Hopefully these sample answers, which you can adapt to your specific beliefs, provide some seed ideas for conversation. They are written at a child’s vocabulary level. What you are saying and doing now will help lay crucial groundwork for their exploration of God later in life.
You can use any way you want to let God know you love God.
It’s just like you have different ways of letting your family and friends know how you feel. Some kids like to write a letter to God. Most tell God in words they say out loud or keep in their thoughts (this is called prayer). Others draw something that expresses their love, write a poem or a song.
One important way to express your love for God is to love yourself.
Take very good care of yourself. You know many ways to do that, like giving your body enough sleep and healthy food, staying safe by listening to wise adults, and paying attention to your relationship with God. You love God when you admire and care for yourself.
Another way is to love people.
An equally important way to express your love for God is to love people by being as good to them as you are to yourself. That can mean sacrificing your comfort or happiness in order to treat someone well. A lot of trouble would vanish if everyone were as good to other people as they are to themselves.
Spend time with others who love God as much or more than you do.
Your family can help you find a youth group, a church, synagogue, or other place with kids your age who have a connection with God. You can find a sense of belonging. You might learn different ways they use to let God know how much they love God.
Tweetable: What to say when a child asks, “How can I let God know I love God?” Seed ideas here for you to adapt. Click to Tweet
These ideas for discussing the possibilities of such a relationship are written at a child’s vocabulary level. Adapt it as needed for a child’s unique situation.
Your connection with God starts with God.
From the beginning of your life, God provides a family for you, intending that you will learn what love, nurture and care are. As an infant you responded to God when you experienced delight in looking at your parents’ faces, feeling warm bath water on your skin or being cuddled.
God’s bond with you is ready for you to join in whenever you want to.
God has been preparing it all along. Your human spirit–inside of you–is where this relationship develops. Since God is spirit, God provided you with your human spirit so you would have the inner space to hold a relationship with God.
You have been responding to God, even when you did not recognize it.
When you see the night sky with countless stars and feel amazement at how big and wide it is, you are responding to God’s glory.
When you see someone’s talent expressed you are responding to God’s handiwork. When you feel love and kindness being shown to you, you are sensing God’s presence.
If you take time right now to think about it, you would remember many times you connected with God. Something special was going on but you did not recognize that it was because of God.
Connect more directly with God the same ways you connect with people.
Starting in early childhood and continuing through your whole life, you have plenty of things to go to God about. You have lots to talk about and question. These questions, conversations and encounters, along with the feelings they produce, form the foundation of a real relationship.
Think about the relationships in your life.
You go places together, hang out, laugh, play, work, eat, talk, argue. With God, you do many of the same things. God has feelings. God is delighted when you are having fun. God feels anger when people hurt each other and feels happy when you are generous. God feels disappointed when someone breaks a promise. God understands everything you feel inside. When you are upset, maybe crying, you can be sure that God is aware of every tear. When you are celebrating a special occasion, God’s heart is full of joy. God knows and loves everything about you.
Note: These traits of God are taken from the Bible’s stories.
Tweetable: What do you say when kids ask, “Can people actually make a connection with God?” Some good ideas here. Click to Tweet
This question presents an interesting dilemma from the parent-teen perspective. Someone in our blog community shared this story with me. As you read it, consider how you might handle the situation.
Yesterday my daughter asked if she had to go to church. She said she was tired and needed some unscheduled downtime.
After asking her some questions,
it did seem like the issue was more about her time-management skills (too many activities and social events and time spent texting) than about anything specifically at church, which she generally seemed to like.
But her question led to some conversations
about whether or not church was required in our family or optional. My analytic daughter (who will almost certainly go into the sciences) asked, “So if one of us decided we didn’t believe in Christianity at all and we didn’t want to go anymore, would we have to go?” And of course she kept pressing for an answer, even though I had never really thought that scenario through– or talked about it with her dad (who was conveniently not present at the time so I couldn’t get his opinion).
Eventually I said, “If the reason not to go was that you don’t believe it, we wouldn’t force you to go. That wouldn’t feel good. At the same time, if it’s a matter of just going when you feel like it and skipping it when you would rather sleep in, that wouldn’t feel good either. So the answer kind of depends on the deeper reasons. In this case, let’s talk about how you could prioritize your time so you have that downtime you need.”
I’m not sure what we’ll do
if one of our kids really decides to opt out. Most likely they wouldn’t say they didn’t believe in Christianity at all, but simply that church wasn’t a priority at this point in their life. Hmmmm…
After that conversation, the issue seemed to pass.
My daughter hasn’t asked again about having to go to church. But we have had some conversations about what she likes about the experience of attending, and whether she’s going for her own sake or ours. We’ve talked about other families who have different rules and what their reasons might be.
She did, however, opt out of youth group this semester.
In thinking through her time-management and current activities (some of which she shouldn’t drop mid-school-year), she decided something had to go. Together we decided two things. One: She would not have to attend youth group if she didn’t want to. Two: She would have her phone taken away at 10pm on school nights, which would allow for better sleep.
Tweetable: Teen’s question, “Do I have to go to church?” led to a very thoughtful discussion with her mom here. Click to Tweet
Passing along spirituality to others can be fraught with many pitfalls and misconceptions. We must never try to force or convince, yet must still be open to those who are curious and seeking– especially when the seekers are the children in our lives.
Notice the approach this parent chooses with her preteen.
Recognizing spiritual development is an ongoing process, here’s a story about how one mom handled a difficult question from her 12-year-old. Your answer, and any alternative viewpoints you cite, might have been different, as you’d be speaking from your own beliefs.
“So Mom, do you think there’s a hell?”
The question came out of nowhere, as far as I could tell. We had a movie on and it was paused for a bathroom break. This is when my son decides to ask me about hell.
Although we periodically attend a Protestant Christian Church, I don’t have very formed ideas about hell. It is just not a subject that comes up much. So I first decided to see where the question was coming from: “Why do you ask?” “Well, Max from church said that people who are bad go to hell.”
Okay, I thought to myself, so the question is theoretical and not related to anyone specific dying. Now how do I answer when I’m not sure myself? Here’s what I came up with:
“Honestly, I am not really sure.
“I can tell you what I think, but I may be wrong. I do think heaven and hell exist, but I think that God would not force anyone to be with him in heaven who didn’t want to be with him. If someone didn’t want to be with God, they could choose not to be. Hell—I think—is the absence of God rather than fiery flames. Now some people think hell is literal fiery flames, and some people think it doesn’t exist at all.
“What do you think?”
My son then went on to think out loud about the idea of hell being so horrible, but also about the need to punish bad people, like Hitler. He seemed conflicted, and I could see that this conversation—like many other spiritual topics—would need to be an ongoing one as he thought through what he believed. I committed then to try to serve as a safe sounding board for him as he would think things through over the years. Then maybe in the future he would serve as a safe sounding board for others.
Tweetable: One mom does a good job handling her 12-year-old son’s question about hell. Here’s what she said. Click to Tweet
I’m not the first one to notice the earnest way children talk about and ask about God. They are curious. After all, they can hear about God almost every day. On the playground, at the park, at the zoo, basically anywhere people are talking: Oh my God. Oh God, no! Goddammit! I swear to God….
They are curious about this. Children want to talk about and ask about God.
Who is God? Why can’t I see God? Where does God live and is his mom there? How old is God? Is God a person? Was God born from an Easter egg?
Notice these two children who expected and responded to a God who cares, nourishes and feeds. It’s their natural instinct:
“When my pet cat died I wanted to know where my cat went, why she couldn’t come back, etc. I was completely satisfied with my parents’ answers of ‘She went to heaven; God is watching over her now.’ That’s when I realized there was some other higher being out there. I felt peace. I remember it distinctly. It was peace knowing that there was someone watching and caring for us that we couldn’t see or touch, but they were out there.”
“Around age four I was hungry to read stories from a large Reader’s Digest Bible Story Book that my Mom had ordered. We didn’t go to church so these stories were completely new to me. I was amazed and was so drawn by the stories read to me by my Mom and sister.”
We nurture the human spirit when, in responding to questions and comments about God, we convey God’s love, affection, warmth and tenderness for the child, despite any reservations of our own we may have.
- Two different parents respond to their child’s natural instinct to ask questions about God. Click to Tweet
- Parents should respond positively to kids’ questions about God despite their own reservations. Click to Tweet