was the reason she was so determined to find a way to get her to church, so the “professionals” could do it right.

That was ten years ago, and it awakened me to the sad reality that too many grandparents have a similar misunderstanding of their responsibility to their grandchildren. “If I can just get my grandkids to church, then everything will work out” is a common notion. I realized that more emphasis needed to be place on understanding what the Gospel really is and our responsibility to talk about it in our own families. I also realized we need to know what it means for our lives to be shaped by that Gospel. 

You will often hear me use Gospel-shapedas a description for biblical grandparenting. It is also the motivational factor for the title of this blog and my signature book—Courageous Grandparenting. Additionally, it is why I have chosen to work closely with my friend at Renewanation, Josh Mulvihill. We are working with several ministry partners to build the Gospel Shaped Family web site where discipleship resources, blogs and events will be collected to encourage and equip Gospel-shaped parenting and grandparenting. 

Five Essentials

So, what does it mean to be a gospel-shaped grandparent? Here are five essential things I believe describe the essence of what it means:

  1. It means having a clear grasp of how the Bible defines Gospel.
    • The Gospel is the good news that by God’s grace I am saved FROM His wrath, deserved judgment, and just condemnation for my sin—an egregious offense against His holiness.
    • The Gospel means new birthin which I am saved FOR good works. I am made alive in Christ to display His glory and bless others.
  2. It means a new way of thinking, living and seeingthrough the lens of a biblical worldview(seeing the world and all of creation as God made it). It is the way of truth in which my mind is renewed, my life is marked by a desire to magnify Christ in everything I do or say, and repentance is a perquisite to wholeness. The Gospel so transforms me that great joy springs from an all-satisfying delight in Him. My driving desire is to make much of Christ in the eyes of my grandchildren and others I encounter.
  3. It means my desire to share the Gospel with my family, including grandchildren and great grandchildren, is priority #1. I will not outsource to others what is my responsibility as one of the most influential people in my grandchild’s life. It is mine and I take it seriously.
  4. It means my life is driven, not by despair over the condition of the world, but by hope in the promises of Godand my eternal reward. I follow Christ and His commands knowing He is with me and has given me everything I need to fulfill His purposes through me believing that a glorious inheritance awaits me.
  5. It means prayer is my first offensive and defensive weaponry against the schemes of the enemy, and my declaration that I am utterly dependent upon the power of God to do through me more than I could ever imagine or think.

As a grandparent, does your life bear witness of these vital realities? Is your approach to grandparenting shaped more by Gospel transformation or cultural validation? It takes courage to embrace the former. And, while a Gospel-shaped life is no guarantee your grandchildren will respond to the truth, there is little doubt that those whose lives are transformed by the Gospel will make an impact because God who is at work in you.

May God give you sufficient courage so that now and always Christ will be exalted in you… for the sake of another generation who needs to know the truth that the Gospel really does set us free.