It always happens at the weirdest times. Kids will pop out with questions that you just didn’t see coming. One minute they will be telling you about Paw Patrol and the next they will be asking a deep question about the Trinity.
Their questions could be deep and theological such as, “Where did God come from?” They could be questions you aren’t ready for such as, “Where do babies come from?” or “What does fill-in-the-blank mean?” Kids can ask questions that can shock you, such as, “Is there really a God?” or “How do we know that Jesus was real?”
Kids’ questions scare us for mulitiple reasons. We fear that we will answer poorly and wreck their theology forever. We are afraid of what could possibly be going through their minds to ask such things. We are quite nervous about having “those” types of conversations. Quite frankly, we just don’t want to mess up.
It is a great thing when kids ask questions, especially questions about faith. First, it shows that they are thinking. Second, if they are asking YOU, that signifies a great level of trust. So, how do we not blow it?
Here are my basic guidelines when answering tough questions:
1. Don’t panic. When we freak out, we communicate that it isn’t safe to ask questions and we want to be the safest place for that child to turn. Take a deep breath and prevent yourself from saying, “Why would you ask that?” or “How could you think that?” or “Why would you be thinking about that?”
Clarify what they are actually asking. I loved the show “Everybody Loves Raymond”. One of my favorite episodes was when the daughter asked “Why are there babies?” The dad flips out, elaborately prepares himself to answer, only to find out that she wasn’t even asking what he was thinking. You can watch the clip here.Take the time to make sure you know what they are really asking. Ask clarifying questions before launching into your answer. You may be relieved.
3. Answer according to age and maturity. A three year old can not handle the same depth of answer as a ten year old. Some five year olds are much more mature than others and require deeper answers.
4. Answer according to your relationship with the child. If you are a church leader or volunteer, there are some questions that you need to pass off to parents. You should not answer “Is Santa and the Tooth Fairy real?” no matter how passionate you might be about the subject. Always bring the parents in on any topic that might be controversial.
5. Always be honest. The easy thing is to answer with a vague, quick, pat answer even if it is not entirely true. Our goal is not easy. Our goal is for kids to know Christ and have a Biblical worldview.
6. Always point back to Scripture. Always. Start with what the Bible says. If it doesn’t say anything, then say that. “The Bible doesn’t really say…”
7. Always separate your opinion from the Bible. This is especially important for questions that are not directly addressed by Scripture. Make sure kids know that you are sharing what you think, not what is straight from the Bible.
8. “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer. It is totally ok to ask your child to give you some time to find an answer or to suggest that you research the question together. You do not have to be the walking library of answers. It is very good to model that none of us know everything.
I would love to know what you would add to this list as well as the toughest question you’ve ever had to answer.