By Jenny Smith
It always happens at the least convenient times. Kids ask 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.
In the days we are now in, our children are overhearing conversations containing deeply divided opinions about the pandemic and politics. Naturally they will have questions.
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?” During this season, they may ask pointed questions about political views they have heard from others.
Here are my basic guidelines when answering tough questions:
- Don’t panic. When we panic, we communicate that it isn’t safe to ask questions. 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. Do you remember the show “Everybody Loves Raymond?” One of my favorite episodes was when the daughter asked, “Why are there babies?” The dad flips out and 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 kids are really asking. Ask clarifying questions before launching into your answer. You may be relieved.
- Answer according to age and maturity. A 3-year-old can not handle the same depth of answer as a 10-year-old. Some 5-year-olds are much more mature than others and require deeper answers. Your preteen can likely handle a more nuanced conversation about politics. Your 5-year-old needs you to keep answers simple.
- 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 “Are 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.
- 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.
- 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 …”
- 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.
- “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer. It is totally OK to ask the 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.
It is a great thing when kids ask questions, even if it is intimidating. Every question can provide a teachable moment to point kids towards God. Questions show that kids are thinking and gives you a peek into thoughts they are processing. And don’t forget, if they are asking YOU, that signifies a great level of trust. Listen carefully, trust God to lead you as you answer, and definitely write these questions down to bring you a smile later.
This post originally appeared on ChurchAnswers.com. Jenny Smith serves at Church Answers Coach and as Minister to Children at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida.