Forget heated debates and
impassioned explanations. It's time to re-imagine apologetics for a
new generation of children.
A few weeks ago, my 10-year -old son came home from school with a
huge smile on his face. "John's a Christian now!"
"Wow! That's really cool! Tell me about it." I'm not sure what I
was expecting to hear. Maybe that Jeremiah had learned about the
Four Spiritual Laws in his small group at church and walked his
friend through those. Or maybe that he'd memorized the verses along
the Romans Road and used those on John. Isn't that what you're
supposed to do when you're grounded in your faith and share the
What Jeremiah told me, though, had nothing to do with laws or a
road. He said he'd simply told John a story-God's story. God
had created a perfect world that was broken, and humans chose to
disobey God. Today, sin keeps us from being friends with God.
He told John about God sending Jesus to fix what humans broke by
taking our punishment for sin so that we can be friends with God
forever. John didn't ask my son for proof. He didn't even argue
about the validity of what my son shared with him. They were
friends; John knew Jeremiah and trusted him. After a few clarifying
questions, John declared, "Well, I want to be a Christian
Yeah, I was pretty proud of my son.
A New Outlook
The premise of Diary, a reality show on MTV that follows
celebrities through their so-called "everyday lives," is that we
make assumptions about how these celebrities live-only to find out
how wrong we are. The show's tagline is "You think you know...but
you have NO idea." I think the same principle applies to how we
assume children communicate their faith with one another.
Ironically, we've forgotten what it's like to be a child.
In our desire to make sure that the kids we minister to own and
hold onto their faith in the midst of a culture of spiritual
pluralism, we turn to the world of apologetics. When applied to
children's ministry, apologetics has traditionally been about
making sure children are learning the right information in Sunday
school so they can adequately defend their faith against inevitable
opposition by the unchurched world. We've also ensured children
learn proven techniques to share their faith, which included more
information that could simply be memorized and used at a moment's
We've all read the statistics, though. More and more children are
walking away from church when they reach their 20s…the years we
tried so desperately to prepare them for by equipping them with a
defensive apologetics of information.
Maybe it's time to re-imagine apologetics for a new generation of
children by taking a fresh look at the process of spiritual
formation in children-through the lens of today's culture.