Book Review: Talking With Your Kids About Jesus

Natasha Crain’s newest book, Talking With Your Kids About Jesus, is an essential resource for anyone seeking to provide spiritual guidance to children in today’s cultural climate. It could not have come at a better time as children ask parents big questions in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The author makes these critical conversations manageable even for busy parents or grandparents as she provides content broken down into short sections that can be easily digested in just a few minutes a day.

The book is divided into five sections which cover the identity of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the difference Jesus makes. Each chapter within the section consists of several pages of content followed by a summary of the key points. The author also includes a conversation guide for parents to use as they talk with their children and train them to boldly defend their faith.

While I believe every conversation in the book is essential, I am particularly impressed by the way the author covers several topics. The first is in the section about the identity of Jesus. Crain highlights the importance of ensuring that our kids have a thorough grasp on knowing that Jesus is God, even though He never says those exact words. She provides a solid foundation of Biblical evidences to equip kids to face challenges from others with different worldviews.

In her section on the teachings of Jesus, Crain addresses another crucial topic by examining what Jesus taught about religion. She explains that many today inaccurately portray Jesus as pitting religion against relationship. The author astutely points out that this is a false dichotomy, and describes the profound impact embracing this belief can have on kids in terms of a lowered view of the nature of truth, the authority of the Bible, and the importance of the church.

Crain addresses the relationship between Old Testament animal sacrifices and Jesus’s death in the section on the death of Jesus. She emphasizes the importance of not only teaching kids the fun and memorable stories of the Bible, but explaining the enormity of sin to them through learning about the sacrificial system, and describing how it took the death of an innocent sacrifice to make atonement for it.

The final section of the book describes the difference Jesus makes in the life of the Christian. The chapter on what it means to trust in Jesus is especially timely in the midst of uncertainty and fear related to the ongoing pandemic. She provides helpful answers to the questions of evil and suffering by describing the biblical concept of trust as well as common misunderstandings of what it means to trust in Jesus. Natasha brings clarity to this difficult topic and provides guidance for parents as they discuss current events and personal disappointments with their children.

While I was familiar with Natasha Crain’s work in equipping parents to engage in apologetics conversations with their kids, this was the first of her books that I had the pleasure to read. Natasha has the ability to write about difficult topics in an easy to understand style even for those with no prior apologetics training. She communicates in a winsome manner, and makes parents feel as if they are hearing from a trusted friend. This book is a great resource for parents, grandparents, teachers, or Bible study leaders who desire to give children a clear understanding of Jesus in a world that often paints a confusing picture of the Founder and Perfecter of the Christian faith.

Purposeful Parenting

With the launching of my firstborn son into independent adulthood, I’ve been wrestling with how parenting is a bittersweet intermingling of celebration and sadness. From the moment a baby is placed in his parent’s arms, they wrap their arms tightly around him, knowing that the ultimate goal is to let him go one day.  As parents, we pray for our child’s good, but know that it will eventually lead him out into the world to pursue God’s purpose for his life.  When he leaves home, we simultaneously throw one hand up in triumph while discretely wiping away our tears with the other. We gently push him out of the nest, struggling against the instinctive desire to pull him back in for shelter under our wings. We cautiously observe those first tentative toddler steps, and then applaud a confident sprint to adulthood. As I pondered the paradox of this parenting moment, some questions came to mind that might be helpful to consider as we raise our children: Whose voice are we tuning their ears to listen to? What foundation are we planting their feet on? Where are we teaching them to look for guidance? Which appetites and values are we feeding and cultivating?

Discernible Voice

The parent’s voice is the first one heard by a child. He becomes familiar with it as he grows in his mother’s tummy for nine months, and this familiarity instills comfort as he hears it sing the first lullaby. He hears this same voice whisper, “I believe in you,” when he lacks confidence in himself. He recognizes this familiar voice as it prays over him during the darkest hours of the night. As familiar as our voices are to our children, God’s voice should be even more discernible. It is critical that we train them to listen for the voice of truth among all the lies of the enemy ringing so loudly in the world today. As in the process of tuning an instrument, they will only be able to recognize the dissonance of the wrong pitch when they have first been taught how to listen for harmony of the right one. When we spend time with them in God’s Word, the very definition of truth, they will recognize this truth when they hear it. As they see us valuing and prioritizing the Word in our own lives, they will be encouraged to do the same. They will then hear God clearly whispering into their souls in the dark when we are no longer physically present to do so.

Firm Foundation

Learning to stand and walk is a progressive endeavor. It begins with pulling up on a steady object, taking the first uncertain steps while holding onto a parent’s hands, and then bravely letting go to walk independently. When a toddler first attempts to let go and walk on his own, he wobbles along with a tentative trust in the ground beneath his feet. As he discovers the perfect combination of coordination, balance, and strength, he is eventually able to take a few steps away from us and gains confidence that the foundation he’s standing on is not going to give way. Similarly, we must build our child’s trust in his spiritual foundations through the practice of disciplines that encourage him to love God with his heart, soul, mind, and strength. As he discovers that the Christian worldview provides a firm foundation that is both reliable and unshakable, he is then able to step out into the world with calm assurance, knowing that this worldview is undergirded with solid evidence to back up its truth claims. He is able to walk confidently, having placed his faith in the One who set the foundations of the world in place.

Steadfast Guidance

Our children begin life looking to us to meet their every need. We feed them, clothe them, shelter them, and comfort them when they are afraid. But there comes a time when we will no longer be around. If we have modeled the Christian life faithfully, they will look to God, as revealed in His Word, for guidance. Otherwise, they may be tempted to look to worldly ideologies to guide them through life. Celebrities, politicians, athletes, or online personalities are more than willing to exercise influence if we let them. Or they may even look within at their own emotions to tell them which way to go, and that is a dangerous path to follow. Emotions shift from moment to moment and provide no absolute certainty. Just as a compass is magnetized to point to true north, we must magnetize their internal compasses to point to the truth. As we teach them that the Bible is sufficient to guide them in every area of life, it will become their go to navigational tool when they inevitably become lost at some point along the way.

Healthy Appetites

Our children are born with innate cravings and preferences. My son once told me I was ruining his whole life when I made him eat green beans. He obviously was born with a distaste for green beans. He did eventually eat his beans at my insistence because I knew they were good for him. I’m also happy to say he survived the ordeal, and his whole life was not ruined. Sometimes we have to cultivate a taste for certain things in our kids’ lives in the way of habits or entertainment choices. They may not initially like something that we know is healthy for them, but we encourage them to consume it anyway, and to stay away from unhealthy choices. It works the same way with values. If they see us acting kindly and charitably toward others, odds are they will imitate this kind and charitable behavior. If they see us acting with indifference to those in need, they will likely follow our lead. Just like when we eat our veggies, if we model the behavior we want to see in them, they are more likely to do the same.

Sending Them Off

As difficult as it is to see our children walking out into the great unknown, we can be assured that they and their future are fully known by God. Eyes that once looked to us for guidance now peer off into the distance to discern God’s direction for their lives. Ears that once listened to our words of wisdom now listen for God’s voice to follow where He leads. Feet that once tottered along with uncertain steps now walk away confidently to a world that desperately needs to know the only firm foundation. And that makes a parent’s heart happy.