Those of us who are interested in Christian Case Making (aka “apologetics”) are aware of the challenges facing young Christians in their teens and twenties. It’s a simple fact; most young Christians will walk away from the Church in their college years. Like other Case Makers, I’m animated to work as hard as I can with this age group; young people need Christian Case Making more than any other demographic within the Church. Following a recent presentation at a church, I was approached by a mother who was concerned for her high school aged children. We began discussing several ways parents can prepare their kids before sending them off to college. Here are four simple guiding strategies:
Become the Source for Answers
Parents often come to me after speaking engagements or during a book signing, hoping to get a book they can give to their growingly skeptical college-aged children. While I’m happy they are interested in Case Making literature, I typically tell them the odds are good their kids will accept the book but leave it sitting, unopened, on the shelf. Rather than giving our kids books we hope they’ll read, we need to become the source of information when our kids have difficult questions. We need to read these books first, so we can be ready to give the answers our kids are seeking. They’re far more likely to engage us than they are to read a book written by a stranger. Read, research, and commit what you’ve learned to memory. Become your kid’s best source for answers.
Talk About the Issues
All of us talk about our areas of passion and interest; we can’t help it. If I want to know what you’re interested in, let me eavesdrop on the conversations you have at dinner, while driving in the car, or while walking the dog. If you’ve passionately adopted a reasoned, rational approach to your faith, odds are good you’ll start sharing this interest with your kids during these moments of conversation. You can’t force this; it just happens. But sometimes we need to be intentional and carve out the opportunities, especially as our kids enter their teen years. Be passionate, take advantage of opportunities, and speak up. Talk with your kids about the stuff that matters most.
Find Relevant Mentors
As parents, we need all the help we can get. I’m not suggesting you should relinquish your responsibility to prepare your kids, but I do recognize the value of relevant mentors in the lives of my children. Back when I was a youth pastor (and my kids were part of my ministry), I paired my sons with a young man I came to trust as a leader. He was nearly twenty years younger than I was, and he was much more culturally relevant. My sons loved him and respected his musical ability and his athleticism. He shared my Christian worldview and my passion for case making, but was a much cooler version of me. He often echoed my thoughts and beliefs, but my sons embraced these ideas more readily when they came from him, rather than me. Identify relevant mentors, introduce your kids to thoughtful role models, and do whatever it takes to keep them connected. Partner your kids with younger, cooler versions of you.
Provide a Transformational Experience
Most of us can remember a pivotal moment in our young lives as Christians; some point in time when someone said something incredibly significant or we experienced something transformational. These moments often happen by accident, but they don’t have to. As parents, we can facilitate these kinds of moments and experiences for our kids. Sometimes it’s a missions trip. I’ve been taking “case making” missions trips for many years, and the kids who attend these excursions always describe them as transformational. This year I’m also sending my high school daughter to Summit Worldview Conference in Colorado. I taught there last year and will be part of the faculty there again this summer. I’ve seen what happens in this intensive two week worldview training experience, and I know it can be life changing. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Look for opportunities, prioritize your calendar, and encourage your kids to engage in a short-term, high intensity adventure. Help your kids have a pivotal moment. (Especially for our Cold Case Christianity family: If you’re sending a student to Summit, call them and mention CCC for a $100.00 discount on the regular tuition price).
Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, so I empathize with parents who express their struggles. I share many of these struggles; my kids have been both PK’s (Pastor’s Kids) and CCMK’s (Christian Case Maker’s Kids). People expect a lot from them. But like all young people, they have their own questions and doubts, I am sure. I’ve done my best to share what I’ve discovered and to prepare them with the truth. As my wife, Susie, and I thought about our journey as Christian parents, we sensed a calling to provide a resource to help other parents teach their kids, good thinking sills as they examined the case for Jesus. We also recognized how important it is to start early. So we wrote Cold-Case Christianity for Kids. Our own experience as youth leaders and pastors taught us that young people begin to question their faith in junior high. We wanted to provide a resource that would answer critical questions kids might have before they even begin to ask them. I hope Cold-Case Christianity for Kids will help you prepare your own kids so you can provide them with answers to encourage them, develop opportunities to talk with them, find mentors to guide them and create experiences to remind them.
For more information about strategies to help you teach Christian worldview to the next generation, please read So the Next Generation Will Know: Training Young Christians in a Challenging World. This book teaches parents, youth pastors and Christian educators practical, accessible strategies and principles they can employ to teach the youngest Christians the truth of Christianity. The book is accompanied by an eight-session So the Next Generation Will Know DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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