How do I explain mass terrorism to my 7 year old? 

Or fit dinosaurs into Genesis? Differentiate between Jesus and Marvel superheroes? Evidence the resurrection? Explain judgement? Cope with a school system that makes the incoherence of relativism into a cultural ideal? And makes pluralism into a new synchronised religion of recycling, festivals of light and darkness and every random religious festival in between? All this knowing that if they are Christians they are heavily outnumbered (no doubt exacerbated by a subtle ghettoisation of Christian kids into church schools).

By the age of 6 church children in an average school may have faced more complicated apologetics issues than many adults addicted to social media mudslinging.

At home at bed time or early morning I get, ‘Dad can I just ask you one thing…’ with increasing wonder and complexity as my kids move through school from reception. Yesterdays’ from a year group of 5/6 year olds was ‘X** says that Jesus is still dead’, and I regularly get statistics like ‘there are only 4 Christians in my class’ (which means loose affiliation). By the time they are 8/9 the questions are complex – they are forced to wrestle with big questions young.

In so many ways this is great for their development – and perhaps even their friends, but are we well equipped to help them deal with it?

In a provocative article Dale Hudson asks whether ‘cute’ Sunday school lessons are breeding American atheists.

While Gen Z kids are growing up in a post-Christian culture, we are giving them lessons that are shallow and lack the substance that will sustain their faith.

While Gen Z kids desperately need to know why the Bible is true, we are teaching them character traits.

While Gen Z kids are internally asking the hard questions about Christianity, we are not creating safe places where they can openly grapple to find the answers.

He continues:

While Gen Z kids want to know why they should trust a God whose world is ravaged by war, violence, injustice, natural disasters, pain and suffering, we are giving them cute, Christianese responses that aren’t sufficient.

While Gen Z kids need a discipleship pathway that will guide them to a solid faith foundation, we are taking them on fun trips to the local water park.

It’s one thing to run holiday clubs, camps and festivals where the same kids can get converted each year and be taught to experience God through prayer, but another thing to give them the intellectual tools to keep thinking and growing in their faith. It’s one thing to run a Sunday children’s provision that keeps kids safe, entertained and happy, but another to help them wrestle with doubt and questions.

Hudson argues:

Help kids discover the true nature and character of God. When kids understand the heart of God and know Him personally, they will trust Him.

Be strategic in what we teach. More than ever, we have to have a strategic plan that will take help kids develop a solid faith foundation.

Equip kids to be able to defend their faith. If they are going to escape the doubts that will be pushed their way, they must be able to defend why they believe what they believe.

Walk kids through the hard questions now.

Looking at some of the resources he advertises the impression I get is not so much that he wants to equip kids to think for themselves, but to think the know the ‘right’ answer before they get exposed to the wrong one!

Even if that was a great educational strategy (it’s really not!), it’s certainly not a sufficient strategy for a UK post-christian context. I’d love us to develop more resources that help kids think for themselves. But to do that we need to acknowledge that many are not growing up in an intellectually neutral context… some face very tough challenges to faith at a very young age. Its going to be important to help them think what questions to ask back, what answers can be given and even when to duck/hide if it’s not a real conversation just a pointless playground jibe.

So if you read this article wondering how to explain mass terrorism to your seven year old perhaps(!) that’s step one on a long journey we need to begin together.

 

puzzled kid

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