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 Bibleincludes 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!
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!
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!
Digging for Truth-Episode 33: Keeping Your Kids on God's Side with Natasha Crain - YouTube
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Having blogged for over six years now, I’ve received hundreds (and hundreds) of comments and emails from skeptics of Christianity. Once in a while, I receive one from a pleasant non-believer who is truly interested in discussing evidence, asking reasonable questions, and engaging in thoughtful discussion.
But that’s the exception.
Those who contact me typically wield the tool of shaming to make their point—something highly ironic given how much skeptics talk about the importance of evidence.
To be clear, none of the non-believers I personally know would use shaming tactics in person. But when people are behind their screens, it brings down the “barrier” of civility, and faith conversations often look very different. You can see it on social media (even with friends who wouldn’t say such things in person), comments on news articles, blog posts—everywhere.
Kids need to understand these emotion-laden shaming attempts they’ll encounter. Like so much else, this is something parents can and should prepare them for. Here are the five most common skeptics who want to shame your kids for being Christian.
1. The Science Thumper
Shame Tactic: Making the child believe they don’t have enough scientific expertise to understand that belief in God is unnecessary and silly.
The Science Thumper applies some notion of science to each and every conversation about Christianity, making it the final word on any given topic, and implying that science and Christianity are at irreconcilable odds.
For example, in response to one of my blog posts about the meaning of life in a theistic worldview, a skeptic commented:
You need to study the mechanisms of replication, mutation, natural selection if you want to understand why life exists and is the way it is. If life and existence are too amazing, astounding and astonishing to exist naturally…then how much more complex is god [sic] for having created it? ... Did you invent superman as a panacea answer for everything you don’t understand?
Questions of faith and science are very important, but framing faith and science as a choice—one option for the unsophisticated and one for those in the know—is a cheap and false dichotomy.
Parent Solution: Thoroughly address faith and science topics so kids understand how shallow and unnuanced the Science Thumper’s claims are. See Talking with Your Kids about God for six chapters outlining the conversations parents need to have.
2. The Indoctrination Informer
Shame Tactic: Informing the child that the ONLY reason they believe in Jesus is that they’ve been “indoctrinated” by their parents.
Indoctrination is a word that both Christians and skeptics use wrong. Skeptics often think a kid has been indoctrinated any time they’ve been taught a given religion is true. Christians often think indoctrination means teaching kids Christian doctrine. These misunderstandings lead to conversations that unfortunately sound like this:
Skeptic to Christian parent: “You’re indoctrinating your kids [by raising them in a Christian home]! Let them think for themselves.”
Christian parent to skeptic: “You’re right! I’m teaching my kids Christian doctrine, and I’m proud of it!”
Both skeptics and Christians need to understand that indoctrination means teaching someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs. In other words, indoctrination is a problem with how you teach someone something. It is not inherently related to any particular belief system, though religion is one type of belief system where indoctrination is possible.
Shame Tactic: Making the child feel gullible for believing something that doesn’t happen according to natural laws.
Here’s a recent comment a skeptic left on my blog:
Just because some so-called holy book says something is true doesn’t make it true. Why do you believe outlandish claims about a god [sic] speaking things into existence, or about a man being swallowed by a fish for a few days and surviving, a worldwide flood [and ark] that fit all of the animals in it and eight people, or a story about a virgin getting pregnant? None of that makes sense, you don’t have any proof that it happened, but you still think it’s true. Why do you prefer to believe outlandish claims because they’re religious?
The logic here is what’s “outlandish” (no one believes all miraculous claims simply because they’re religious), but my point is not to critique the details of this particular comment. My point is to show how skeptics present miracles in a way that parades them as “obviously” absurd because (and by definition!), they don’t follow the course of nature.
Parent Solution: Teach kids the basic logic that if God exists, miracles are possible, and if God doesn’t exist, miracles are not possible (for more on this, see chapter 24 in Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side). This brings the question of miracles back to the underlying question of the evidence for God’s existence so kids understand that the person claiming miracles are silly is simply presupposing God doesn’t exist.
4. The Self-Sufficient Scoffer
Shame Tactic: Boasting that the skeptic doesn’t “need” God—and implying that anyone who does has an inferior need for an emotional crutch to get through life.
Oftentimes, when ex-Christians recount their deconversion story, they conclude with a glib comment of how they moved on because they no longer “needed” God. The subtly condescending implication, of course, is that those who believe in God do so because they don’t have the emotional resources to make it through life admitting that we live in a universe of pitiless indifference.
This is a strange conclusion that betrays a lack of deeper insight.
If God exists, we need Him. All things were created through and for Him; He is the Source and sustainer of everything by definition. Therefore, if God exists, it’s not a choice to need Him…it’s simply a fact that we do.
If God doesn’t exist, we don’t need Him. We cannot need Him. We cannot need something that doesn’t exist.
In other words, saying that you don’t need God anymore is a nonsensical conclusion. Of course you don’t need God if He doesn’t exist. And if He does exist, you can’t choose to not need Him.
What this kind of statement betrays, therefore, is that the skeptic originally believed in God based on felt needs (desires) rather than on the conviction that He truly exists. When they realized they didn’t need to believe in God to satisfy those felt needs, they simply eliminated Him from the picture and met those needs in other ways.
Parent Solution: Be mindful of helping kids build a faith based on the conviction of God’s existence and the truth of Christianity—not on felt needs for things like being happy, being a good person, or finding meaning in life. In other words, if anyone ever asks your child why they’re a Christian, you should want their response to be, “Because Christianity is true!” For more on escaping the felt need pattern, see the post “Do Your Kids Know Why They Need God?”
5. The Tolerance Enforcer
Shame Tactic: Making the child feel like they are unloving and hateful for taking a biblical stance that doesn’t approve of all choices as morally acceptable.
In a spectacular display of irony, the Tolerance Enforcer shames kids into believing that they must be horrible people for disagreeing with non-believers on the morality of various issues. By labeling kids hateful and unloving rather than thoughtfully discussing the evidence for the truth of the underlying worldviews that produce divergent moral conclusions, they rely on purely emotional attacks. Kids without an intellectual foundation for the Christian worldview are left feeling that they must be wrong about the truth of their faith.
Parent Solution: Help kids understand the irony of a person championing tolerance who won’t tolerate Christian beliefs without labeling disagreement hateful. Then demonstrate how Christians and non-Christians will necessarily disagree on moral issues because we have a different source of authority—the Bible. Here’s an example.
In all of these cases, remember that shame, by definition, is “a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace.” In other words, the root of shame is feeling inadequate.
In order for our kids to feel (more than) adequate when they encounter shaming attempts, they need to have the deep conviction that what they believe is really true. Only then will they be able to fully see these shame tactics for what they are—shallow and baseless emotional attacks—and be able to say confidently with the apostle Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
In the last few years that I’ve been writing and speaking about the importance of parents equipping their kids with an understanding of apologetics (how to make a case for and defend the truth of Christianity), I’ve had a nagging thought in the back of my mind:
There will never be a widespread change in Christian parents’ knowledge of this topic until there’s a widespread change in the emphasis local churches place on it.
The barriers to that happening, however, are significant:
Pastors are extraordinarily busy. In some cases, they don’t see a strong need for parents (or other church members) learning apologetics, so it falls low on the priority list. In other cases, they may see the need for it but are stretched too thin to find ways to make it happen.
Many local churches don’t already have one or more members who are passionate about apologetics. With no one to champion the cause internally, nothing happens.
Even when a local church decides to do something in this area, there’s often an uncertainty about what to do (which of many resources should they use?) and who will do it (church members often feel unequipped to facilitate classes in this area).
For these reasons, it’s been a joy for me to speak at churches in the last few years. Parents who would otherwise not know what apologetics is, why it’s important, or how to gain the knowledge they need attend because my talk is more generally titled “Raising Kids with Confident Faith in a Secular World.” That’s something all Christian parents desire to do, even if they come not knowing what it entails. I’m so heartened when I talk to parents afterward who say they now realize they need to get better equipped and enthusiastically pick up Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side and Talking with Your Kids about God to get going!
But these events are just a drop in the bucket. I started thinking earlier this year, What if there was a whole network of people doing the same (or a similar) presentation at local churches, who would then facilitate an ongoing group for those church parents to learn about apologetics?
And with that, the idea for Grassroots Apologetics for Parents was born.
Introducing Grassroots Apologetics for Parents (GAP)
Grassroots Apologetics for Parents conveniently forms the acronym GAP. I say “conveniently” because our mission is to help close the GAP that exists for parents between knowing the world will challenge their kids’ faith and knowing what to do about it.
To do this, we’ll work with local churches to launch and host GAP chapters that bring parents together for regular meetings where they’ll receive apologetics training and support. A local GAP chapter will ideally draw parents from the host church as well as other churches in the area (similar to a MOPS model, if you’re familiar with that). GAP chapters will be led by Parent Ambassadors (PAs) who will be given all the materials and direction needed to facilitate their local group.