Tom Gilson

When You Don’t Know the Answers

Friday Parent Focus*

Last time in this series I encouraged you to talk with your kids about faith, and especially to help them to open up with their questions. But what do you do when you don't know the answers?

It's not so bad. Really: if your son or daughter asks a tough question and you don't have an answer right on the tip of your tongue, how surprised do you think they'll be? The only big surprise might be that you're willing to hear them out on it!

And I want to be as clear on this as I can be: I am a lover of answers. I write on them all the time. I really believe the great questions do have great answers. But for the sake of your children's faith, the answers are nowhere near as important as the relationship you can build with them by opening up the conversation.

Children catch beliefs, mostly from their parents; and they continue with their parents' beliefs much more reliably when they're in strong relationship with their parents. The vulnerability of “Wow, that's a great question, I don't know the answer, and I'm going to need to work on that!” can be incredibly powerful.

I'll come back to answers in a moment, because yes, they're important, too. But I really want to emphasize the relational aspect first. “They'll know we are Christians by our love,” says the song, echoing John 13:34, 35. It applies to our children, too, doesn't it?

At this point you might expect me also to add that we must model true Christianity if we want them to catch it. Actually I've already said it. It’s where I wrote, “children catch beliefs, mostly from their parents.” They know by observing what we really believe. Our actions tell the whole story. So of course it's important to live out our Christianity at home; otherwise we're teaching something else, something false and foreign, to our children.

Still we need to be able to help our children get to the place of discovering good answers. As this series continues I plan to provide very practical things we can say at the dinner table, driving to sports events, or wherever these conversations happen. It will take some time to get to those topics.

In the meantime, I suggest you go to Stand To Reason, which I think has the best family-level, searchable list of articles on the Internet, covering almost any contemporary issue. But don't dare do it alone! I understand the temptation to go off by yourself and become educated for the sake of answering your child's question. It's far better, though, to do that exploration together.

So for the sake of your children, encourage their questions, knowing that it's building a relational connection that will help their faith even if you never get to an answer to their question. For answers (especially for now) try Stand to Reason first. Feel free to ask me questions here, too.

*I've been traveling and in a lot of meetings. Friday Parent Focus is appearing on Sunday this week.


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