Guiding children through learning about other religions and cultures

I have a 12 year old daughter who enjoys learning about cultures different from her own and about other religions besides Christianity (in the culture context, so it seems). She’s grown up avidly watching international gymnastics, and I think this has created a comfort level with and measure of intrigue for different cultures, languages, and religions. I mostly think this is a good thing, but I am a little concerned about her interest in other religions. I would prefer she continue to be very grounded and learn more about the Christian faith before being further introduced to pagan beliefs. Are there any suggestions from parents, counselors, or others with wisdom on the matter on how best to handle this curiosity? I’m thinking of teaching her Christian apologetics but am not good at it myself and have so much to learn.

10 Likes

What an extremely important question you have raised. My eldest daughter is only 7 so I do not feel qualified to comment but I am very interested. I live in China and just yesterday had to meet with my daughter’s PE teacher to explain that we do not want her practicing Yoga in PE. Guiding our children is quite the challange!

3 Likes

@Leah, I agree with you that curiosity is a good thing! As a parent, I think its better for our kids to gain knowledge about other religions when they are still under our care. One idea I have is an introduction to different worldviews by a christian author as it will have good boundaries as she learns about other religions. I however do not have recommendations on books geared for young children on worldview. Another option is to introduce books on biographies of missionaries. With our kids, we have had to talk about how views differ among Hindus and Christians by sharing our own experiences and going over some scripture with them - ten commandments, golden calf incident in Exodus, story of Jonah, prophets message about idolatry in the Old testament etc. Natasha Crain’s books on apologetics are also great for conversations with middle school aged kids for more grounding in faith. Sacred books on other religions and real life experimentation with other religions would certainly be something that I would steer away from. At a young age, such exposure could be detrimental to her spiritual growth. I hope that helps. Good question! I look forward to recommendations on books that others may have.

6 Likes

@Lakshmismehta, thank you for the several suggestions. I think they will prove helpful.

A quick search for Natasha Crain’s books brought up a few results. Is there one in particular you’d recommend over the others? I saw one called “Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith” that sounds intriguing.

The Bible stories you mentioned would present good opportunities to discuss differences in beliefs, practices, results of adherence, etc.

I’m particularly interested in what missionary stories would offer insight with a Christian worldview. My daughter does not like to read, but she would dig movies about such things. Even a couple years ago or better she took interest in the movie “Sheffey” about Robert Sheffey. More recently a couple of films we’ve come across that have elements of missionary work really snagged her attention. So, I think your missionary suggestion could be very useful.

I definitely want to supply the material to meet this curiosity and it not be left to internet browsing with possible perilous exposure to wrong ideas and ideologies. (Like Ravi says, ideas have consequences.)

2 Likes

Wow, @brianlalor. Way to safeguard your child. I’m curious how that went. I have the impression China isn’t an area where Christian beliefs would be respected in a school setting, but that could be a wrong impression.

If your daughter was aware of your concern and discussion with the teacher, how did she seem to view your intervention? Did you have to explain to her why yoga was not acceptable?

I hope this conversation turns up some useful tools for us and other parents/guardians trying to guide our children. @Lakshmismehta shared some really good suggestions in this thread.

1 Like

Hey Sister!

I have a smart, inquisitive 13 year old daughter who started a new school that is very forward on “respect the individual and their beliefs - there is no wrong answer, only preference”. And, coming out of a Christian, faith-based elementary school, it has been an adjustment for her. As a middle schooler, she is already wrestling with many of the ReBoot topics. And, she has a kind heart for others and raised the , “why did God create people for hell?” question recently. So, I know she is trying to process and digest a lot. But, I also understand that she has a lot of homework and required readings, so I consider that reading, for her, is probably not the best answer.

The foundational thing I have let her know is that God is not afraid of questions and welcomes them from people that seek Him. God is perfect truth and we look to God to provide us the factual way to view the world and ourselves. And, that the Christian faith, consequently, is open to any and all questions. I have told her to not be anxious, if someone asks her a question or raises a challenging topic that she doesn’t know how to answer or square with the faith, especially from an adult, as they have had advanced training. But, I’ve told her I’m her Cliff’s Notes ready resource and that, if I don’t have a sufficient answer, I’ll track one down for her. I’m trying to make it safe for her to voice any and all questions. I agree with Lakshmi that it is better to deal with aspects of this while they’re at home and we still have influence than to leave it to the church or school or friends.

In regard to methods, aside from those mentioned, I would add that I’ve had my kids ask for an allowance but I’ve redirected that to watching 10-20 minute videos from Ravi, Ramsden and others as a way to earn spending money. There are many great short video resources that you can track down and view to figure out, which types would work best for your daughter, if something like this makes sense to you. An ancillary benefit has been that she is scoring straight A’s in her Logic and Ethics class while most are struggling.

Hope there’s something in here that helps!

Kevin

5 Likes

John @kumquat, thank you for that feedback. What you said at the front is what I want to help my daughter understand.

The foundational thing I have let her know is that God is not afraid of questions and welcomes them from people that seek Him. God is perfect truth and we look to God to provide us the factual way to view the world and ourselves.

My daughter doesn’t ordinarily ask me questions: I spill information haha. She is rather quiet and not one to open up about what’s on her mind. I often just start talking about whatever is on my heart to tell her. She’s usually gracious to listen for a few minutes anyway. I hope when she bumps into her own serious questions that she’ll ask them of me.

I’m impressed that your daughter is having Logic and Ethics at 13. My daughter had a raised-brow reaction to that and liked that your daughter is making A’s as a result of listening to Ramsden and Ravi talks. This puts me in a good seat to present the topics and videos to her. Boy, it is hard to capture her attention sometimes. I may need to use your learn-to-earn approach!

Thanks again.

1 Like

@Leah, sorry for the late reply. Glad that was helpful! Yes, I was thinking about “Talking with your kids about God” by Natasha Crain, a book similar to what you saw online. It may be a book to consider discussing during family meals or devotional time. It has some conversation questions at the end of each chapter. I bought the book and I realized I would have to wait until middle school to use it as my kids are still in elementary school. As far as missionary stories, our kids really like all of the “Torchlighter” movies by “The voice of the martyrs” or the book series, “Christian Heroes then and now”. For example, the story of Amy Carmichael and Ida Scudder gave a glimpse into Hinduism/India for our children.

1 Like

I gladly report that I found the Torchlighter series on PureFlix. Yes! I’m looking forward to us watching it. Thanks for the recommendation.

1 Like

Leah @Leah. This is such a timely topic and one dear to my heart. I have recently finished reading “Forensic Faith” by J. Warner Wallace. I’ll refer to it as (FF) He is an LA, California, cold case detective and a former atheist. He came to faith by reading the Bible the same way he studies cold cases. (FF) teaches how to read the Scriptures evidentially in order to answer tough objections to Christianity.
He is also adamant that young children to teenagers be taught how to defend their faith so they are not led astray by false teaching and atheistic propaganda through the educational system and on into college. He has written two books geared especially to young children. One is “Cold-Case Christianity for Kids” and another “God’s Crime Scene for Kids”. They are fun reads and will ground young children to teens in their faith. He has written the same books two books with the same titles for adults.
Google his website: https://coldcasechristianity.com/ You will find a wealth of resources that he offers free. You can go to his blog from his website as well. I think your daughter will find some age appropriate resources and love it.

(Forgive the lengthiness of this post.) A little advice from a grandmother: Many years ago my daughter was in public school when Family Life Education (FLE) became mandatory in my state. I, along with several other Christian parents, fought it tooth and nail because it was introducing topics that have now become accepted as norm today–the very thing we feared. I don’t know if such curriculum is even labeled FLE anymore, but one thing I did then for my daughter was opted her out of the class that taught these unChristian subjects. There was an “Opt Out” form I had to fill out first. What I did was opted her out of the entire curriculum. However, because I knew she could be singled out by her teachers and friends, I used reversed strategy. Because the curriculum considered 14-17 year olds “adult” enough to make their own decisions (I took this from their own Standards of Learning guidelines), I noted on the form that since she was considered an adult by their own standards, she had my permission to to make her own decision as to what she wanted to be taught. I also stated that she should be given alternative topics, consistent with her own standards and beliefs–not sent to the library for wasted time. One subject that was given her was to calculate the cost of having a baby. (We happened to have a neighbor who was expecting at the time, so it was a great assignment.) My daughter successfully navigated the curriculum and actually became the envy of her fellow classmates and gained the respect of her teacher. (She was 16 at the time.)
Again, I’m not sure how things work today, but I tell you this as a possible example and way around subjects you are concerned about your daughter learning. Be creative with your daughter’s school when it comes to what she is being taught about other cultures and religions. Get involved creatively so that your daughter isn’t embarrassed at having her mother at school. She’s getting to that age if she is 12.

I now have two granddaughters that my daughter has placed in Christian school because of the public school environment and teaching. It is not by way of sheltering them because, at this particular school, they are taught these other cultures and beliefs, but are then taught the Christian response so that when they go into the world, they will know these worldviews and how to respond. I realize this is not a viable solution for every family, and there may not be Christian schools in your community. Homeschooling also has come a long way and there are co-ops that share the responsibility of teaching various subjects.
I think the other suggestions you’ve been offered will be great paths for you to take. I pray that your daughter will be able to remain strong and true to her faith because it is getting so much harder than when my daughter was in school ?? years ago :wink:

5 Likes

Thanks, Sharon (@sgewehr), for your thoughtful and personal response. I used your link (thank you) to visit https://coldcasechristianity.com/, and it looks like a good resource.

Our family is fortunate that our daughter attends a Christian school. My husband is very opposed to sending her to public school for similar concerns as the ones you raised. I grew up in public school and made it through with my faith intact, thank God. That has contributed to me having mixed opinions on the pros and cons of both. But, the world is a more brazen place now that is was back then.

My daughter’s history class occasionally mentions other religions. So far, from what she tells me, they haven’t discussed a Christian response to other religions yet. (And, yes, I am embarrassing to have around at school now!)

You shared several points that I have yet to mention here, but I did want to let you know I read your reply and really appreciate what you’ve shared. Thank you for your insight and suggestions.

2 Likes

Hello Leah. I am not a parent, I am not even married, so I am grossly unqualified to answer this question. But let me just share my experience with you of how I came to Christ and maybe it will, by God’s grace, be of little help. I am from India so I grew up in a pluralistic society. I had neighbors of different religions and different cultures, following different traditions. So was the case with my classmates and friends, so I naturally took an interest in why they celebrate certain festivals or follow certain rituals. But I was fortunate to have a mother (like your daughter), who was concerned about me but didn’t hold me back. When I had questions or comments about other religions, she freely encouraged the discussions and let me arrive at my conclusions. But she always instilled in me a healthy amount of Biblical knowledge as well, starting from Bible stories to expositions (I know in Western culture and sadly now a days, here as well, this is a job left to Sunday School teachers), so that I will know Christ. Above all, she prayed for me and my sisters so much. You’d wake up in the middle of the night and see her on our bedside on our knees. So, with all the knowledge I gained about various religions and cultures, here’s the conclusion I came to, that Christ is the only Way and I am still growing in faith eleven years later. Let me refrain from giving any advice, though. Like I said, I am unqualified.
I also recommend listening to the testimony of Dr. John Lennox. His story is somewhat similar but he tells much vividly, imparting wisdom along with it.
Hope I helped. God bless.
In Christ

6 Likes

Thanks, Leah. I’m so glad your daughter is in a Christian school. These days, it’s not just the moral culture (or lack thereof) that is so poisonous in the public system, but the academic curriculum is also being radically compromised. Such subjects as math are being skewed to address political and social agendas. One such system is Seattle who has been in the news lately because of their controversial math program. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/10/11/seattle-schools-lead-controversial-push-to-rehumanize.html
Christians need to be aware of what is happening in order to counter what is being taught academically so that the truth (as in math facts) aligns with how God intended it. Look at all the benefits that have come from math truths that God established. We can only pray that the Lord will cover those children with knowledge of Truth, regardless of what they are being taught.

2 Likes

Hello @Leah, I do not qualify to contribute as a parent because I am not married yet, so I will try put my self in your child’s position. I got saved at age 14 during an evening family devotion. One thing that helped me a lot that period was my parents and elder siblings, their lives made Christianity so real and practical to me more than anything else I experienced at school or read online about any other religion.
I believe a lot rests on the parents to prove God as the best way through their experiences. I believe when a child experiences Christlike love and Spiritual power from the parents consistently, the chances that he/she chooses Christianity will be much higher. I hope this helps

1 Like

@uyi, that’s a great testimony! I think you’re spot-on. The Holy Spirit reveals truth to us of course, but seeing people up close walk with God, trusting in Jesus, affects our thinking and feeling about the faith that person claims. How a believer puts truth into action influences the observer. My daughter is watching. Do I believe the Bible and lean on what it says in all seasons of life? I pray so!

As a parent, even as a follower of Christ whether a parent or not, we really do have a responsibility to have a good witness.

Thanks for your reply. That’s meaningful, Uyi.

1 Like

Dear Leah, I am so glad to see this thread! I am not s parent, but my calling lies with children and am focussed on building an immersive experience for children to understand different worldviews in an engaging way. My heart goes out to ALL children, those of believers and unbelievers alike. I’m from India and grew up in with strong faith in the Hindu gods until I was 27. I deeply empathize with children who have genuine questions and are seeking to know more about the realities of the world around them. My closest ‘hands-on’ training happens when I interact with my 4 year old niece who is already aware that she believes in a different God than most of her other classmates, since India is a Hindu majority country. My sister, brother-in-law and me are first generation believers and have extended family who still follow Hinduism. It’s important for the children in our family to realise and be aware of these differences in faith as we bond well with everyone despite the faith we chose. As a family, we choose to have open discussions other religions with my niece as it’s better to have it introduced in the home environment than outside. We also continue to call out that each of us had a personal experience with Jesus, in very different ways and so we chose to give our lives to Him. She says she loves Jesus too and doesn’t like the other Gods. We trust that God sees our hearts as we invest in children. As an educator myself, I believe children in 2019 are smart, knowledge and pose great questions. I also feel terribly devasted when innocent Christian children are cornered about their lack of faith in topics like evolution and lack the knowledge to truly speak out why they don’t. This gets worse when the children who ask these questions are their friends meaning no harm and are genuinely curious. What could have been an opportunity to to exploring a new question together turns into a flat answer with no depth when asked ‘why’. I truly believe that Jesus is the Truth and as the Bible says, God has given us a ‘sound mind’, we must boldly open up the beautiful mysteries of the world to our children and with no effort, Jesus will stand out because He is the truth. I am excited to see more children learn, compare and understand worldviews with the zeal to discover and defend the one true God. We do our best and put our trust in God to take care of their walk with Him and eagerly look forward to see how giving them this exposure will equip them to be a light amongst their friends. This is my desire for children. I am hoping for the right resources and ideas to come together to help build this piece of work for the Kingdom.
For your daughter, may God give wisdom and insights as she explores these diverse interests!

1 Like

@Leah I am glad my response was meaningful to you. May God help us to be a good reflection of Jesus to the world around.
Amen

1 Like

Hi Leah,
What an exciting time in your daughter’s life! Middle school is such an amazing time of transition and opportunity. We took our kids on mission trips during that time of their life (my husband and I were with them on each trip.) We went to Mexico, an unnamed country, Singapore and Thailand. They each served a role in those trips and engaged with local projects. Mission trips are also opportunities to see other cultures and faiths demonstrated, visit local homes, and provides lots of teaching moments as well as experience with expressing Christian truths and developing a testimony for our own faith. We also studied proper etiquette so we didn’t offend others while developing sensitivity for other cultures. At the same time we had a lot of discussions over the differences in our Christian faith and say the Buddhist home were we were served lunch in Singapore. It also is a big deal for our kids to see us living out what we believe in challenging situations. We had quite a few adventures in those trips that will stay with all of us for a life time, and saw God move in miraculous ways.

I agree with you that she should have lots of grounding in Biblical truths. Studying the scriptures are paramount as much as their school work. There are great organizations, like Bible Study Fellowship and Community Bible Study, that offer weekly Bible studies to students, and in my experience there is accountability in those environments to take it in and live it out in ways we don’t see in many Christian environments. Just my two cents.

Praying for you as you go through this wonderful time with your daughter! The Lord will not waste your commitment to Him and honor your heart for raising your child in His ways!

1 Like

Oh! Sorry for yet another post… but I forgot some another great resources we had when my kids were growing up! Such as:

Podcasts (well that’s what they are now.) We spent a lot of hours listening to Ravi and the team either on the website
or now you can hear them on Spotify. Download and listen while you’re driving, on a Sunday afternoon, etc. Take notes and time for the discussion that comes from these which are very edifying for apologetic education.

We also listened to Ravi, CS Lewis and David Berlinski on audio books. This was an efficient way for everyone to get reading done, and made for great road trip material.

The apologetic materials were very sparse and a bit too academic at that time, but there were camps that are still around that offer great grounding like Summit.

Sean McDowell has a lot of suggestions on his site.

It’s actually a great pursuit to do these things as a family. Everyone grows and is encouraged.
I hope this helps, Leah!

1 Like