What if my kid thinks the Bible is just a boring old book without any relevance to his life today?
If we unpack that question a little bit, then we have to ask: Is it old-fashioned to love one another? Is it old-fashioned to treat each other the way we want to be treated? Is it old-fashioned to be compassionate? Has kindness gone out of style? Trust and hope and perseverance—are these things no longer relevant?
Our kids would say, of course, we still need to be kind and love each other. So, it’s not that Christianity is old-fashioned. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And that’s one of the things we love about Jesus: culture changes but Jesus is always the same.
So, when Gen Z or Millennials say, “Oh, Christianity’s old-fashioned,” we have to wonder, what do they really mean by that? Typically, they’re referring to the way Christians do things or the times the Bible teaches things which they don’t like. For example, the young people don’t want to be looked at as being unloving or intolerant or judgmental. And they think that that’s what Christianity is about because there’s often a misunderstanding about who Jesus really is and what He teaches. The more accurately we portray Jesus—in our teaching and our lifestyle—the more obvious it will be that Jesus is precisely who we need today more than ever.
Often, kids can get tripped up by seeing the Bible as mainly a list of do’s and don’ts.
But we need to remember that we don’t read the Bible just to know what’s right and wrong (that’s part of it), but we primarily read the book for relationship. We want this relationship with God, and He sent us a love letter called the Bible. It’s not a list of rules. It’s the heart of God. It’s the face of God. Through the Bible, we get to see God’s heart, most fully through Jesus.
It’s good for parents to remember that reading the Bible is like a journey, and journeys come with questions. So, when kids ask tough questions or wonder if a particular part is relevant to their lives, let’s not overreact. Let’s listen to the heart of the questions. And even when our kids are not actively picking up the Bible and reading it, they’re still reading our lives, and so we can plant the Word through having practical conversations.
When I (Mike) was doing teen ministry years ago in New York City, I asked the gentleman who was training me the best way to work with kids who don’t seem interested in the Bible. He told me it’s all about having life talks. It’s about having practical conversations through which we can talk about how God has blessed us or what challenges we’re going through. Maybe the kids weren’t ready to sit down and study the Bible, but they were hungry to talk about life. And God is in all of it.
As your kids get older and start blazing their own trails, they’re still watching you. So, it’s so important to be humble and honest. We’re not superheroes. We’ve got to be open about our struggles as well, which helps them see the different facets of how God works.
Let’s be honest: it’s challenging to raise kids in this era. But it’s actually good when our children are talking about what they think. Children can build conviction by asking questions about what they’ve been taught. There was a point in my (Mike’s) life in college when I had to question what my parents had taught me, what the church had taught so I could seek answers for myself. Some of that wrestling is necessary to build convictions deep.
Let’s remember that we don’t just want to raise churchgoers. We want our children to be true disciples of Jesus, and so there are going to be some things they have to wrestle through. When our children are wrestling, we don’t need to get discouraged or freak out, thinking, “Oh my goodness, I’m raising an atheist.” They’re thinking about the faith. It matters to them. And, of course, we’re there to help them filter through the different answers that they are hearing. So, don’t freak out, keep the relationship central, and keep planting seeds.
- Dr. Michael & Shawn Patterson