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Your kids have the questions, do you have the answers?
Part 1 of an Interview with Janelle Alberts
and Ingrid Faro,
Authors of Honest Answers: Exploring God
Questions with Your Tween
Who would have
thought a month ago that we would be facing so much fear and uncertainty? There
are so many unknowns, so many questions, and if we have them, we know our kids
have them too. And they are going to be asking a lot of them in the coming
weeks, including questions about God’s goodness and if prayer works. Are we prepared
to answer their questions concerning faith? Janelle
Alberts and Ingrid Faro set out to help
parents confidently have these hard conversations with their new release,Honest Answers:
Exploring God Questions with Your Tween(Kregel
The tween years present an incredible opportunity to
build trust with kids and to keep them coming back to their parents for answers
rather than finding other sources. With the tools and conversational tips in Honest
Answers, moms and dads can engage in a hopeful conversation and help their
children build a Christian faith to hold them steady their whole lives.
Q: At what age do kids generally start asking faith questions that
aren’t easy to answer?
Janelle Alberts: That depends. My kids each started in with questions that gave me
pause before they hit double-digit ages. But the irony is they were easy questions, rather obvious
observations such as, “Wait, I thought it was two by two?” when we hit the line
in the Noah story that he was to take “seven pairs” rather than the “two of
every kind” that we had read in the chapter before.
It’s no wonder that Jesus said we
should all accept the kingdom of God like a child, because little kids happily
embrace the core tenets of our faith with such abandon. It’s that very sweet,
simple acceptance that our kids bring to bear when they then try their faith on
for size, like my son when he started reading the Bible for himself—only to lob
at us over breakfast the next day, “That book is not like the pages we’ve been
coloring at vacation Bible school.”
We parents want
to feel confident enough to say to our kids, “Let’s talk about that,” right at
their point of interest. However, that is not an easy thing to do. These core
tenets of our faith have been debated over centuries and have involved councils,
creeds, Bible translations, extraordinary feats of faith, and also terrible
But we’re the parents. These kids want to know what there is to
know from us. If our kids see a
pattern that when they come to us, they get honest, forthright discussion even
if we do not know every answer, that will keep them coming to us as a resource
as they mature in their faith.
Ingrid Faro: It
also depends on what life circumstances your child might have encountered.
My son began asking tough questions
about death and monsters, what happens when someone dies, why people kill other
people, what heaven is like, and what angels look like around age four or five.
Q: What are some of the most common questions that come up about
how the Bible came together and was handed down to us today?
There are a number of common
questions, depending on kids’ ages. How did we get the Bible here in our hands
from so long ago? Who wrote it exactly? My friend has Bible sections that are
different than mine—why? What can I tell my friend who has never been to church
or read a Bible? How are Bible stories different than stories we hear at school
about Mayan civilization or Greek mythology?
We may not have perfect responses on
the spot, but that’s not what parents are on the hook to deliver in every
situation. We are on the hook to give
our kids permission to dig into God’s Word and into their faith honestly, even
if this does not showcase us as perfect parents like we wish it would. That’s
okay for one reason in particular: God’s given us that permission for years.
This can feel scary as a parent, but
remember, dialegomai was good enough
for Paul and the apostles as they discussed, disputed, and reasoned out the
ways of God and how to spread the truth. God will be with us while we handle
our children with that same verve and commitment, even if it looks messy.
Q: For us as adults, it’s hard to understand what seem to be
unanswered prayers, so how do we explain not getting the answers we were hoping
for to our children?
These times emphasize that one should
not be a Christian alone. It makes a monumental difference for our kids to see
others in the church who have suffered the anguish of perceived unanswered
prayers and how they have still walked that out in faith.
To that end, we can let our kids know
that prayer is a chance for them to sort out their relationship with God even more than it is about
asking for stuff. So when they’re disappointed, mad, hurt, or confused by what
they perceive as unanswered prayer, we can let them know they can take that to
That’s what Jesus did. When
the moment came for Jesus to face what was about to happen to him in the garden
of Gethsemane, Jesus did not sit by stoically, calmly praising the Father and counting his
blessings. He was distraught and brought that before his Father bluntly and emotionally.
We can encourage our kids to do the same. They can pray as though God wants to
hear the actual truth of what’s going on in their hearts and minds—because he
We walk through conversations that help kids practice prayer, speak
candidly, and maintain and grow in awe and affection of a Lord who personally
and palpably loves them very, very much.
Q: What does it mean to practice “praying unedited”? Why is this
an important part of teaching your children how to pray?
unedited” is an idea from a lecture by Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Kathy
Keller. The idea is that prayer helps us get a grip on who we are and who God
is, yet it is a process that may take a little time and even, dare we say,
trial and error.“Practice, practice, practice. Trial and error,
repetition,” Keller said. “Just like riding a bike, you get it wrong a whole
lot of times before you get it right.” With that kind of foundation, our kids
stand a better shot at sticking with prayer over the long haul, rather than
abandoning it when times get tough.
Kids regularly pick up a habit of fear when it
comes to prayer. They can grow afraid to speak honestly in prayer because it might
look to God like they doubt him. But prayer is not an entrance exam for our
kids to showcase their “goodness” to God and therefore score a spot in his
valued family. We want our kids to know they already belong. God wants our kids to know that he knows them and wants to
be known by them. His longing for this cannot be overstated. That is a good
reason for our kids to be themselves in prayer.
If our kids can approach God’s throne with a real
sense of honesty and with an eye for relationship, their prayers will be
personal, not just something they recite.
This kind of praying and talking to God is
demonstrated throughout the Bible in the psalms of lament (which make up about
one-fourth of the Psalms) and other parts of the Bible, like Lamentations and
in many of the prophets.
Q: How can parents prepare for the Bible versus science questions
that are sure to come up as their kids progress through school? This is
probably something parents are really facing now that the kids are doing school
We can be honest with ourselves that
our attempts to neatly marry truths of God’s
material world (science) to God’s written truths (Scripture) in clear, cogent,
concise ways regularly turn out to be . . . none of those things.Yet God made nature, and he made Scripture. Digging
deeper into one shouldn’t threaten the truth about the other.
run into a bind when we insist the Bible should serve as a science textbook.
For example, our church forefathers insisted the sun circled the earth rather
than the other way around. Martin Luther
wrote, “As Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the
sun to stand still, and not the earth.”
might help our kids by listening to a church forefather even further back in
time. Third-century bishop Augustine of Hippo warned believers that we “should
not rush in headlong and so firmly take a stand on one side that, if further
progress in search for truth justly undermines our position, we too fall with
two thousand years later, we Christian parents can practice that. It’ll give
our kids the learning chops necessary to evaluate theories and ideologies in
patient, consistent, coherently systematic ways. It’ll help our kids develop a
steadfast resolution that all truth originates from the same author.
is this important? Because it’s true.
Q: How can parents prepare their children to react well when their
faith is brought into question? How do they equip them to speak the truth?
It depends on the situation at hand,
but a general encouragement might be this: God is real.
We can let our kids know directly and
repeatedly that we, their parents, know God is alive. We can also give them
personal examples from our own lives about why we believe that:
·How we came to
we faced others calling our faith into question
·Our own doubts
and how God has called us back to that truth over and over again
We can encourage our kids to remember
that they are not defending a religion; they are building a relationship with a
God who wants to have relationship with everyone, even though not everyone
wants a relationship with him. That is a complicated matter, but our job (especially
as younger Christians) is to simply walk out the relationship we are developing
and enjoying with God. That way when our friends have questions, we can
honestly answer what we know about praying to God, reading his Word, and
getting to know God in context of our own walk with him.
Q: What question that one of your own children asked caught you
most off guard or was the hardest to answer?
Janelle: When my daughter was in third grade, she prayed for
her brother in kindergarten to win a raffle at school, but when he didn’t, she
was crushed. I told her he was fine! After all, the most important thing
remained true, which was this: God loved him.
She teared up and said, “This is what God’s love feels like?”
Ingrid: When my son was eleven, he asked why he couldn’t
have died instead of his dad, who had taken his own life. The process of
walking through that loss and pain took years, but the personal healing and
restoration of relationship with God could not have happened if we hadn’t continued
to talk and question and pray and love together.