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Expert Insights with Christina M. H. Powell, Ph.D of Question Your Doubts

January 22, 2013

by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief

I reached out to my good friend Dr. Christina Powell and asked her some of the most common faith based questions parents face. As a mother, Harvard trained research scientist and an ordained minister, she’s in a unique position to provide helpful insight. Here’s what she had to say.

eNannySource: What are some practical ways to teach kids about faith?

Dr. Powell: The Bible instructs parents to teach kids about faith “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19). Everyday moments provide great teaching opportunities for parents to share their faith. A walk in the park exploring nature can lead to a conversation about God as creator. A prayer before mealtime can become a quick lesson on gratitude and God’s provision. Bedtime stories and background music in the home can teach Biblical principles. Children learn about faith best when you weave the lessons into the fabric of family life.

eNannySource: What do you say to parents who are worried their kids won’t behave in church, so they don’t take them?

Dr. Powell: Every child is unique, and churches take varied approaches to children’s ministry. Children should be included in the family’s worship practices so they learn to value church and their place in the Christian community. However, for a season, a parent might need to find a compromise that works for their child and their church. In a church without children’s programs, perhaps an energetic young child can enjoy singing with their parents in the main sanctuary, but may need to leave before the sermon. An imperfect solution that increases a child’s involvement in church is better than an approach that does not include the child.

eNannySource: What is the best way for parents to answer faith-based questions like “Why did grandma die?” or “Who is God?”

Dr. Powell: Children need answers to faith-based questions that deliver the right amount of age-appropriate information. Your answers should be honest and simple, but not sugar coated. Be careful of distorting theology in your attempt to answer the question on the child’s level. As your children develop, you can provide them with more complex answers to meet their growing spiritual needs.

eNannySource: What tips do you have for parents whose children doubt the spiritual truths their parents share with them?

Dr. Powell: Faith is a decision that each person ultimately makes for himself. At some point in the process of learning spiritual truths from parents, children must decide to make their parent’s faith into their own faith. Doubting can be part of this process. With an older child, guiding the child in the process of discovery can be more helpful than directly providing answers. Show the child how to seek answers from the Bible and through prayer. Help the child connect to peers with a solid faith. Introduce the child to books that strengthen faith. Be a mentor, but let the child go through the discovery process.

eNannySource: What role does faith play in the lives of children?

Dr. Powell: Faith can comfort a child in the same way that faith comforts adults, helping children work through their fears and better understand their world. Faith provides stability through the ups and downs of life, giving perspective to successes and failures. Faith also teaches a child how to relate to peers and authority figures and make wise life choices.

eNannySource: What can happen if parents don’t pass on their faith to their children?

Dr. Powell: If parents do not pass their faith to their children, their children may walk away from the faith. Responsibility for the next generation of the church lies primarily with parents. Teachers, pastors and youth leaders can come alongside parents, but no one can replace the role of a parent in a child’s life.

eNannySource: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Dr. Powell: In the process of teaching children about faith, we may find they teach us about faith as well. Jesus told his followers they must become as little children in their hearts when they come to him (Matthew 18:2-4). Our children remind us of the trusting relationship we need to have with God.

Christina M. H. Powell, Ph.D., is an ordained minister, public speaker, and writer trained as a biomedical research scientist at Harvard University. She is also the mother of two girls. She blogs at www.questionyourdoubts.com and is writing her first book exploring the many roots of doubt and the corresponding response of faith.


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