Community Apologetics: Starting with your family

ripple

Before you venture out on your voyage to becoming a community apologist, it’s time for a status check.  Fellow CAA blogger, Austin Gravley, points out that becoming a community apologist ripples out from your relationship with Jesus.  The next peak in the ripple:  If you have a family, they are the first community for which you are responsible.  Before you swim off to prevent or resolve the faith crises in your community, make sure you take care of the same issues in your own home.

All the polls in the past few years show a rapid increase in those who have left their religion, and a rapid decrease in church attendance. Read The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church wherein Drew Dyck writes,

“Almost to a person, the leavers with whom I spoke recalled that, before leaving the faith, they were regularly shut down when they expressed doubts. Some were ridiculed in front of peers for asking “insolent questions. … ‘the most frequently mentioned role of Christians in de-conversion was in amplifying existing doubt.’ De-converts reported ‘sharing their burgeoning doubts with a Christian friend or family member only to receive trite, unhelpful answers.’”

Does anyone in your family have doubts and questions?  Have you bothered to find out—have you worked through it with them?

William Wilberforce is the historical figure of the biographical drama film, Amazing Grace, who ended the British transatlantic slave trade. In his book, Real Christianity, he writes, “In an age in which [apostasy] abounds, do we observe [parents] carefully instructing their children in the principles of faith which they profess? Or do they furnish their children with arguments for the defense of that faith? … When religion is handed down among us by heredity succession, it is not surprising to find youth of sense and spirit beginning to question the truth of the system in which they were brought up. And it is not surprising to see them abandon a position which they are unable to defend.”  The parents Wilberforce was talking about had children, who grew up and had more children, and so on—resulting in a world where a mother would purposely raise her children without God.  Read that article—this woman clearly was not raised to know who God really is, so it is no wonder she doesn’t want her children to know God.  Do your children know who God really is?  Do you?

William Lane Craig, likely the most visible defender of the faith in our time, points out that knowing why and what you believe will “help you to keep the faith in times of doubt and struggle,” (On Guard, 19).  Are you and your family equipped for those times?

Apologetics enables us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:28-30).  Some apologetics appeal to the mind, like the philosophical arguments for God’s existence, and historical evidence of Jesus’ resurrection.  Other apologetics appeal to the heart and soul, like the posts falling under our Imaginative Apologetics category (join this Facebook group if you are interested in Imaginative Apologetics), especially narratives that illustrate answers to the problem of evil, and paint various arguments from religious experience (including our desire for God).

Maybe you’ve been neglecting teaching apologetics to your kids because you need to make it part of your routine, you think you need to know before you teach, or you are overwhelmed at how to make it accessible to your children?  Carve out a time and stick to it—make it a rewarding part of the day everyone looks forward to, and learn together.  Here are four things to keep in mind during that time:

1.  Start a Bible reading plan as a family at YouVersion.com.  The best defense against objections to the Bible is knowing what the Word actually says.  Feel free to skip the parts you or your kids find boring—come back to them later as the Spirit leads.  If something interests you that doesn’t interest the group, study it away from the group.  Yes, I’ve learned from experience.

2.  Encourage “Why?” questions as you read through the Bible, et cetera.  Usually, interrupting is rude, but in this situation, you want to encourage your children to stop the reading if any questions pop into their eager minds (and allow you to do the same).  Let them know their questions are not rude—they matter and are the reason for the time you are spending together.

3.  Discourage “Just have faith” answers.  Really search together for the actual answers to the actual questions.  This apologetics search engine will help on the spot, if the books you own are not forthcoming.  Is faith bad?  No.  Should we have it?  Yes.  Faith is trust in what you have good reason to know.  Knowing does not erase faith—even the demons know—but they don’t trust.  Questions have answers, and failing to even look for them is admitting your faith has no grounding.  Kids can sense it, and statistics show many of them will eventually walk away from it, because God made our minds to hunger for truth…for him.  Feed them.

4.  Invest in material that is appropriate for your child’s level of learning.  Here are several lists of books, videos and other curricula:

ISWA’s Equipping Your Family

Tim McGrew’s Recommended Apologetics Reading

Ratio Christi’s Apologetics Resources for Kids

Chris Shannon’s Apologetics Resources for Equipping Youth

Shandon Guthrie’s Kids’ Korner

Here’s a little taste of what’s available for kids in the “9 and up” age range:

Lee Strobel’s Case for Faith for Kids summary with commentary

What works for you?  Share in the comments! :0)

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DISCLAIMER: Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the view of other CAA authors, or the official position of the group at large.
About Maryann Spikes

Maryann Spikes is the original admin of the Christian Apologetics Alliance blog. She also blogs at Ichthus77. Maryann loves apologetics and philosophy, particularly all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, is a very part-time undergraduate student, and moonlights as a freelancer at Ichthus77.com.  You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.

  • Beyond TM

    I’m so glad to hear parents talking about sharing their faith purposefully with their kids, including introducing them to apologetics. I totally agree with your idea that parents need to soberly assess what their kids really believe and foster an environment where kids can ask questions – even doubt-filled ones – and seek answers together. I am going to blog on this point soon as I’m hearing it in so many places. In the meantime, I have been busy creating simple ideas to help pass basic apologetics on to our young kids (ages 6 and 8 right now). Would love for you to check them out: beyondtm.wordpress.com.