C. Michael Patton – Twelve Ways to Prepare Your Children for Times of Doubt

1. Let them know that it is not abnormal to experience doubt. This does not mean that your children will experience significant doubt, it just means that doubt is a common issue they will experience, to varying degrees, in a fallen world. Typically, your child’s struggles with doubt will not start until he reaches adulthood and begins to stand on his own two feet in many ways, including in his faith walk. But if you have helped your child understand that doubt is something common to all Christians, he won’t be scared to share his struggles when they arise later in life.

2. Share with them some of the doubts you struggle with. Of course, this is assuming you have brought your children up in the faith, showing them the strength of your faith as well. However, from time to time you should feel free to let them see you wrestling with God. This lets them know you are real, especially when they are older and more reflective. Showing them your doubts may embarrass you somewhat, but it can also go far in demonstrating that your faith is not shallow, but rather is marked by thoughtfulness. Sharing your doubts from time to time legitimizes the faith you do have, so they will be less tempted to think you are just a naive follower when they are older.

3. Help them prioritize their faith now. Make sure they don’t believe all issues are equal. Help them see the difference between negotiables and non-negotiables, essentials and non-essentials, cardinal and non-cardinal issues. Ensuring they understand the distinction between doctrine and dogma prevents the “house of cards” problem so that, even if they come to question one particular issue (i.e., creationism, inerrancy, premillenialism, Calvinism, etc.), they do not find it necessary to reject their faith completely.

4. Facilitate a love of Christian heroes. With all the exposure to cultural heroes (actors, musicians, models, etc.) so typical today, it is important that your children see the characteristics of godliness exemplified by real-life Christians. These examples should come from inside and outside the Bible. Reading about the heroism of Perpetua and her servant in their martyrdom is very difficult (and may be “R” rated), but your children need to know about people who actually lived out their faith with the same resources available to them today. Learning about Augustine’s life of sin before he was converted may be something you think you need to protect your children from, but perhaps they will remember the common struggle with sin when they are older and not feel so alone (which is the most fearful thing when one is doubting).

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