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Christianity Today recently featured an article titled, “The Biggest Hindrance to Your Kids’ Faith Isn’t Doubt. It’s Silence.”

The article summarized the
findings of researchers Kara Powell and Steven Argue on the faith of youth
group graduates. They found that:

  • 70 percent of churchgoing
    high schoolers report having serious doubts about faith.
  • Less than half of
    those with doubt shared their struggle with an adult or friend.
  • Opportunities to
    express and explore doubts were correlated with greater faith maturity.

Powell and Argue concluded
that, “It’s not doubt that’s toxic to faith; it’s silence.” They go on to
explain how important it is for parents to regularly have conversations about
faith with their kids, and I couldn’t agree more.

I saw this article shared a
lot on social media, with people rightly encouraging one another to have more
faith conversations with their kids. But each time I saw it, an underlying
question glared at me:

If Christianity is true, why is there so much doubt to
be addressed in the first place?

Quite frankly, if I were a
skeptic, that’s the question I would
be asking after reading this research.

Skeptics often claim that Christians
believe what we do in the face of serious cognitive
dissonance; that is, they say we have to hold contradictory beliefs in
tension because the evidence is against us. This article at least seemed to
support the idea that if there is so much doubt, it should make us think twice
about the validity of our views.

I’m always happy to think twice, so let’s do it. This is such an important subject for parents to understand today, but I rarely see it addressed.


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I recently had the amazing opportunity to travel to the Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs to record an episode for their radio broadcast on "How to Raise Strong Believers." It airs TODAY on hundreds of radio stations across the country. There are several ways you can hear it:

  • If you'd like to catch it on live radio, there is a station finder here.
  • If you'd like to listen online, you can do so here.
  • If you have a podcast player, you can play the most recent episode of the Focus on the Family podcast.
  • If you want to watch rather than listen, you can click the link below to see it on YouTube.

How to Raise Strong Believers - Natasha Crain - YouTube

Thanks in advance for checking it out! Please share with parents, grandparents, and others who are interested in raising kids with a confident faith in a secular world.

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Last year, for various reasons, our family had the opportunity to attend a few different churches. Each time, we debriefed on what happened in Sunday school and what the kids learned. As they recounted their experiences, I was struck by how similar they were to the stories I’ve heard from so many parents in the last few years while speaking at churches and conferences.

Parents who take the discipleship of their kids seriously are typically disappointed by the quality of their kids’ Sunday school program.

For example, I asked people on my blog’s Facebook page a few weeks ago how they felt about the kids’ program at their church. The typical response was, “It’s OK. Standard stuff. Bible stories. Snack. Some songs. Maybe a video. Nothing very deep.”

It’s well known that at least 60% of kids are leaving Christianity by their early 20s today, most turning to a secular worldview. There are a lot of factors that go into that, but today I want to talk about how Sunday school programs fail to be more influential. More specifically, I want to talk about how their failure to be more influential results in kids becoming a particular kind of secularist: the secular humanist (secular humanists are those who reject a belief in God but believe they have a responsibility to be “good” people).

To understand why this happens, we have to first understand the role of culture in influencing our kids’ beliefs.

Cultural Influence is Stronger Than You Think

I recently read Dr. John Marriott’s new book, A Recipe for Disaster: Four Ways Churches and Parents Prepare Individuals to Lose Their Faith and How they Can Instill a Faith That Endures. Marriott has spent a large portion of his academic career researching factors behind deconversions from Christianity to atheism. In his book, he describes how churches and parents inadvertently set kids up for faith crises by “over-preparing, under-preparing, ill-preparing, and painfully-preparing” them for the world.

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I've recently had a lot of people asking for recommendations for Christmas gift ideas, for both kids and adults, so I've put together this detailed list of my top picks! They are almost all books, but there are a few other ideas as well. Gift ideas for kids come first (mostly for the under 12 crowd, since that's where my own kids are), followed by gift ideas for adults. Enjoy!

30 Christmas Gift Ideas for Christian Kids Children's Bibles and Bible Reading Tools

For kids not ready to read a complete Bible, children's Bibles are a great starting point. They feature selected Bible accounts, a simplified narrative, and engaging pictures. The problem with many children's Bibles, however, is that they include too little of the Bible (you'll always get Noah's Ark, but how about Nehemiah or Job?) and have overly simplified narratives that leave out important points. I've looked at lots and lots of Bibles in this category and the following is my favorite by far:

The Complete Illustrated Children's Bible includes a much greater breadth of biblical accounts than most other children's Bibles. I love that. The narratives themselves are simple and direct, so they are very accessible. At the same time, you won't find them watered down in kiddie language as in many books. The illustrations are beautiful. This is almost 300 pages, and there's nothing I've seen that even comes close to the quality here for younger kids. The website says this is targeted at 5- to 8-year-olds. (If you have a child 9+, don't get a children's Bible. It's time to move up to learning to read a full Bible!)

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids isn't a children's Bible, but rather a Bible reading plan. Kids won't read every word of the Bible using this, but it's a solid selection that takes you beginning to end. Each day there are verses to read with a small box for them to answer a basic question about the reading. For kids who enjoy writing, this makes it more engaging than simply a list of passages to read. I'll be honest and say I got this for my 9-year-old twins last Christmas and they didn't get too far with it despite liking the concept and presentation. But I am recommending it because it's a unique book that would work really well if the parent is committed to focusing on using it as the primary Bible reading tool for the year.

Bible Infographics for Kids is a 50-page book with beautifully designed spreads that present the Bible in infographic form! My 10-year-old son read through this in a day and loved it. Periodically he comes up with some kind of Bible fact that he learned from reading this, so it really stuck with him. It's an engaging presentation for any kid, but I especially want to highlight this for parents who may have a child who really resists Bible reading. You certainly aren't reading the actual Bible with this book, but it can be a stepping stone with it's appealing visual design to get your less-than-focused elementary age boy to sit down and look at the biblical story through different eyes. I think this book is seriously undermarketed, as I have never heard anyone talk about it. I would never have heard of it myself had the publisher not sent me a copy. It would make an excellent gift and is very unique!

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I just wanted to write a quick personal note today and let you know that I haven't been able to write much on the blog the last two months because I've been working on my next book, Talking with Your Kids about Jesus. If that title sounds familiar, it's because it's the next in the series after Talking with Your Kids about God! Yes, Jesus IS God, but Talking with Your Kids about God is focused on the "big picture" questions kids need to understand today about the evidence for God's existence, the relationship between science and God, the nature of God, and the differences between an atheistic and theistic worldview (click here for the full table of contents if you're new to my blog). Talking with Your Kids about Jesus will walk you through 30 of the most important questions kids need to understand today specifically about Jesus--questions about the identity of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the difference Jesus makes in a person's worldview. It won't be out until Spring 2020, but I just wanted to let you know that if there are stretches of time between now and May (the due date to my publisher) when I haven't blogged much, it's because I'm working hard on this next book...not because I'm not planning to blog anymore! Thanks for your patience.

I also wanted to share today my first appearance as a guest on a TV show. The show, Digging for Truth, is focused on biblical archaeology, but they also have guests on other apologetics-related topics. I was honored to be interviewed for two episodes, which you can watch below. On Episode 33, I talk about the need for Christian parents to raise their kids with an understanding of how to make a case for and defend the truth of Christianity. On Episode 34, I talk about the five kinds of skeptics who want to shame your kids for being Christians (this is based on an earlier blog post). I hope you enjoy these episodes!

A few last notes:

  • I'll be traveling to Colorado Springs Monday to record an interview for the Focus on the Family radio show! I'm excited and grateful for the opportunity to share with their many listeners on the importance of apologetics. Please join me in praying that I'll be a clear and compelling communicator. I believe the show will air in February. I'll post here when it's available.
  • If you're on Facebook, I want to be sure you know about the Facebook group I started a few months ago, called The Christian Parenting Lounge. It's a closed group (only those in the group can see posts) where you can discuss anything you'd like with like-minded Christian parents. There are over 1,500 parents there already and it's become a great discussion group. If you'd like to join us, just click the button on the group page to request to join. Unless you have a shady Facebook profile, I'll approve you. :)
  • If you happened to find and subscribe to my blog while I'm in this slow blogging period, you can check out some of my most popular posts here. I haven't updated that page since earlier this year, so you can also look back over some of my most recent posts for weekend reading material. :)

OK, that's all for now! Enjoy these episodes of Digging for Truth and have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving!

EPISODE 33

Digging for Truth-Episode 33: Keeping Your Kids on God's Side with Natasha Crain - YouTube

EPISODE 34

 

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The light of common sense, thrown on the stories of making snakes out of rods, of the Red Sea dividing itself, of Christ’s making wine from water, curing blind men by rubbing spit in their eyes, walking on water, the story of the flood, God’s making the world in six days, of making a woman from Adam’s rib and all the mythical, miraculous stories of the Bible would cause any sensible man to question the veracity of the whole book, including all the stories of the gods, spirits, angels, devils, and the things that common sense tells us are not true.”

This quote, from a website devoted to atheism, is similar to so many I have received from skeptics over the years. The basic claim is this: Christianity defies common sense.

In other words, the very existence of miracle claims in the Bible immediately discredits it.

While there certainly are many Christians and skeptics engaging in deeper, more scientific or philosophical battles online, simplistic appeals to common sense are the down-and-dirty weapons often hurled through social media. You don’t need to know one thing about logic, theology, history, biblical scholarship, philosophy, or science to cobble together an emotionally impactful statement that can make someone feel utterly stupid for what they believe. That’s why appeals to common sense can be so powerful: They’re easy and effective. The general message is that what Christians believe is so ridiculous, anyone with just a little common sense can see it’s not true.

Common sense is presented as a one-size-fits-all bulldozer against faith.

And if your kids haven’t been trained to think critically about the nature of miracles, their faith will be easily crushed by that bulldozer.

Here’s a 10-step framework to help your kids think well about this subject. Each point builds on the last. You can easily use these brief explanations to discuss a point each day on the way to school or at the dinner table.

1. Just because something sounds crazy, that doesn’t mean it’s false.

This is a basic starting point for discussion. A practical example is that we live on a big rock that jets around the sun at an average speed of 66,600 mph and we don’t feel a thing. If our test for truth is what happens to make sense to us, we’ll indiscriminately reject almost any idea that strikes us as weird. Instead, we need to look at what evidence there is for the truth of any claim.

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My friend, Alisa Childers, recently wrote a review of the bestselling book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis. It started a firestorm of online discussion about what makes someone a “Christian” author, what responsibility a self-identified Christian author has in promoting ideas consistent with biblical faith, and what harm there can be for Christians reading books that contain nonbiblical ideas.

I personally haven’t read the book, so I’m not going to comment on it specifically. But I will say I was extremely disappointed and saddened to see the kinds of comments supporters of the book wrote:

“It wasn’t meant to be a devotional.”

“She’s not teaching theology.”

“Our job is not to seek people out and hate them.”

“Stop competing! Just imagine what the non-Christians think about the McJudgies! We need to focus inward because the project within ourself is the most important work we will accomplish. Don't use your blog to bring someone down.”

Unfortunately, such comments are representative of the lack of discernment common in the church today. If Alisa fairly characterized the claims of Hollis’s book, Hollis is promoting ideas that conflict with a biblical worldview. And when there is a concern that millions of women are consuming content from a Christian author that can lead them to embrace unbiblical ideas, we should be raising a warning flag and calling out for discernment in the body of Christ.

It’s not about being a “McJudgey.”

It’s about discerning biblical truth from non-truth…something the Bible consistently tells us to do.

While this post isn’t directly related to parenting (which I normally write about), it’s something that affects parenting. When parents readily incorporate popular but unbiblical ideas into their worldview, those ideas will affect how they raise their kids and the nature of the worldview they pass on.

The following are 10 signs that the Christian authors you’re following may be subtly teaching unbiblical ideas. I say “subtly” because I think most people would spot a problem immediately if a Christian said they didn’t believe in the Trinity. But it’s just as important to identify when less obvious warning signs—like the following—are present.

1. They say, “I love Jesus but…”

It’s become popular for writers to trumpet that they love Jesus but (fill in the blank). When you see a sentence start this way, be prepared for one of two things to follow.

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A few days ago I felt a rather large, firm lump on my body.

My first reaction was, “What on Earth is that?”…followed closely by, “Oh my gosh. This could be it.”

Honestly, I started to panic. I know I'm at a higher risk for certain types of cancer and I imagined the worst.

My doctor wasn’t able to get me in for five days. I spent that five days consumed by Google research—diagnosing myself, guessing what stage cancer it would be if I had it, and looking at 5-year survival rates for the various stages. Every time the kids were occupied, I would quickly grab my phone to Google something new about the size, shape, and texture of my unwelcome lump.

I eventually concluded that there was a pretty good chance it actually wasn’t cancer given the characteristics of the lump. I was still scared, but the more logical side of me believed it was more likely than not to be benign. When the morning of my appointment rolled around, I went in with the hope of reassurance.

That didn’t happen.

The doctor said he was “pretty” confident it wasn’t cancerous. I asked him if “pretty” confident meant something more like 51 percent or 90 percent, thinking he would say 90 percent. He replied, “More like 51 percent.”

The words hung in the air for what seemed an eternity. This is just as likely to go either way. 

The doctor gave me an urgent referral for the various tests needed to determine what was going on later that day. I went home and had some very dark moments.

Fear consumed me. I prayed with desperate, tear-covered pleas for health.

I felt absolutely nothing back from God.

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I grew up in a smallish town in Arizona (about 25,000 people at the time). Almost everyone I knew fit into one of four buckets: 1) committed Christians, 2) nominal Christians, 3) those who didn’t call themselves Christians but accepted “Judeo-Christian” values, and 4) Mormons.

In my view of the world at the time, believing in God—and being a Christian specifically—was the default for most people. There were certainly a few kids who fell into other buckets (atheist or New Age), but they were the exception; there was something different about them.

My beliefs were “normal.”

Oh, how things have changed.

According to Pew Forum research on the religious landscape of America, Christians statistically are still the majority. But those statistics are highly misleading because religious categorization is based on self-identification, and the “Christian” category includes a wide range of beliefs and commitment levels.

The Pew Forum, however, just released an eye-opening new method of categorizing America’s religious beliefs, and it reveals a more realistic picture:

  • Less than 40% of Americans are “highly religious” (seriously committed to their faith; this includes non-Christian religions such as Judaism and Islam).
  • About a quarter of the “highly religious” are what researchers call “diversely devout,” meaning they mostly believe in the God of the Bible but hold all kinds of views inconsistent with Christianity, such as reincarnation.

From the publicly available data, I don’t see a way to break down the remaining 30% of highly religious people into those who hold beliefs consistent with historic Christianity, so for our current purpose, we’ll just have to say that committed Christians represent some portion of that 30%.

In other words, a minority.

I’ve noticed lately that my subconscious assumption that this has become the case has had a number of implications for how I talk with my kids. For example, some phrases that have regularly worked their way into our daily conversations are “the world tells us,” or “the world would like us to think,” or “the way the world is.” In other words, I find myself constantly placing an emphasis on making sure my kids know that what they are learning to be true about reality is literally opposite of what the world around them—the majority—believes.

This is so different than how I—and many of you—grew up. We were part of a pack. We moved along without having to think much about our beliefs versus those of “the world.” Our parents didn’t have to coach us on why we were so very different…because we weren’t very different. Sure, there were probably some great differences between our homes in how prominently faith actually played out, but we didn’t readily see that on the playground. We didn’t have social media to make the differences abundantly clear. We didn’t have the internet to give us access to the many who are hostile toward our beliefs.

In a world where your beliefs will constantly rub up against opposing views, however, you need parents who will give it to you straight:

Our entire view of reality is unlike the view most others have. We. Are. Different. And that will affect your life in profound ways.

I don’t say this as a mere suggestion that this is a conversation we should have with our kids at some point. I say this believing it’s a critical part of how we approach our parenting every single day.

It has to become a way of life.

Here’s why. When you raise your kids to understand they have a minority worldview, it does three important things:

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If you’re at all familiar with leading atheist voices in today’s world, you undoubtedly know who Richard Dawkins is. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and the bestselling author of The God Delusion. As an outspoken atheist, Dawkins rails against religion and is intent on ridding the world of any “childish” notion that God exists.

Dawkins recently announced on Twitter that he is working on two books for kids: Outgrowing God (for teens) and Atheism for Children (it appears the final title is still TBD):

I'm not sure exactly what Dawkins will cover in his books, but the title Outgrowing God has piqued my interest. It fits right in with Dawkins’ general attitude—religion is for those with childish minds; it’s something everyone should outgrow, though not everyone does.

If you’re an adult Christian, this sounds ridiculous. And it is. But atheism is quickly on the rise in America, and young people are increasingly coming to believe the claims by Dawkins and others that religion is something to leave behind once you’re sophisticated enough to see the truth about reality.

With that in mind, we should be asking ourselves: What on Earth would lead a kid to believe Christianity is something to be outgrown?

Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of reasons why this happens, and much of the time it’s rooted in either the lack of effort many parents put into discipling their kids or their lack of direction (i.e., they may be putting in effort, but not the necessary kind of effort given today’s challenges).

Here are some reasons that stand out to me:

1. Kids learned to see belief in God as an emotional crutch rather than as knowledge about reality.

Christian parents often start out motivated to teach their kids about God when their kids are very young. They look for the best children’s songs, videos, devotionals, prayer books, and so on. The message kids get from these resources is usually (and necessarily) very simple: God loves you and He’s with you all the time.

When we’re sad, we can pray. When we’re angry, He can help us be calm. When we’re scared, we can know He’s there. When other kids don’t like us, God still does.

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