Teaching Your Kids to Think
Your kids have doubts about their faith like the rest of us! Author Hillary Morgan Ferrer offers methods toward a robust foundation for kids’ faith.
About the Guest
Your kids have doubts about their faith like the rest of us! Author Hillary Morgan Ferrer offers methods toward a robust foundation for kids’ faith.
Teaching Your Kids to Think
Dave: So, one of the things you were absolutely not allowed to do in the church I grew up in—
Ann: Oh, okay. We’re going here today. [Laughter]
Dave: I mean there were so many things that come to my mind. You weren’t allowed to laugh.
Hillary: Oh, sad!
Dave: You had to dress a certain way. I mean you couldn’t clap. I mean it was a pretty rule-based place; but one of the things I distinctly remember is you weren’t allowed to ask questions about your faith. You weren’t allowed to question the faith. You weren’t allowed to ever express a doubt.
Dave: It just wasn’t allowed. You were supposed to believe, have faith—whether it made sense or didn’t make sense. If you questioned, it was like you were not only just an unbeliever; you were of the devil.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife…
Dave: If you questioned, it was like you were not only just an unbeliever; you were of the devil.
Ann: Which was bad for you because being married to you for 41 years, you have a natural skepticism and you ask a lot of questions.
Dave: Yes, and I was asking questions to my single mom.
Dave: And—bless her heart! She was an amazing woman and an amazing mom. She didn’t know the answers. So, all she would say was “Well, I don’t know, and I don’t think you’re supposed to ask those kinds of questions.” So, I felt like less as a person—
Dave: —spiritually. It was like “I’m probably not even a Christian because real Christians have all the answers, and they don’t ever question like I do.”
Ann: Because their faith is so grounded.
Dave: Yes; so as I become a dad, I’m the opposite. I want to encourage that with my kids. So, we are sitting here today with Hillary Ferrer in the FamilyLife studio again. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Hillary: Thank you so much, and I’m so sorry that that was your—
Dave: I could see you over there. You were just smiling like, “That is so sad.”
Ann: I know you were empathizing.
Hillary: It’s like—because my husband—I call him the atheist magnet because it’s like if we are at a church picnic, then the one agnostic in the whole park will sit down next to him and start a conversation; but so many of the ones who walked away from the faith and became the really passionate atheist come from that background. They assume that all churches are like that. Thankfully, that is not the kind of church I grew up in. So, the fact that you are walking with the Lord after being told that, that just shows the Lord was with you, man.
Ann: Well, and Hillary, we’re in ministry. We’re on staff with Cru®. We’ve been in ministry for a year, and we’re sitting down. We’re having our devotions. Dave’s doing something, and he walks in. I have my Bible on my lap, and he says—
Dave: Oh, this was our first year of marriage.
Ann: He says—
Dave: First year, as a full-time missionary.
Ann: He says, “Do you think it is true?”
Ann: I said, “What?” He goes, “The Bible—how do we even know it is true? Maybe, it is all a myth.” I’m sitting here thinking, “What?! This is the man I married! We went into full-time ministry because God called us, and now you are questioning all of it?!”
Dave: Yes, I mean this was almost 18 months/2 years after my conversion which wasn’t until my junior year of college. Now, we’re in ministry and giving our lives to this thinking, probably, full-time—which here we are 41 years later.
Dave: We did it. We’ve still done it; but I remember your response because I remember she looked at me like, “Well, I don’t have those kinds of questions.” It’s just the way she is wired; but she said, “You better find answers.”
Hillary: Oh, good wife! Good wife.
Dave: You know I did. I went on this journey which, as we’ve already talked previously with you, the questions and going after those answers, strengthens your faith, not lessens it.
Dave: So, I came out on the other side after reading Evidence that Demands a Verdict and looking at [inaudible]—
Hillary: That was my first book.
Dave: —and all kinds of different stuff.
Ann: Yes—More Than a Carpenter.
Dave: I was like, “Wow! I feel like I have a solid foundation.” I was starting to believe, “Oh, come on! There really isn’t a foundation.”
Hillary: Isn’t it empowering when you have those questions answered? And now it’s like—because I remember, like I said, I was 12 when Apologetics was done from the pulpit that I was introduced to it. It went from—you know I had always had a very firm belief in Christ and in the Gospel and in Jesus—all that—but all of the sudden, I was really excited. It was like the first time I had really owned my faith because I was like, “Oh wait! No, this is like for reals true.”
Ann: I can be proud of it!
Hillary: I know! I can be proud of it, and I can talk to non-Christians about this and not be scared. I don’t have to only talk to Christians. It’s an incredibly empowering feeling when you know that you—“I actually have based my life on something that is true.”
Dave: Yes. So, obviously, you become Mama Bear.
Dave: Which is such a great brand to understand—you want to help mothers—and men as well, I know—but help them be able to help lead their kids. So, I’m holding your book right in front of me, Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies. Let’s talk about that a little bit because you did such a good job. You know moms are going to be the ones getting those questions—and dads—but we often feel so ill-equipped to know what to do with our kids.
So, when you think about that, you have all these different methods in your book.
Dave: I love how you write. So, one of them is chew and spit.
Hillary: Yes, the chew and spit method. I grew up in Texas—proud Texan. I remember from a young age we had to learn how when you’re eating steak and you get that piece that you just keep chewing and chewing and chewing—nothing is happening with it—how to discretely spit that out. But yes, it is just this idea that when you are eating sometimes, there are some things you don’t want to swallow.
Hillary: So, I think when we are interacting with culture, it’s this idea of people try to divide everything into safe and dangerous; where if something is in the safe Christian category, then I can basically turn my brain off and let my kids watch whatever it is. They don’t have to think through it. It’s all safe. But all this stuff over here—when I was growing up—Madonna and some of these other bands—that’s the dangerous spot.
So, you kind of start raising kids that have no spiritual immune system because if they’ve never been exposed to any other kind of idea, then they get out into their teens and early-20’s and discover that, “Hey, some of these things that were forbidden are actually not a part of like demon/Satan worship with whatever going on with them.”
So, at that point, when they discover there is some good in the things that they were told were all bad, who then becomes the liar? Ah, the people who told them it was all bad become the liar.
Ann: Give some examples of that. Can you think of any TV shows or something? I’m thinking of all the shows—“You’re not watching that! You’re not watching that!”
Hillary: I don’t think we even have the luxury of, I guess, sheltering our kids in that same way anymore—
Hillary: —because even the children’s programming, you still have to have your antennae up right now because you have no idea what kinds of things from the liberal, progressive Christian that are taught in some things. I think we have a podcast episode about this woman children’s pastor who wrote about the trouble with Easter and how this idea that Jesus actually died for our sins leads our kids into this dangerous belief that there is something inherently wrong with them. I’m like, “There is!”
Dave: There is.
Ann: There is. It’s called sin.
Hillary: It’s called sin, exactly.
Dave: Every parent knows.
Hillary: Yes. So, it’s like we don’t have the luxury of doing that. We have to teach our kids how to chew and spit. This idea of: you evaluate everything—and I have this little hand. I know we’re on the radio—but this hand gesture where you bring them together. If you are talking with your kids, everything is a mixture of good and bad. We want to—
Ann: Just like your hands are clasped, like almost in prayer—yes.
Hillary: Yes, like in prayer. So, what we do when we engage with culture is we separate the good from the bad. Now, we’re going to separate our two hands. We’re going to embrace the good and reject the bad.
Ann: So, you pulled one hand to you. You are holding on to it, and this is the spit.
Hillary: So, what I’ve discovered is, number one, there is never going to be a theologian so awesome that he doesn’t teach you something that is not true; and there is never going to be an atheist so bad that they never say something true. You can learn truth from a lot of different sources, if you have the humility to learn. I’ve actually found even beauty in a lot of different sources.
Every now and then, I have someone email me asking me what movie I’m talking about in the book—that there is this one movie that I will never watch again. I’m sad that I watched it the first time. I mean it just gives you images in your head that you can’t unsee. It’s these kids that kind of get into drug culture and then the lengths that they’re willing to go in order to get a fix. Then it just kind of shows the psychosis in visible ways.
But I remember watching that, and I remember after I was done—first off, being like, “What did I just watch?” But I dropped to my knees, and I thanked the Lord because I saw how easy that could have been to get into a culture like that—especially—I have a history of struggling with some depression/anxiety, which I think a lot of people do.
Hillary: And that if I hadn’t been brought up in the church/if I had been given something that would have numbed those feelings, how easy would it have been to descend into that culture? So, I basically dropped on my knees and praised God for what He had saved me from in this life at least.
Ann: So, basically, that movie you were chewing, and you were spitting it all out.
Hillary: I was spitting it all out and thanking God that was not my story. So, I mean that is kind of the extreme. I don’t think we need to go for all these raunchy things to try to see what good we can find in it; but I remember watching it—and I’ll say this—there was this Madonna concert that happened to be on TV, and I was watching it. I was like, “Wow. She is incredibly artistic. The art direction—it was so amazing and just appreciating that beauty”—and even if it is coming from a non-Christian, I can appreciate that beauty.
Anyway, it is just this idea of taking in everything. Don’t intentionally go after something bad; but being able to take whatever you see, separate the good from the bad, embrace the good and reject the bad, and know why you are embracing something and know why you are rejecting some things.
So, one of the beautiful things about, I think, the way I present apologetics in these books is you don’t have to know all the answers. You just need to know how to think about culture. Thinking well is something I think we are all capable of doing without having some kind of advanced degree. But just knowing how to pick through the messages, how to recognize what those messages are and then discuss them with our kids.
Ann: I think that’s so wise because as teenagers—if we’ve watched something on TV with our kids or gone to a movie, and then just to discount the whole thing, like, “That’s trash. Why are you even watching that?” They are like, “Okay, well, I’m not going to talk to Mom and Dad about it,” or “Maybe, I’m going to hide what I’ve seen or even what I’ve thought.” So, give us an example of the conversation. Let’s say you all watch this movie and show us what it’s like then. How do we start that chew and spit?
Hillary: I remember taking one of my little nieces to see The Frog Princess, I think it was. You know thinking “This is going to be safe,” and I’m watching, and some of the parts in there, I’m like, “Dude! This is demonic.” So, I was like, “Yes, we need to have a conversation about this.” So, on the way home, I was saying, “Darby, let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about some of the things that were true in this. Are monsters real?”
“No, not really.”
“What about princesses?”
“Yes, princesses are real.”
“Are frogs real? Are talking frogs real?”
I said, “What about evil, Darby? Do you think evil is real?” She kind of thought, and she goes, “No.” I said, “Let’s talk about evil. Evil is real.” Then, that, of course, led into the conversation of—“How greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world.” This is a verse that my mom used to say to me a lot—just because I think I was very aware of evil at a young age. That was one of the verses she used to comfort me. So, it’s really just kind of looking at things and looking at them from different perspectives and especially trying to find the things that you can agree with.
I guess movies are how the Lord teaches me a lot of things. It’s like whenever I’m talking about spiritual things, a lot of times, I say, “Oh, it’s like this scene in the movie,” or “It’s like that scene in the movie.” It’s like all these little snippets of things that I can use analogies for.
Ann: I think that’s just a good reminder for us, as parents, that the culture is discipling our children.
Ann: Whether we like it or not, this is happening, and it’s shaping their worldviews.
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Hillary Morgan Ferrer on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear Hillary’s response in just a second; but first, as a listener of FamilyLife Today, you have heard many stories of how God can do amazing work in even the toughest marriages. The amazing thing is that God chooses to use people just like you to help.
One way you can make an impact for more marriages and families is by financially partnering with FamilyLife Today. All this week, as our thanks for your partnership, we want to send you a copy of Hillary Ferrer’s book as our thanks. It’s called Mama Bear Apologetics. You can get your copy when you give this week at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call with your donation at 800-358-6329. That’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
All right, now back to Dave and Ann’s conversation with Hillary Ferrer and how to develop a Christian worldview for your kids in everyday life.
Dave: One of the things that has to be discerned is for you and I to know what to chew and what to spit. We have a biblical worldview—
Dave: —that’s been developed. What you did with Darby—your little niece, right?—is what we should be doing as parents with music, with TV shows, anything that’s out there. You tell me if I am right or wrong. It’s simple as, after it is done—or even pause it in the middle—and have a conversation: “Hey, let’s talk about what is true. Let’s talk about what isn’t true,” and see what they respond with because they may say things that aren’t true that they say are true.
Dave: And you go, “Well”—
Hillary: I’m glad that we caught that.
Dave: Next thing you know, you may not know—they may not know—you’re giving them a biblical reference and worldview that will be developed further later; but you’re setting those boundaries to say, “No.”
Ann: You’re beginning the foundation.
Dave: Like you did with evil—“No, evil is not real.” “Yes, it is,” and you are giving her a worldview. That’s our job as parents.
Hillary: You would be surprised at how quickly they pick up on this because I even remember what my mom did. She must have just done it a few times. We’d be watching a movie—and this is, of course, when you couldn’t pause television; but if it was a movie, you could pause it. My mom would look over at me and say, “You see that, Hillary, that’s a red flag.” So, she taught me how to spot red flags in guys early on, and it just took a couple times for me to realize, “Oh, you can discern things about someone’s character before they actually show all that character.”
Hillary: So, ROAR is the acronym that we came up with—me and the ladies who were on the team for the first book. So, it stands for
- Recognize the message,
- Offer discernment,
- Argue for a healthier approach, and
- Reinforce these ideas through discussion, discipleship, and prayer.
Recognizing the message would be “What is the base message that is coming from this? What worldview? What are they laughing at? What are they treating as the most important thing? What is humorous?” One of the things that drives me nuts is really dangerous driving that is portrayed as humorous—stuff like that where it’s just showing irresponsibility.
Now, when we go into the offer discernment, a lot of times people hear the word discernment, and they think pointing out everything that is wrong with something. I think that is a really bad definition of discernment. So, I think in order to build bridges first, we need to know when to build bridges and when to build walls.
So, building that bridge—first saying, “What is good? What can we all agree”—because even if the character makes a bad decision, sometimes, they did it with good intentions. Not that good intentions make up for bad actions; but we can at least acknowledge, “We might have had the same goals, and then achieve those goals through two separate ways—one, which was a good idea and one, which was a bad idea. So, we’re separating the good from the bad, acknowledging the good and saying “This is the bad that snuck in there. Okay, we’ve now discerned.”
Argue for a healthier approach is where we can say, “What were those good intentions? What is that good? And how is the Bible actually a proponent of this? What is a healthier way to argue for this good to where you’re embracing that value and it’s coming out in a biblical way?”
Then, finally, reinforcing the discussion, discipleship, and prayer. This would be having the conversation, actively having activities that reinforce this idea, and then prayer—praying through these ideas. You know we have the ideological realm that we are waging a war on in praying for your kids to see the lies for what they are. Praying for them—one of the things I pray every time I do a talk, if I have the time, I love to go through and touch all the chairs and pray for scales to fall from the eyes, for blindness to be exposed, and for light to penetrate.
So, just covering your children from that spiritual perspective and teaching them how to pray themselves and not just a “Lord, please keep Grandma safe, and let us have a good trip.” I mean it’s not like those are bad prayers; but how can we be teaching them, “Lord, I pray that I would be able to see when a lie is being promulgated as the truth. I pray that if my heart starts to follow something that is not after Your heart that I would acknowledge it or that You would bring someone into my life to acknowledge it.”
Or one of my favorite prayers—just because I think it is a wise prayer—I ask the Lord to humble me without publicly humiliating me which is also a good prayer for—well, number one, for any leader position, but teaching our kids to accept that chastisement when it needs to come and be grateful for it.
Dave: I love even your last “R” of ROAR: “Reinforce through discussion,” I think—
Hillary: Discussion, discipleship, and prayer.
Ann: Those are huge.
Dave: Discussion with our kids is—especially in middle school, high school—again, start early.
Ann: It starts younger.
Hillary: Start early.
Dave: But as they are asking these really somewhat profound questions and pushing back and—even as their peers push in on them—often as a parent, we pull away; we withdraw out of that rather than stepping in and engaging. One, I think, we think, “Oh, they don’t want to hear our voice anymore.” They do.
Hillary: They do.
Dave: Number two, instead of like slamming something down their throat, it’s like, “Let’s have a discussion.” Discipleship is discussion and prayer; but “Let’s talk about this,” and hear their thoughts, hear their pushback. Let them question. Let them doubt, and then walk them through this discussion toward the truth because somebody’s got to do it. Often, we want the Christian school to do it or the pastor to do it or the church, and that is all good; but no, God calls us to be in that discussion with them.
We can become a safe place—not “Mom and Dad are never going to listen to me or never going to let me question.” But no, “Mom and Dad are actually safe. They are going to discuss with me”—
Dave: —“and partner with me toward the goal of truth.”
Hillary: Yes, I think we say somewhere, “Truth that is discovered goes a lot deeper than truth that is just presented.” So, you can be presented with the truth, and it may not go deep; but when you feel like you yourself have discovered the truth, that’s where it kind of sticks.
So, instead of just saying, “This is what is wrong with that.” Just say, “Well, what did you think about this? Well, do you think that might lead to—what did you think about the idea that he put art as the highest thing? Well, what about the one where it seemed like he neglected his family? Do you think you should neglect your family for art? Do you think someone has ever regretted that they spent more time with their family than more time at work? Have you ever heard someone say that story from their deathbed? I’ve kind of heard the opposite from deathbeds.”
So, you are asking questions to help them kind of think through this for themselves to where if they get something wrong—especially if you can pick up on what it is that they are getting wrong, you know how to ask the question that is going to lovingly help them think through that idea.
My dad always said—there are a couple things he always said to me—because I was a question asker—big time! He always said, “You don’t need to have all the answers. You just need to know where to find the answers. Basically, the way to find the right answers is to know how to ask the right questions.”
Ann: Yes, that is good. I’m wondering, Hillary, as we close, would you pray just for the moms—
Ann: —as they are thinking, “I want to do this. I need to do it.”
Hillary: Yes; absolutely.
Father, God, we thank You so much for this time we have spent having this discussion, Lord. I do pray over the moms that are out there, Lord. First of all, we just want to recognize what a huge, massive job that they have, Lord; that they are shepherding these little minds; and they are really raising the next generation, Lord. It talks about “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” Lord. There is no such thing as a mom with a small job, Lord.
I just pray that You would help them to see in their lives things that are taking their attention that might not need to be and places that You want to plug them in. I pray there would be a place of no condemnation for those who feel like if they have one more thing put on their shoulders that they are going to crack, that You would just come and lift some of those burdens off of them.
For those who don’t know how they can engage, Lord, I pray that You would give them just the hope that they can understand and that they can engage, and they can know how to ask the right questions, Lord, and how to steer their children.
We just thank You that You are the Good Father and that while we are being shepherds to our kids, Lord, You are shepherding our hearts, Lord. I pray that You would just train them what it looks like to battle on their knees before You, praying over their children and that You would just give them a sense of peace, Lord, as they move into maybe new territory/as they move into new ideas, Lord, just to say, “I can do this. This is what the Lord has called me to,” and You would give them a sense of godly empowerment that they can do that which You have called them to do—that You have given them every good gift in order to shepherd their children well, Lord.
I pray that they would just feel Your Presence as they go through that and as they work toward raising children to the glory of God. In Your Name, I pray.
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Hillary Morgan Ferrer on FamilyLife Today. Her book is called Mama Bear Apologetics, and you can get your copy when you give this week at FamilyLifeToday.com. Now, I’ve got the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, with me here in the studio. You know sometimes, our kids come at us with a question that either stumps us or throws us for a loop, and you had that happen to you recently; right?
David: Yes. I mean I think about this whole conversation; and I go, “This is what we are about at FamilyLife:” helping parents and kids, helping couples, helping families experience time together around timeless truth. Because the reality is transformation happens in the trenches of life when real things happen.
Recently, we were telling our kids we were going to move again, and as we were doing that—this was about two years ago—my oldest who usually is our most articulate, expressive one went really silent. As we walked through that evening and he was headed up the stairs to bed that night, I asked him, “Buddy, are you okay? What are you thinking?” He said, “Dad, I don’t know if I am mad at you or I’m mad at God; but I know I’m mad at someone.”
Because of FamilyLife in my life and because of resources that have been there, my first response was “Oh, buddy, God can handle your anger. Don’t stuff it. Bring it out. Bring it to Him. We can wrestle with our doubts together and our anger together.” I just was so grateful for the investment of FamilyLife in my own life as the president that in that moment/in those acute moments in life we are able to enter with grace and truth and have time together that shape our kids’ worldview and world.
Shelby: That’s beautiful. I am so glad that God was gracious with you in that tough moment with your son and that God used FamilyLife to help you engage well with him.
Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson will continue the conversation with Hillary Ferrer where she’ll be joined by her husband John. They are opening the floodgates on the topic of how to actually listen to your wife. That will be a good one.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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