Three Essential Parts of Teaching Children Apologetics: 1) Start Early

The Danger in Talking to Five-Year-Olds

I was standing in the kitchen one morning and I thought I’d have some fun teasing my daughter. I know, Dad of the Year here. She asked for breakfast, and I said, “What? Mommy didn’t tell you? We aren’t eating breakfast anymore. We are only going to get two meals a day.” 

K.K. saw right through this and, with all the disdain a five-year-old can muster, said, “Daaaddy.” 

I smiled and then thought, I’ll use this to teach her. “You know there are people in the world who only get one or two meals a day.” 

With amazement and shock she said, “Huh?” 

“Yeah, a lot of people in the world are poor,” I told her. “ They don’t have money to buy food.” 

It’s fun to see how her five-year-old mind works. She immediately responded, “ They must not have jobs and work hard.” 

I smiled. “No, some of them work very hard. They just live in places where life is much harder than where we live.” 

And here is why parenting is not for wimps. K.K.’s next question is the kind that makes you regret talking to five-year-olds. She said, “Why did God let that happen to them?” 

Any suggestions on how to have a conversation about the problem of pain and evil with a five-year-old? How would you answer K.K.’s question? You must prepare yourself to be asked this and similar questions because your kids will ask them, and they will ask before you think they will. 

With that in mind, here are three essential parts of teaching your children apologetics. 


1. Start Early

People often ask me how soon they should start apologetics with their children. My response: as soon as they start asking questions. The age when answers are meaningful is the age when questions are asked. And children ask questions before they can speak in complete sentences. Be prepared to start apologetics early in your home.

Children are nearly always ready for more than we give them. Obviously, you can say more than a child can handle, but if you are prayerfully and gently pursuing the good of your family, teaching and answering questions starts at the beginning. If you wait until you think they are ready, it is already too late. 

I don’t wait. I engage. I answer questions and provoke them with questions of my own. And sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes my answers introduce more confusion. Sometimes I back myself into a corner, realizing my children can’t comprehend the answer yet. But this leads to funny stories, great memories, and a close bond with my children. They like to see Dad get tongue-tied. They like my silly analogies. They like to talk to me, and I like to talk to them. Open and on-going communication is the best way to teach apologetics in the home. 

When K.K. and I talked about the problem of pain, I did not give her a full answer. She is only a child. Part of my answer came from conversations we had already had. Answering your child’s questions is an ongoing process. You cannot answer complex questions in one sitting, especially if you have no foundation for such conversations. 

In our conversation about pain, K.K. actually answered her own question in part, based on our previous conversations. After I paused and thought about her question, I simply told her that bad is in the world because sin is in the world. She knows about sin: sin is all the bad things we have done that Jesus came to get rid of when He died on the cross. In her mind, Jesus died on the cross to get rid of all the bad. It may be a childish way to think—but she is a child, and her thinking is not wrong. While I was in the middle of explaining about bad being in the world because of sin, K.K. said, “Oh! And Jesus came to die on the cross and take away all the bad!” Then she smiled, gave me her storing information look, and then walked out of the kitchen content and satisfied knowing that bad exists because sins exists and that her good God has fixed it. He has a plan to end all the bad. Part of the plan has happened. Some of it is yet to come. But even five-year-olds know that not every good thing comes all at once. 

To be continued… Click here to read part 2 of Three Essential Parts of Teaching Children Apologetics: Live Authentically 

This is an excerpt from chapter fifteen in Relational Apologetics: Defending the Christian Faith With Holiness, Respect and Truth.