I believe in...what exactly?
If we are truly going to challenge our children and share the truth with them, we’ll need to ask some hard questions of ourselves first, says Ed Jones
What is it that drives me, that burns within me, that set me apart from the rest of the world and that I want others to experience and encounter for themselves?
We were leaving the swimming pool, and for what seemed like the 100th time I’d asked my son to keep up and not dawdle; it being a busy car park, dark, and the fact that dinner was waiting for us at home - the usual suspects. Less than five seconds later, he asks, “Dad, what do you know about God?” What ensued was a fairly deep conversation that somehow even got onto the concept of the second coming; all within the short drive home!
As we got out of the car, the conversation made me - not for the first time recently - ask the question: 'So what do I believe?'
Now it’s not that I’m questioning is God real, does he really love me, is the Bible just a big story book someone made up or any of that. I find myself asking the question, what do I believe, because many people don’t believe in God. They don’t believe in His son Jesus, that he died for them and that through His death and resurrection the offer of salvation and an eternal friendship is there for all. They, and many more besides, may believe in a whole load of other things, but certainly not the same Hope that I do, found in a relationship with the creator of all things!
In February 2012 I wrote an article entitled Indoctrination of the Word
. It sought to raise the challenge when working amongst children of not simply imparting the Bible as a text to learn word for word, but more so something to be engaged and grappled with.
My current thinking in many ways builds from these thoughts. I believe there is a danger that we don’t take stock and seriously ask ourselves the question what is it that I believe, that I stand for, that I’m passionate about and that I want to share with others! What is it that drives me, that burns within me, that set me apart from the rest of the world and that I want others to experience and encounter for themselves?
Within our churches we need to be clear about what we believe. Surely if it matters to us than it should make a difference in our lives and we should want to impart it to those around us. When it comes to ministering amongst children I wonder whether sometimes a ‘wishy-washy’ approach does more harm than good. We may think we’re giving them space, we’re not pressuring them, forcing them, but do we go the other way and leave the gate wide open. It’s not the image I see Jesus painting in Matthew 7?
Perhaps if we’re honest, it’s because if we are truly going to challenge our children as to what they believe and share the truth with them, not as some watered down optional extra, but the light of life that it is, we’ll need to ask some hard questions of ourselves first. And are we ready to do that?
Hopefully the questions will continue to come from my own children about God, faith, why the sky is blue and fish don’t die when lightning strikes the sea. Hopefully they’ll want to hear what I’ve got to say... and hopefully I’ll say the right things more often than not.
Some thoughts to consider:
• What space and opportunities are there for all-ages to ask questions within the life of your local gathered church?
• Who is ensuring that across the generations the question of what is it we believe, is genuinely being asked and worked through?
• How are you, or could you begin to equip parents to be able to respond to the questions their children are hopefully asking?
Ed Jones is a Baptist minister based in Basildon, Essex, and is the executive director of Arise Ministries
He is the author of the Today not tomorrow resource, which encourages churches to become fully intergenerational, and is shared by Baptists Together with Arise Ministries
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