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Podcast: Your Kids Are Already Theologians, So Give Them Good Theology (Kristen Wetherell)

This article is part of the The Crossway Podcast series.

Helping Our Kids Know God

In this episode, Kristen Wetherell highlights why all of us are already theologians, even our kids. She also gives practical advice for teaching our children about important doctrines and offers encouragement to parents facing questions about theology that they're not sure how to answer.

God Speaks to Me

Kristen Wetherell

As a part of the For the Bible Tells Me So series—designed to immerse kids ages 0–4 in the gospel—this board book teaches children how God reveals himself through Scripture and gives hope through his Son.

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Topics Addressed in This Interview:

01:15 - Unique Challenges of Discipling Kids

Matt Tully
Kristen, thank you so much for joining me again on The Crossway Podcast.

Kristen Wetherell
Oh, it’s fun to be back. Thanks for having me.

Matt Tully
Today we’re going to talk about teaching deep theological truths, the riches of the doctrines that we believe as Christians, to little kids, and why that’s so important for kids to be exposed to those doctrines, to be taught those doctrines, but maybe even more encouragingly for people listening right now, why it’s doable for Christian parents to actually do that with their kids. And you’ve written three new books, and there’s more coming after these three, but three books designed to help parents to do that with their young children. But before we get into those books and what the backstory is there, could you start off by telling us a little bit about your family?

Kristen Wetherell
I love telling people about my family. Thank you for asking. I’m married to Brad, and we’re coming up on ten years next year. So that’s wild. It feels like we’re definitely in that next season—we’re a little bit seasoned now. We have three kids. I have a five and a half year-old-daughter, a three-year-old son, and a seven month-old girl. So life is very full. It’s crazy right now, and it’s a very physically demanding stage where we’re learning, but we love it. Our kids are a joy, and I feel like every single day I am on my knees before the Lord saying, “Help!” And we’re just enjoying one another, and the Lord’s teaching all of us through this thing called family—who he is and how much we need him. It’s precious.

Matt Tully
It’s amazing. I have young kids too, and it is amazing how those early years can feel kind of like a full court press. There’s just a constant need for attention when it comes to caring for your young kids. How does that kind of translate into your house? Do you guys have that sense?

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve heard it said that anything really worth doing is usually hard. So parenting is by far the most challenging but also the most rewarding thing that we’ve ever done. I often say, “Mom is not an octopus, friends. I do not have eight arms, so please just wait your turn.” There are a lot of demands, and I’m often just kind of reaching the end of myself, but honestly, it’s a good place to be because I am not God. And everybody sees that pretty quickly.

Matt Tully
On top of all of the physical demands that we as Christian parents have with our kids—we have to keep them fed and keep them clothed and clean, and sometimes just those things feel like a lot to cover—we also as Christian parents want to teach our kids about who God is and who they are in light of him. And I think sometimes that can actually be a source of stress and anxiety for us as parents. But you’re an author, you’re a speaker. You teach on the Bible and on the Christian life fairly frequently. Some of your books have been with Crossway. You’re husband’s a pastor as well, so I could see some people listening to us right now thinking, Oh yeah, if anyone’s got this thing down—what it is to disciple our kids and teach them these things—it’s probably you and it’s probably your family, you and your husband. Is that true? Do you feel that way?

Kristen Wetherell
Haha. I’m going to laugh at that a little bit. I often am convicted, Matt, that it is so much easier for me to teach a room of women the Bible than it is for me to teach my children. And I believe that that’s because it is the nitty gritty, the day-to-day craziness of life—both its highs and its joys and its challenges, its lows—that tests our theology. And when we say theology, we’re talking about a study of God. It tests our theology. In our experience, do I actually believe in this moment when everyone’s screaming what I say to be true? And then, Oh Lord, help me communicate that to them. I’m your image bearer and however dim a reflection I may be, help me to communicate who you are to them. And so I think it’s really intimidating. It’s such a high calling, but I feel that too. I think every parent who is a believer and wants to raise their kids up in the knowledge and love of Christ feels that.

Matt Tully
I’m struck by the comment about how it can be easier sometimes to teach a room full of women some theological doctrine or topic than it would be our own kids. How much of that has to do with just the controlled environment of teaching women? You know when it’s starting, you know when it’s ending, and you can prepare your plan. Whereas with our own kids, it’s just a constant flow of interactions and conversations. How do you think about that? Why is it such a different experience?

Kristen Wetherell
I think that’s a huge part of it—a lack of control and careful preparation. So when I’m going in to teach a room of women, I teach from a manuscript. And so I have my manuscript and I know what the event is about. And unless there is a Q&A where they could throw something at me, I’m pretty well prepared and I know what’s going to happen for the most part. With my kids, I am so out of control. I don’t know what the next event is going to be in our house or how they are going to respond to that event or what choice they are going to make or even how I’m going to react at any given moment. So it really is real life. Not that teaching women the Bible isn’t real life, but it’s a much less controlled environment. And yet even just thinking through this right now, it is so comforting for me to know this does not surprise God. This moment right here when my house is a mess and my kids are in conflict with one another or I just nailed that conversation; I did really great and now I’m all puffed up with pride. Whatever the moment might be, God is not surprised by it. And that’s a huge comfort to me, too, when I’m praying that he will help me point my kids to him.

07:13 - Biblical Theology for Toddlers

Matt Tully
There are obviously lots of books out there, lots of Christian books written for kids trying to help them understand various facets of Christianity and the Christian life. I happen to think we’re living in a time of just unparalleled wealth and riches in terms of great books for kids when it comes to our faith. And yet you still decided to write this series of books that are aimed at helping kids to understand various doctrinal truths from Scripture. What was it that led you to do that? Why did you perceive a need for books like the ones that you wrote?

Kristen Wetherell
I did perceive a need, and it was that my son, John, was not interested in any of the Christian books in our house. And I just thought, What a bummer because these books are so rich. He would have been little at that point, maybe one or two years old. And not only was he rough with his fingers—he couldn’t really handle picture books yet because he would tear the pages—but none of the word books were interesting to him. He wanted animals and anything with flaps. And so it got me thinking, *Okay, could I develop something that was rich in its content and that pointed a little one, like my son, to the Lord that he actually would want to read and that he would come back to—animals, flaps, things like that. I’m actually looking at them right now. You guys just gave me copies, and I’m so thrilled to look at these and just thank God for them because it’s the result of that. And so I’m hopeful that these board books will engage little ones and that they’ll want to keep coming back to them.

Matt Tully
Absolutely. Bright, vibrant colors and fun animals. I think any parent knows the experience of trying to get a kid to pay attention to a book that they just don’t want to pay attention to, and it’s kind of a losing battle at that point to get them to care. So then maybe taking a big step back. You’ve kind of perceived this need, but maybe speak to the person who’s maybe skeptical—Do kids really need to understand theological doctrines and truths at a super young age? You’re talking one or two year olds. This is a board book that we have here. What’s the case for why it’s important to start teaching kids these doctrines that early?

Kristen Wetherell
Just to define some terms, theology is the study of God. Now, there’s bad theology and good theology, and we’re obviously wanting to teach our kids biblical theology. And that does sound kind of like a scary phrase. Biblical theology—whoa! That sounds like it’s for professors and others who have studied it.

Matt Tully
Not just scary for a young person but even scary for many of us as adults. We hear that and we’re like, Oh, I don’t know if that’s for me.

Kristen Wetherell
But if we think about it, everyone’s a theologian. God has created us, Ecclesiastes says, with eternity in our hearts, with a desire to know him. We’re made for him, for everlasting joy in his beautiful presence. All of us are made for that. We’ve turned away from that in our sin, and so we may have real bad theology. Our study of God might even be that we deny God’s existence, but the reality is everyone is a theologian. And so I think the question for us as parents is, Are we giving our children a right and biblical study of God that’s motivated by a desire to know him, and therefore to love him, and not just to know some things about him? Because we can also have knowledge of God that would lead us to “know things about him.” But if we don’t love him, what’s it all for? And so our desire as parents is to give our kids this right study of God that is motivated by a desire to actually know him and to walk with him. And so why do we need to do that? We’ve already mentioned there’s a human need there. God created us to know him, but by nature and by practice we have sinned and we have turned away from God. And so we need a Savior. We need God to reveal to us who he is. What an amazing and brilliant privilege as parents that we have to lead our kids to the Savior and to point them to him. And so we, as parents, also are forgetful and we need reminding. That’s actually one of the other reasons I wrote the books is because in this moment when I’m sleep deprived and reading this book to my child for the umpteenth time, I need to know that God cares for me.

Matt Tully
And I can attest to that in reading a few of these books. They’re short books for kids, but they were so encouraging to me and so stabilizing even in the simplicity of the language but the depth and the profundity of what you’re saying. I think sometimes, though, as parents we can worry that perhaps introducing some of these doctrinal ideas to kids at a young age could maybe be confusing to them. It could complicate some of the basic ideas that we want them to get about Jesus—that he loves them, that he cares for them, that he wants them to come be friends with him. We can think that it’s going to confuse them and that it’s too advanced for a young person like that. What do you think about that kind of concern that parents might have?

Kristen Wetherell
Well, I think that it could go both ways. I think you could argue for it and say it’s never too early to introduce what we might call a heavier doctrine. And certainly, that’s what the catechisms do. They’re introducing, in a question and answer format, these really complex things but making them simple. And so I think it’s never too early. They may not grasp it now, but it’s kind of like you’re giving them pegs to hang things on, and they’ll be able to access those pegs later. And with the abstract concepts, we’re hanging them on the pegs, and then someday they’ll be able to actually understand them as abstract concepts, if that makes sense. So I think that we should absolutely go there. How we go there, though, matters.

Matt Tully
I want to go back to something that you said a minute ago. You were stressing the importance of viewing our task as parents, when it comes to teaching these things to our kids, that we’re not just communicating facts to them. We’re not just teaching them to memorize doctrines. Actually, we’re leading them to a relationship with Jesus. And that’s such an encouraging reminder to us. I think sometimes, at least for me, the task of discipling our kids can ironically feel almost like a chore or a task that we have to check off. And if we don’t, we feel guilty. But really, it’s this incredible privilege that we get to introduce kids not just to ideas, like from a textbook, but to a person. Have you thought about that dynamic, and how does that maybe bolster your enthusiasm, your energy, your excitement about what we get to do as parents?

Kristen Wetherell
It makes me want to walk with Jesus. And it makes me want to know him and come to him myself. That is our goal. It’s to bring our kids to Jesus and to introduce them to the living, risen Savior and Lord. And it is humbling because we do that in our teaching with our words, absolutely. It cannot be less than that because our kids need to hear the Bible and they need to hear the gospel message, and faith comes by hearing the word of Christ. And we need those words. But it’s also through our lives. And that’s what I’m often convicted of is I can teach and teach and teach and instruct and instruct all that I want, but if I’m not walking with Jesus and if I’m not being transformed in my heart by him and if my kids aren’t seeing a reflection of him, what good are my words? And that could be a really scary thing because all of us fail every single day—

Matt Tully
And our kids have a front row seat to see that.

Kristen Wetherell
Right! The hard things when we blow a gasket or whatever it might be. But that’s where the good news of the gospel comes in. I’m not alone. I have been filled with the Holy spirit. There is forgiveness and grace when I turned to the Lord and say I’m sorry and when I look my child in the eye and say, Wow, mommy really messed up. I sinned. Will you please forgive me? It’s those moments in which we are living out good theology and we are showing our kids a picture of Christ, a picture of his grace and of the gospel message. And so I think it’s both. We’re teaching with our words—absolutely. We’re getting the Bible open in many different ways. We’re bringing our children to church with us throughout the week. And we’re also walking with Jesus. We want to show them who he is.

Matt Tully
My sense is—and I’m looking at certainly my own life but even the lives of people that I know, like friends, other parents—is that from different times of our lives we might tend towards one or the other of those sides. We might be focused on just living lives that honor God and that reflect our love for God, and we kind of hope our kids just pick that up by osmosis. Other times we might emphasize the teaching element. Is there a danger on the other side where we’re so focused on just living the lives that God’s called us to live but we maybe neglect more of the formal teaching—the words—that we need to teach our kids about?

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah, I think so. I think it’s really wise as parents to even do a little heart searching and ask the Lord, Help me to see where I’m prone to veer. Am I prone to go kind of on the side of teach, teach, teach? But I have this huge struggle with anger that I have not dealt with, and that’s affecting how my kids are able to hear the words that I’m teaching. Or am I veering on the side of words don’t matter, when they do? God’s word matters, and that’s how he draws people to himself is the word. So I think it is wise to discern that.

16:52 - Answering Kids’ Tough Questions

Matt Tully
When it comes to teaching young kids about theology, I think sometimes parents can struggle, even if they believe they should and they want to learn how to better use their words to help kids understand these deep truths, they might struggle to know how to do that. They feel confused or uncertain. And maybe that’s rooted in their own lack of confidence in theology, my own lack of understanding about certain doctrines. And I kind of wonder if I start going down this road, am I going to hit the limit of my knowledge? Is my kid going to ask me a question that I’m not ready to answer? What would you say to the parent who kind of has that underlying fear when it comes to this topic?

Kristen Wetherell
We have been there, when your kid asks you the doozy question, and you’re thinking, Oh boy. What am I supposed to say right now?

Matt Tully
What do you say? Do you have an example of a question that your kids have asked?

Kristen Wetherell
Our daughter has asked, “So if people who don’t believe in Jesus go to hell, does that mean our neighbors are going to hell?” That’s hard.

Matt Tully
Kids have a way of cutting through all the fluff, and they get to the heart of the issue.

Kristen Wetherell
I suppose if, as a parent, you didn’t know the answer, probably the right answer is, I don’t know the answer to that, but let’s home and let’s open our Bibles and let’s get out the study Bible and let’s look it up together. Let’s try and find an answer.

Matt Tully
So you’re not afraid of saying I don’t know to your kids?

Kristen Wetherell
No. I think there’s so much about the Lord that is difficult for us to comprehend. Think about the doctrine of the Trinity. People have tried to explain that in so many ways that turn out to be not helpful or just plain wrong. And so there is such a mystery surrounding that. And I think as parents were so afraid to fail in front of our kids. But if we can just say, You know what? Mommy’s still trying to understand that. And I would love to do a little bit of reading, or let’s talk to pastor Greg at church and let’s ask him together. Wouldn’t that be a great conversation? And so I think it’s totally okay to admit his parents I don’t know the answer to that. But in my experience, and I’ve also heard people say this, it’s so much harder to teach children than it is adults because you have to be more concrete and more concise. I just think that that’s hard when you’re dealing with theological concepts like the incarnation and the Trinity. It’s hard. The more we know our Bibles the better equipped we’ll be, and I just think that’s a case for abiding in Christ every day in the word. And that doesn’t mean that you have to do it for an hour or two. It just means any time that you can spend opening your Bible and seeking the Lord and asking him to give you understanding will benefit you because that’s how he reveals himself to us. Study Bibles are so helpful. Meeting with your pastor—I mean, my husband is a pastor and so I know this to be true. It brings them such joy when you email or call and say, I have a question about A, B, and C. Can we please meet to talk about it? That is the kind of meeting that he wants to take. That’s a joy for him.

Matt Tully
Obviously, pastors love to shepherd their people and so they get these life crisis kinds of calls often and have to deal with those, but to get a more straightforward Help me understand this Bible passage or this doctrine question, I’m sure that must be a really fun opportunity for a pastor.

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah. We’re hearing this one more often: My sibling just told us that they’re gay. I don’t know how to explain this to my kids. Will you help me? This has been hard for our family. Yes, I will help you! That sounds like a delight. And so I think that there’s a lot that our kids ask, there’s a lot going on in our culture right now, and so it’s important for us to be rooted in good theology. And you have a whole resource in your church.

Matt Tully
That’s such a good reminder for us. Sometimes we can kind of think we have to go this alone, but we really don’t.

Kristen Wetherell
No, we don’t.

21:03 - Theology for Kids that Sticks

Matt Tully
As I read through these books that you’ve written, and they’re each pretty short, like we’ve said, I was really impressed by how much rich doctrinal truth you were able to pack into these, but in a way that didn’t feel technical or hard to understand or hard to read. You just very naturally and very subtly wove in nuances to doctrine. And so I have a few questions: How did you do that? And what can we learn from that as parents trying to help our kids? What age range were you targeting for the books (you’ve kind of already alluded to this a little bit), and why did you land on that age range? Was it just because of your own kids, or do you think there’s something strategic or important about the age that you’re trying to address here?

Kristen Wetherell
Well, I believe we’re marketing the books for a range of 0–4 years old. At the time, I was thinking about my one and a half to two year old. So I was thinking about what kind of a book he could physically handle. That’s why it’s a board book and he can’t tear the pages, or if he sucks on them or whatever they won’t fall apart.

Matt Tully
They’ll hold up a little bit.

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah, exactly. But they’re also—and thank you for your encouragement there. I just praise God that they’re rich and that they’re helpful because he’s the one who helped me write them. But I was just trying to think through what are the concrete situations in which kids would learn about God’s care for them or Scripture or prayer, and then how would I articulate them in a way that’s memorable? And rhymes are memorable. That’s why our kids memorize song so quickly. And my encouragement for parents here would be that your kids are little sponges. I am blown away by what my kids are able to take in and remember. And so as much as I think that there’s wisdom in discerning whether or not our child is ready for a certain doctrine to be described in a certain way, I also think we underestimate them. And I think that they are very capable of not fully grasping it—I can’t even fully grasp it—hanging those truths on their pegs and remembering them. Right now I’m trying to memorize more Scripture because it’s just such a gift to have God’s word stored up in my heart and mind. And so we’re doing it together. And it’s incredible to me that my kids are memorizing entire psalms. And this is not me patting myself on the back. This is truly the way that God has designed the human brain in a young child that can absorb so much. And so my goal in the books was to give them something rhythmic that they will remember. And I probably have not all of it but most of these books memorized because it’s just stuck with me. That was the hope and kind of the philosophy behind it is giving kids something that’s sticky that will help them learn and appreciate the truths about who God is.

Matt Tully
It certainly is sticky, but even just as an example of the richness that you’re able to put in there, one of the books is called God Speaks to Me, and it’s exploring the doctrine of God’s revelation to us, primarily and especially through Scripture. In that book you’re able to hit on a bunch of different related themes. You hit on God’s general revelation through the natural world, special revelation through the Bible, how the Bible contains a more full form of revelation that’s uniquely able to save us, the idea that the Bible is self-authenticating is in there, that Jesus is the Word of God. And then along the way you’re incorporating various biblical metaphors, like the word is a lamp and a sword and honey. So how did you go about actually planning that? How did you choose those kinds of doctrinal or theological nuances that you wanted to bring? You could have just said, The Bible is a book that God gave us, and it contains all of his rules for our lives and a story of Jesus. But you did so much more than that. It feels like it’s richer than that. How did you make those decisions?

Kristen Wetherell
The Bible talks about itself in those ways. I was just thinking about that. What does Scripture say about itself? And the idea for God Speaks to Me came when my husband and I were on a little getaway. We were on Lake Michigan and I was staring at the lake and I was watching birds flying through the sky. The opening lines just came to me: How does my God speak to me? It’s through golden sunsets and the birds flying in the air and the peaceful breeze. It just got me thinking about there is more to be said than nature can tell us and teach us about who God is. And then we see that in the word of God. So it came through just a personal experience but also by actually looking in Scripture and saying what does the Bible say about itself? And that’s so helpful for us as parents too. It’s another great reason for us to be immersing ourselves in the word. It’s because the Bible gives us categories and pictures. God is so creative in how he inspired the biblical authors to write. And our kids get that. They get that a cookie is sweet and honey is sweeter than a cookie. And so the Bible is the sweetest. They can actually understand that. So I love that God gives us that gift.

Matt Tully
And at the end of every book you have a little note to parents that explains the background. You list a few passages that might’ve been helpful for you and inspirational to you as you wrote the book that helps parents to follow your thinking there. So just really helpful. So another thing I really appreciated about the book is how you always did a good job rooting the explanation of these doctrines in a natural sort of everyday life kind of context. And I think sometimes a temptation we can have, or something that can cause us even anxiety, is I gotta get my kids sitting down and I need to teach them in this classroom experience. Whereas the way you presented these doctrinal ideas in the books is a much more natural, everyday life setting. How did you think about doing that?

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I guess just through living it out in our family life. Getting my kids to sit down for a Bible lesson—not realistic usually. I’m pretty sure this morning there might’ve been a threat associated with Sit down! And stop talking!

Matt Tully
It’s hard enough to get them to eat delicious breakfast, much less—

Kristen Wetherell
I think that’s the point, though. We’re just integrating our teaching throughout our day. Deuteronomy 6 is so helpful here. When Moses is talking to God’s people he’s saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. These words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” How? “You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, there’ll be as frontlets between your eyes. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” It’s all the time. It’s everything that we do. Now, does that mean that I’m talking, teaching my kids every single moment of every single day? No, but it does mean that all of life is the Lord’s. And when we talk about a Christian worldview, that’s what we mean is all of life is the Lord’s. And so thinking about the prayer book, I think it’s a great example of thinking about the situations in which we pray. Sure, we might have more formal settings for prayer, like when we’re with our church family or before bed at night, but it could also just be whenever I feel scared, or it could also be whenever I’m thankful or I just need to pray for my friend or my cousin. It’s all the time. And so I think that was helpful to me was just thinking through what situations that our family walks through.

Matt Tully
Yeah. I love in the prayer book especially there’s this refrain that comes back multiple times—the idea of praising God when I’m happy and glad and praising him when I’m sad, or talking to him when I’m sad. And that idea of rooting this not just in a “spiritual discipline” kind of category of I have to do it every morning, but it’s integrated into all of life.

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah.

28:57 - Practical Ideas for Helping Kids Get Excited about Theology

Matt Tully
Let’s turn and talk about a few practical ideas for helping young kids learn and get excited about theology. So there’s a few questions I have here. The first one is how do you find the time to actually be intentional with this stuff? With the caveat in place that we want to be doing this all the time, that we’re modeling a love for God and modeling our own good theology and how we live, sometimes, though, we need to have times of teaching them and instruction. How do you think about finding the time to do this with your family?

Kristen Wetherell
The more habitual things are, the more habits we create, it almost starts to not feel like you’re needing a ton of time because it’s just built around your life or built into your life. I’ll just go through what we do. This is one family, so this is not prescriptive. Everybody’s life and children look different, but I’m thinking about, even as parents, our daily spiritual habits. For my husband and me it’s in the morning. We spend time with God in his word for a few minutes before the kids get up. And we want them to see those spiritual habits. A friend at church once said have your kids catch you in the act. Which I think is great because we’re modeling for them what it looks like to open our Bibles and to spend time with the Lord and to talk to him in prayer. So I do think that those spiritual habits are important, those disciplines.

Matt Tully
And letting your kids see that.

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah, letting them catch you in the act. But we usually, at the breakfast table, we pray before every meal. It’s simple, but it’s there. It’s built in. So we are going to start our day talking to God and thanking him. We usually at the breakfast table have a very brief—and I truly mean very brief because we have probably thirty seconds before everybody’s in the other room—but we have some kind of simple devotional or storybook Bible that we’re going through. So that could be a catechism—a simple question and answer that we do a question a week, and we just are trying to memorize it together. Or going through a simple chapter of a storybook Bible is great. And it’s just something to get our hearts and our minds tuned to God’s word before we launch out into the world. And that’s what we always say. At our house we will do a little bit of screen time a few times a week. And sometimes the kids will be like, I want to do that first! Obviously, so do I. But we have to lead our hearts, and so it’s kind of like, Okay, nope. We’re going to get in the word before we do anything else because we want to spend time with God. So even just setting that as a pattern for the start of your day. I’m also thinking, Matt, about disciplinary moments, like opportunities for instructing our kids. Everything from sibling conflict where they’re fighting in the other room to disobedience to a child feeling envy about the neighbor’s new bike—all these moments that we can capitalize on as parents. No, it doesn’t seem like, Okay, kids, now we’re going to walk into the other room and do a twenty minute lesson on envy. But it’s a lesson. It’s us obeying God’s command to discipline and instruct our children. And that matters. We’re teaching them good theology in the words that we say and in the way that we respond to that disciplinary moment, which I’ll be the first person to admit is not always beautiful and pretty.

Matt Tully
That’s a convicting thought.

Kristen Wetherell
It’s the moment that you turn around and you say, Okay, I just spoke really harshly to you. Mommy sinned, and will you please forgive me? That matters. That’s teaching our kids good theology. Weaving it into our day. Our family prays before bed at night, and we try to do this but we don’t always succeed, but we’ve been trying to go around the dinner table doing one part of the ACTS model of prayer every night of the week: It’s “adoration” night. Why doesn’t everybody go around and say something that they adore about God? And just doing really simple things like that.

Matt Tully
What a great idea. I’m struck by how simple all of these can be. It takes some intentionality, and hopefully you get into habits that help you do them repeatedly, but sometimes we can kind of psych ourselves out with how complicated it might be.

Kristen Wetherell
Well, like you mentioned earlier, we are living in a time where resources and opportunities are numerous because of the digital age. And so I think as parents it can cause us to get overwhelmed and almost shut down and feel like I’m a failure. Oh, I haven’t done any of that! But habits are just the same thing that you’re doing every day. So I would just encourage whoever’s listening to just pick one. Pick one thing to do that’s different that you haven’t done before that’s pointing your kids to the Lord. And just do that thing and see if it sticks. You don’t have to do a million things. Just do that one thing.

33:45 - Using Discernment in teaching Age-Appropriate Theological Principles

Matt Tully
That’s great. Another question that people might have is, How do you know what theological topics to raise with your kids and when it’s age appropriate with them? When a kid asks you about the destiny of unsaved people—people who don’t believe—how do you know when they’re ready for you to give a vague answer of like Oh, we don’t really know or The Bible tells us that that makes God sad or upset or to the full answer of walking through the whole doctrine of judgment and wrath and hell? How do you evaluate that with your kids?

Kristen Wetherell
I don’t think that there’s a simple, one-size-fits-all answer. I think it takes a lot of discernment as parents to know when our kids are ready for certain doctrines, and even just discernment and how to explain them because it can be hard like we’ve mentioned—Oh, how do I explain to you the doctrine of the Trinity? But like I mentioned earlier as well, I think we often underestimate our kids and what they’re able to take in. I think if your kids are asking hard questions, it means that they trust you, which is great.

Matt Tully
Yeah, sometimes we can ironically feel threatened by those questions or we almost don’t want them to come because we’re not sure what we’re going to do. But why not look at it as an incredible privilege and opportunity.

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah, a great trust. I think just taking those questions one at a time and being able to discern. I think the discerning part is what’s the appropriate way to answer, especially if it’s just a hard question. Is my child old enough to really understand this in a way that will be helpful to them?

Matt Tully
Because I think sometimes with those more difficult doctrinal areas, whether it is sin or judgment, there could be fear. I’ve heard parents express, I’m worried that my kid isn’t emotionally mature enough, or intellectually mature enough, to understand this and that they’re going to take what I’m saying and misunderstand what this doctrine is really about, and it might actually implant in their minds and in their hearts a deficient view of God, a harmful view of God, where they come to view God as a scary tyrant who’s very harsh and he demands perfection and I can’t ever live up to that, and so he’s always going to be mad at me. Have you ever wrestled with that, wanting to protect your kids from misunderstanding so you almost don’t want to tell them things?

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah, absolutely. And what comes to mind right now is that we have the good news of the gospel framing everything. So we have this spectacular news that even though we were enemies of God, he so loved us and so sent his love upon us that Christ came and died in our place and defeated death and rose again. And so these things that we don’t understand, these concepts that we wrestle with—God’s wrath; that’s hard—everything that we see is through the lens of the cross and the resurrection. And so that doesn’t mean that we can grasp it totally, but I think that it will help bring some comfort as parents to this fear that, Oh man, will this cause them to turn away? Because everything that we’re teaching is through the lens of the cross and the resurrection of Christ. I also think we can entrust our kids’ souls to the Lord. And so we’re just telling them what’s true, and we’re asking God to put that seed into good soil and to bear a harvest of righteousness with it. We don’t have control over how it’s received, but we can pray and we can ask God to sow it into healthy soil.

37:24 - Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Your Kids Theology

Matt Tully
That’s such a good reminder for us because we can sometimes take on that burden of I have to make my child believe. I have to make them accept this as true. But we don’t have that power, and that’s actually setting all of us up for a painful road. I wonder as a last question, are there any other mistakes to avoid or any other things to not think when we approach this topic of trying to teach our kids good theology, even our young kids? Are there any things you would warn us against?

Kristen Wetherell
This is for them and not for me—if that makes sense. I often find myself having kind of a prideful heart posture towards my kids, just kind of the wagging finger like, Oh, how could you do that? How could you believe that in this moment, functionally? And it’s so do I. I’m forgetting that God is with me, that he’s omnipresent.

Matt Tully
We’re just better at rationalizing it or hiding it.

Kristen Wetherell
Yeah. And that we need these truths. We need the Lord just as much as our kids do. And I think it’s just really easy to try and function as my own Lord and my own Savior in my house. Trying to save my kids, trying to do my best on my own strength. And I’m not left to myself.
And that’s really good news because I need him too. And so I think that’s a mistake that we can make that we need to be aware of is that we need it just as much as our kids do. We need the Lord.

Matt Tully
What a good word. Kristen, thank you so much for taking the time today to help us think as parents a little bit more intentionally about what it might look like to lead our kids to know and love God.

Kristen Wetherell
You’re most welcome.


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