Listen Here to Faith Radio’s interview of Thomas Griffin on apologetics and youth.
By Tom Griffin
Many people are surprised to find out that I taught apologetics to fifth graders (10-11 yr olds) for 13 years. The typical reaction is, “Isn’t that too young?” Indeed, I would have thought so myself and had no intention to teach apologetics when I began all those years ago. But the questions that came up from my very first students in class convinced me they wanted deeper knowledge and understanding and were a little bored with the Bible stories they loved but knew by heart for years. Over the years, many parents confirmed this with me and stated they have to drag their kids to Sunday School because they are bored.
In my first class when I taught creation, questions arose such as “Did dinosaurs live during the time of Adam and Eve?” and “Why did God allow Adam and Eve to sin if He knew they would?” and “How did they get all the animals on the ark?” and so on and so on. My first class was mainly invested in answering questions. Fast forward 13 years and my current class of students will tell you by and large they love apologetics and feel it should be taught to everyone in our church of all ages. As a result, I also created a 9 week lesson series for 3rdand 4thgraders. Now we are down to 7 and 8 year olds.
The need for apologetics has gone downstream as happens so frequently in any marketing communication effort. The market expands and you must follow it or it will cut off the path to your original target audience. Based on my own experience and marketing background, what this means is that if we want adults and their families to stay committed to the church and understand their faith is based on reason and evidence, then we need to teach at the youngest age feasible to ensure those youngsters grow up in the faith and stay in the faith. Otherwise, if we lose a generation from college age, it can have disastrous negative effects on church membership and even jeopardize the viability of the church. In fact, is that not what all the studies show? Except for evangelical Christian individuals and churches, mainstream Christianity is declining along with mainstream church membership.
The statistic probably most people know about still exists; by age 22, 70% of Christian youth exit the church. That tells me we do not teach them the essentials to know their faith is true but also that we do not teach them at a young enough age. The apologetics organization I work with since 2010, Ratio Christi, began to create student apologetics discussion clubs on college campuses around the country 8 years ago, mentored by an academically trained apologist from our field staff resources, specifically to stem the negative trend for Christian youth mentioned earlier. We now have 180 such clubs. Then we realized it was too late to help many students by the time they were in college. So we started Ratio Christi College prep, a program for high school youth at churches. We knew they needed to be prepared for the attacks and challenges they would encounter in college. But we also now know from research studies that 84% of high school students have doubts about Christianity. In order to address that you have to overcome the doubts and that can be difficult. Further, 40% have doubts already by middle school. And after age 12, only 7-10% accept Christ. So the common sense answer is to address the problem before the doubts occur when they are merely expressed as questions.
That brings us to 10-14 year olds and 5ththru 8thgrade. This entire situation is confirmed by my own experience. By fifth grade, students are bored with the same old Bible studies and thirsting for something more. Oh sure, you can spice up the Bible stories and go deeper into each and that is important and something I still do each week. But then I follow by teaching an apologetics lesson.
This summer I am scheduled to teach a 7 week series on apologetics to anyone in our church that is interested. The intent was originally to reach the 22 adult Sunday School groups. So far about 50 people have signed up. But there is also serious interest from many of the high schoolers, some middle schoolers, and three students from my fifth grade class who requested permission from their parents to attend. My current and prior students still love apologetics. That is exciting!
Let me give you another example of something that occurred just last Sunday. It further demonstrates the need to teach about difficult concepts at a younger age. I was in my normal fifth grade class teaching about the Trinity when one of the other teachers frantically came in and requested an urgent situation in the fourth grade class that needed my help. That has never happened before so I did not know what to think. When I arrived at the fourth grade class (8-9 year olds), I was told that one of the girls brought up an issue she heard about in California about the banning of Bible sales. The teachers did not know anything about it and they thought I might be familiar. Indeed I was. The California state Senate is set to vote on bill AB 2943 which is designed to prohibit the advertising and sales of any materials that discourage “sexual orientation changes”. In other words, without using the words Christianity or Bible, it would make it illegal to advertise, promote or sell any materials that discourage gender changes, same-sex marriage, or homosexuality. It is placed under the California fraud law and is an obvious but veiled attempt to attack Christianity specifically. It essentially considers it hate speech to go against any of those liberal societal abnormal behaviors in an attempt to normalize them. But if you think about the consequences, it affects Bible sales and any other teaching materials and would also impact churches, Sunday school groups and Christian schools from elementary to seminary. That is a big deal!
Anyway, several things came immediately to mind while I contemplated the best way to answer the question: first, how do I address these sensitive ‘cultural’ issues to a 7-8 year old without confusing them and without permission from their parents; second, why are our teachers unaware of this pending issue; third, here is yet another example of a child who asks questions about a deep and complicated issue at a young age; fourth, I wondered at what age parents are teaching these tricky issues to their kids; finally, it made me wonder what would happen if the child asked this question of their teacher in a public school and whether it would be a biblically based answer or if not, then what?
Well, I hate unanswered questions so I explained that I did not think the bill would pass but if it did it would be challenged with a lawsuit and probably end up at the Supreme Court. I explained the court appeal process and answered a couple questions from a bright young boy about why judges are allowed to violate our freedoms and the Constitution. As far as the content of the bill, I said it was designed to ban any sales of materials that go against the traditional idea of marriage between a man and a woman and that some people think the Bible is hate speech because it has teachings about what is right and wrong that some people do not agree with. That was the best I could muster and be honest, answer the question, and still not overstep a boundary with respect to the parents’ desires about when to teach difficult questions.
What do you think? Is it not clear that parents, teachers, and even young children need to be taught from a Biblical worldview as early as possible so that they do not receive their teaching from the secular world?
Let’s all agree this is a critical issue and begin to address it now through the implementation of proven solutions directly from the classroom of youth as young as ages 10-11 or even 7-8. To be clear, my ‘cultural’ lessons are only included in the 8thgrade curriculum as optional. Parents and teachers must still decide the right age to teach those lessons but I pray they will not wait too long. Contact me for questions at email@example.com or call me for a more detailed discussion at 770-597-2654. Can you really afford to take the chance your children and students will be fine without any apologetics training?
By Tom Griffin
Recently I attended the Great Homeschool Southeast Convention in Greenville, South Carolina. Some 2000 homeschool teachers attended to search and review homeschool curriculum material and to listen to speaker workshops pertinent to homeschool teacher issues. It was gratifying and somewhat surprising how many stopped by my exhibitor booth to say they had checked off my apologetics curriculum for 10-14 year olds in advance to review my curriculum and planned to attend my speaker workshop. I am no major organization so it was clear they know about apologetics and the tragedy of the youth exodus and want to do something about it. Often times, they mentioned that their current curriculum packages had some small portion devoted to apologetics but either it did not cover the needed age groups or it was incomplete and insufficient to make a difference.
During my speaker workshop, about 50 people attended the Apologetics for Tweens discussion. When asked why they attended, answers varied from the need to help them defend their faith to a desire to prevent doubts about Christianity from taking root and leading to skepticism, atheism and an exit from the church. We already know that 70% of Christian youth follow this path by age 22. Often times the reason is simply doubts about Christianity due to unanswered questions or misunderstandings about the Bible and science.
In our discussion, I emphasized the need for teaching apologetics at a much younger age than previously thought. Research shows that after age 12 only 7-10% accept Christ. This is clear data that proves they need to understand why they believe in Christ before questions turn to doubt. Some 16 of the teachers purchased the Apologetics for Tweens curriculum, either for a single year, a couple years or for all 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade curriculum. It was very rewarding to see teachers literally squeal with excitement as they hugged the curriculum close to their chests and walked away. I do not exaggerate. Recently in my own church, when I announced to several homeschool teachers that our church was implementing my apologetics curriculum for our middle schoolers, they began jumping up and down and hugging each other. I kid you not. One of them brought over her 8th grade son whom I taught in 5th grade. When she told him the news, he just grinned sheepishly and swayed back and forth as though he had been told he was getting a new bike for Christmas. Yet why should I be amazed that parents and teachers care so much about the final destiny of their students and kids and want to ensure they do everything possible to prevent doubt from leading to rebellion from the faith and church?
Frequent questions had to do with whether a few lessons would be sufficient to help the students and address the doubt issues. Although this could be the case with exceptionally attentive and bright students, the best plan is for repetition, emphasis, reinforcement and testing through games, contests and competition over an entire calendar year. The goal is that by the end of the year, the confidence for the student that the evidence points to the truth of Christianity should be central and evident. Many students will also know and remember specific pieces of evidence such as eyewitness testimony for the resurrection or that God exists due to creation. However, the mere understanding that Christianity is true should be sufficient alone to help alleviate doubt. Even when they fail to recall a particular answer about an objection to Christianity, they will remember there is one and that they were taught the answer and thereby avoid the typical path of question, doubt, skepticism, and eventually atheism or the rebellion of their faith.
The curriculum reinforcement over multiple years is best just as any type of repetition in learning is best. A common question was whether each year of the curriculum builds on prior knowledge. The answer is mainly no. Since there are always new students and some students will miss some lessons, each yearly curriculum is designed to operate independent of the others. Although it is true that the 8th grade curriculum includes additional ‘cultural’ lessons about abortion, same sex marriage, gender, homosexuality and a couple deeper science-related lessons, mainly the top 10-15 key apologetics lessons are included in each curriculum year, although they are featured uniquely in each case.
Another question that came up was whether they need apologetics training themselves to teach it and what about more detailed questions that might come up from the lesson that they could not answer themselves. I assured them that the material was written at the 5th grade level for anyone to understand so there was no reason they could not be comfortable teaching it without any apologetics background themselves. As far as additional questions, my availability via email or phone is included as support for my curriculum. I will answer any and all questions that come up so there is no need to worry.
Apologetics is not just for evangelizing nonbelievers, nor is it only for adults. In fact, unless we implement consistent teaching/training at the earliest conceivable ages where questions and doubts develop, we will never stem the problem of the youth exodus in the church. Unfortunately, if serious doubt creeps in by high school graduation, it will often be too late to overturn the doubt for many of the youth at that point.
Let’s all agree this is a critical issue and begin to put a stop to it now through the implementation of proven solutions directly from the classroom of youth as young as ages 10-11. Contact me for questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me for a more detailed discussion at 770-597-2654. Can you really afford to take the chance your children and students will be fine without any apologetics training?
This video is from my class discussion on the morning of February 25. See how brilliant these kids are! This is unrehearsed and unscripted. These answers are typical of what I see each week. It is gratifying for me, and should be for the parents, to know I am not just talking and no one is listening. They get it!
This is part 2 and last week we did part 1. Some of the audio is a little difficult so I will remember to move closer next week when the children answer the questions. Please note that just because one of the students does not raise their hand to answer does not mean they do not know the answer. Some kids are a little shy, some like to think about things for a minute before they answer, and some kids just love to answer questions.
Congratulations to all the parents for excellent child-raising. I am so proud of this class. They are awesome!
Click on “View Album“, then watch the short videos from top to bottom in that order to get the best flow. Feel free to share with others.
This is part 1 and next week we will do part 2. Some of the audio is a little difficult so I will remember to move closer next week when the children answer the questions. Please note that just because one of the students does not raise their hand to answer does not mean they do not know the answer. Some kids are a little shy, some like to think about things for a minute before they answer, and some kids just love to answer questions.
Congratulations to all the parents for excellent child-raising. I am so proud of this class. They are awesome!
Click on “View Album“, then watch the short videos from top to bottom in that order to get the best flow. Feel free to share with others.
By Tom Griffin. My main focus in apologetics over the last 20 years has been for our youth. When I began, it was over concerns for Christian youth and nonbelievers entering the primarily secular, liberal world of college. The statistic that drove concern was from decades of research by LifeWay and Barna that 70% of Christian youth dropped out of the church by age 22. The reasons were primarily due to intellectual doubt, unanswered questions and a belief that the Bible was not relevant in their lives. Apologetics is a solution to address this problem. Ratio Christi, www.ratiochristi.org is an international apologetics organization with 200 apologetics clubs on campuses worldwide. I have been associated with them in various roles since 2011. It has been a great blessing for me and for those on the campuses we serve: students and professors who are believers and nonbelievers. Wonderful testimonies are recorded for how God is moving in this arena.
After about five years of working with students on college campuses, we discovered that college was often too late to address doubt and concerns. It turns out that they are formed at a much earlier age. 84% of Christian youth have doubts by the time they graduate from high school. That means we have to teach them at a much younger age than previously contemplated. My own experience teaching 5th graders primarily, but also middle school, proves this out. We have to catch them before doubt creeps in. By fifth grade, the questions are there. If unanswered, the questions can become doubt. Doubts become skepticism and then faith is shaken when secular answers from intellectual professors and friends are discovered for their questions.
That brings me to today’s topic: Gen Z. Gen Z is typically defined as those born in 1999 to 2005; primarily this means 18 and younger. In a recent Barna study in cooperation with Impact360, www.impact360institute.org , another Christian apologetics organization, the following five alarming statistics arose for this age group:
- Gen Z identify as atheist at double the rate of the general population. This means about 13% of them. Who is teaching or not teaching them that there is no God? I’m sure the church is not teaching them this so their information comes from the internet and social media, friends and some parents. Is it not proof that we need to teach them that God exists? There is substantial evidence that points to this, including:
- The creation of the universe requires a transcendent, all-powerful Cause
- The creation of first life requires an intelligent Source to account for DNA
- The amazing fine-tuning of the universe specifically to support life on earth is acknowledged even by many scientists as a good argument for theism. These are not ‘God of the gaps’ answers but rather the evidence itself points to a creator God.
- Only 4% of Gen Z have a biblical worldview. What is the church teaching if not a biblical worldview? Well, I believe the church is not teaching about worldviews at all in fact. The kids know all the details of all the Bible stories by heart. But how many can explain how we know the Bible can be trusted and is reliable? Very few. If our kids do not know the primary worldview alternatives and why Christianity is the best explanation for reality, how will they deal with it when faced with one of the alternative worldviews that may sound appealing? The answer is we MUST teach them about worldviews and how we know Christianity is true, the Bible is reliable, and Jesus is God.
- 51% of Gen Z believe happiness is the ultimate goal in life. This is a recipe for depression and explains why so many of our youth experience such. Happiness is fleeting; it is momentary and will not last. If this is the goal for life, it is one that will be elusive and cause great pain because we will all suffer just as Jesus did. There is only hope in Him. A life filled with intermittent depression because a goal cannot be achieved and maintained is a self-fulling end that leads away from happiness.
- Only 34% of Gen Z believe lying is morally wrong. This is a denial of truth as an important virtue or even as a virtue at all. It is not surprising though as other studies have shown that 70% of 16-25 year olds do not believe in absolute truth. If truth is merely opinion, then anything goes and lying is of no significance. But truth is actually undeniable. You cannot claim “there is no truth” without making a truth claim. When it comes to morality, if there is no ground for absolute morality then, again, anything goes. Without God there is no such ground. Only with God as the moral standard of goodness can we recognize evil and immorality.
- Only 25% of Gen Z believe science and the Bible are complementary. So 75% believe that the Bible and science conflict or contradict apparently. Do they conflict? No, not if God exists. Nature is God’s expression of truth in the physical world. The Bible is God’s expression of truth through His word. They do not and cannot contradict. Where there is an apparent contradiction, either science is wrong or our interpretation of scripture is wrong or some of both. All the controversy over the age of the earth, evolution, the flood and miracles is due to one or both of those issues just mentioned. In fact, the more we learn about science the more it provides evidence that point to the truth of Christianity. We have in today’s age more evidence for Christianity than at any point in the history of our world since the resurrection. It was only about 25 years ago that science confirmed the universe had a beginning. That has been a huge problem for atheists and evolutionists ever since because it proves the cause of the universe is transcendent and a beginning cuts short the trillions of years needed for evolution to theoretically and mathematically be feasible.
How many of our Christian youth know these strong pieces of evidence for Christianity? How many of our churches teach these principles? If our youth are not taught this critical information by the church, who will teach it to them?
My best answer to this critical question is homeschool teachers. You are the last line of defense against the secular world. It is up to you to take a major role and save our youth. I am sorry to put this burden on your shoulders but there is no denying you are in the best position to do so. How can you accomplish this task? Where will you get the tools and knowledge? I submit that my 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade curriculum, Apologetics for Tweens, is a great place to start. The knowledge, materials, format and implementation tactics are all there for you. And it is packaged affordably at about $75 per year or a little over $200 for the complete set. Contact me for any questions at email@example.com . The time to start is now because more of our Christian youth are choosing the wrong path every day.
Happy New Year to everyone!
This month there are a number of impactful results to discuss from our apologetics efforts along with an upcoming opportunity in March.
5th Grade Sunday School
During our first teaching Sunday of the new year recently, two parent couples of students in my fifth grade church Sunday School class walked in to share information. They did not know each other so it was quite coincidental and exciting. One couple waited patiently while the other couple spoke to me. First they expressed how much their two kids in my class enjoyed the apologetics lessons. Remarkably, they said that they were constantly talking about the lessons at home. These types of feedback are so heartwarming and rewarding to know my efforts are meaningful.
The first group of parents also mentioned they are homeschool teachers and wanted to arrange to review and purchase the full curriculum of materials for Apologetics for Tweens so they can implement it during their ongoing homeschool program. Also, the mother asked if I would be teaching any lessons on Revelation because one of her sons was obsessed with it and asks questions about Revelation almost every night. Ironically, that son had begged me to teach a Revelation lesson the first week of class and I promised I would. As it turned out, he was sick that week and missed the lesson. Anyway, I took down their email and forwarded four prior Revelation lessons for them to review with their son. I typically teach one or two Revelation lessons each year and coincidentally, that very week taught a Revelation lesson to go along with one of the adult bible study groups where I participate. They were ecstatic and then committed to purchase the complete curriculum set next Sunday.
Then the second parent couple stepped up after hearing all the prior conversation and said they confirm all the same input. They have a daughter in my class who loves apologetics and talks about it and asks questions all the time. Previously I had also taught their son a couple years back who still asks about learning more about apologetics. So they also wanted to let me know how much the teaching means to their family. They are also homeschool teachers and went off with the other parents to compare ideas and notes and spend time discussing homeschool challenges.
Afterwards, our Children’s Pastor mentioned to me after class that she is constantly getting positive feedback about our teaching lessons and she wanted to also purchase the complete curriculum set the next Sunday as well for her grandkids. God is moving in mighty ways in our Sunday School class!
Adult Bible Study Class
I also write a weekly apologetics addendum to support the bible study lesson each week for an adult class where I attend for my own learning and devotion. This week the teacher mentioned about my lessons that he receives many favorable comments about how valuable it is to clarify important topics about Christianity and related worldly issues. Often times during class when an apologetics-related question comes up, he asks my input so apologetics is alive and well in our class. He said he would recommend that all the adult classes receive my weekly lesson.
After the class that Sunday, we had a group lunch. The teacher’s wife and another couple both came to me and commented that the apologetics addendum is the very first thing they read each week before doing anything else related to that week’s lesson. The teacher’s wife said she always thought apologetics went over her head before and was too deep. She said that because my writing was geared to fifth graders that it was perfect for her to understand. She laughed and we both thought that was pretty funny. I guess we are not smarter than fifth graders all the time. The other class member expressed similarly that he reads the apologetics addendum first and that he absorbs the material better than the regular lesson content. Praise God!
Great Homeschool Convention
In March I will attend the Southeast Great Homeschool Convention as well as present as one of their speakers to support my Apologetics for Tweens curriculum. A couple thousand homeschool teachers typically attend so this should be a wonderful opportunity to gauge the interest for apologetics for tweens.
Social Media and Apologetics
Facebook has many, many discussion groups on innumerable topics. One in particular where I am a member is called Religion Discussion Group. It touts 23,000 members. Naturally, when I joined I soon discovered that most of the people who make original posts are atheists, Muslims, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, with only occasional posts by Christians. So I decided to engage and represent Christian apologists with refutations of the false doctrine and misinformation that many spew out to innocents. Realize that many members are interested in discussing and learning and may not have formal training and knowledge to understand all the issues. When posters take advantage of this ignorance and naiveté, I feel obligated to correct dishonest information so that thousands each day are not deceived. This really irritates the posters and they often resort to animus and name calling and mean talk when they run out of arguments and cannot address logical refutations and evidence.
Here are some of the typical original posts that require apologetics answers. My short answer follows each:
- There is no evidence for God (or science has disproven God)
- Creation of the universe and first life point to a transcendent Creator
- An atheist has no belief (not that they believe there is no God)
- No, an atheist has always been the belief there is no God. Some wish to change the definition to avoid defending a belief which they cannot
- Jesus never existed. He is a myth.
- All major Bible scholars agree He existed, including the famous non-Christian New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman
- Christianity was started by the Roman Emperor Constantine in AD 300’s
- No Christianity began immediately following Christ as thousands each day became Christians (Antioch in Acts is when the name Christian was given)
- Jesus was only a man not God
- He claimed to be God and was arrested because of it (John 10:33). He did miracles, predicted and fulfilled His resurrection, forgave sins and accepted worship, all of which only God can do.
- If you do not believe in a young earth you must believe in evolution and deny the Bible
- No the Bible does not give the age of the earth. The Hebrew word for day is yom and has many definitions that are all used in Genesis Chap 1 and one of them is a long period of time. Evolution has nothing to do with the age of the earth.
- The Book of Mormon has the latest Revelation from God
- No Rev. 22:18-19 says scripture cannot be added to or taken away. Gal. 1:8 and 1 Tim. 6:3 say that even if an angel preaches a different gospel than the apostles, it is false and they are cursed.
- Muslims and Christians worship the same God because the name Allah means God
- No Islam denies Jesus is God so they cannot be worshiping the same God
- The Trinity is never mentioned in the Bible and was made up hundreds of years later
- The word Bible is never mentioned either. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit all have the nature and attributes of God so they are all God
- The other gospels prove there are contradictions with the Bible
- There are no other gospels. The supposed ones of Thomas, Barnabas, Judas, etc. were evaluated and unapproved as part of the scriptural Canon because they were not written by the apostles and contradicted the actual gospels
- The Bible is corrupt because of all the different versions
- No the 5700 Greek partial and full manuscripts we have over centuries compare to 99% accuracy using textual criticism Different versions merely translate based on word for word, thought for thought, or a balanced combination, all of which say the same thing but make it easier to understand for different purposes.
If you were unable to answer these unfortunate postings above, perhaps you should consider some apologetics training. We already know that Apologetics for Tweens is understandable for fifth graders so it can be a great introduction for anyone of any age as well.
Recently an attendee I met at a conference ordered the complete set of curriculum for Apologetics for Tweens. He has worked diligently at a local university to provide apologetics training and discussion for college students for nearly a decade. At the same time, he has been persistently reaching out in his own church to develop some apologetics programs for the youth.
Unfortunately, as I have personally experienced at my own church for over a decade, it is hard sledding to gain traction and implement apologetics. After all that time I have coordinated an apologetics conference with 150 attendees from our church and now provide a weekly apologetics addendum for the 22 adult Sunday School classes in our church. The feedback has been tremendous. At least that is some progress for a decade of efforts.
But back to the story. Our new curriculum recipient has had similar challenges. Here’s what he said: “I am in the midst of promoting the idea of training up our youth to my church. I am surprised at the tacit resistance which I suspect is the unspoken, ‘We’ve always done it this way’ thing; this response vs. the mountain of evidence supporting training up our youth as given in the Bible.”
Then he asked for Biblical reference instructions about apologetics. I forwarded him 1 Pet. 3:15 “…always be prepared to give an answer…for the reason… of your hope in Christ.” And Jude 1:3 – “…contend for the faith…” and Paul in 2 Cor. 10:5– “…demolish arguments…against the knowledge of God….” In Acts 17:2 Paul “reasoned” with the Jews in the synagogues. In Matt. 22:37 Jesus updated the command about loving the Lord and added “with our mind”.
He then asked for church references that use the curriculum which is hard to do since it is so new. I explained that I was the best reference since I had been teaching fifth graders in our church for 13 years using my curriculum. And there are a couple early testimonials on my web site home page but the one that is a church is just getting started.
Next he asked for suggestions on how to persuade the church leaders of the need for apologetics. I provided this lengthy list of suggestions below:
Lifeway and Barna studies show that 70% of Christian youth drop out of the church by age 22 due mainly to intellectual doubt, science concerns and feelings that the Bible is not relevant to their lives. Ask the church leader, “What are we doing about this issue?” Certainly, doing things the same way will only yield the same results.
Also, Josh McDowell, in one of his comprehensive studies, showed the following:
– 70% of youth aged 18-26 do not believe there is such a thing as objective truth. This opens the gate to relativism and belief in whatever works for you, and the possibility that all beliefs could be true.
– By high school, 84% of Christian youth have developed doubts about Christianity (40% of middle school and 44% of high school students).
– After age 12, only 7-10% will accept Christ. So we need to teach as early as possible.
What is the church doing to address these important issues?
Another idea is to go to various parents and grandparents in the congregation and present the same evidence and ask if they see it as a problem and would support a solution. Then take that support to the pastor and elders as congregational concerns and you are the messenger and potential solution provider. That way it makes it congregational desires and not so much yours.
Also, take the same stats to the youth pastor and see if you can get their similar support, then go to the senior pastor.
Another key area is missions. Many churches including my own have made missions a major priority. But how can you evangelize when you do not understand the key questions, criticisms and concerns about Christianity and appropriate reasonable answers? I do not believe we can be successful in missions without a basic understanding of apologetics fundamentals for nonbelievers, atheists and those of other key religions.
Here are a couple other things that I have done that have had some measure of success at my church:
– convince the pastor and elders to host a one day conference on apologetics and get SES TEAM to come in for presentations. Usually the only cost is expense reimbursement and optional honorarium.
– convince the pastor to allow you to write an apologetics addendum for each weekly scriptural lesson that the adult bible study groups teach (this assumes they all are on the same program of lessons). I am currently doing this now and have very positive reviews from the teachers and the congregation class members.
– volunteer yourself to be a Sunday School teacher for juniors or seniors, or find an apologetics colleague to help you and begin teaching whatever grades are available (looks like he is working on that). Be sure to get email addresses of the parents, write up your scripture lessons each week then email them to the parents and ask for feedback and questions, and print hard copies for handouts to the youth. Then ask them to talk with their parents about each lesson. If you get feedback from the parents, it will help your case to present to the pastor and elders.
– Get my curriculum into the church for 5-8th graders
Well, he began by purchasing my curriculum and has two churches in mind to discuss it with and try to gain interest. Let us all pray for God’s guidance and support in these important initiatives and thank him for his heart for Christ and desire to impact minds and hearts for Christ similarly.
Last weekend I traveled to Murfreesboro, TN to attend a one day apologetics conference sponsored by NRBTV called “Defending Truth”. It featured notable Christian apologists Ravi Zacharias, Frank Turek and J. Warner Wallace. There were about 1100 attendees who waited patiently in a two block line to pass police security scanning on a drizzly Saturday morning.
Myself and a colleague facilitated a Ratio Christi table and spoke with at least a hundred attendees in meaningful conversations while handing out loads of brochures and answering questions. The conference attendee profile was primarily parents and grandparents and some of their youth. There was clear consistency about the reasons they were there. They were concerned that their sons and daughters were developing or might develop doubts about Christianity and they didn’t know how to deal with it. They heard that Christian apologetics might be the answer.
The interest at our table periodically could only be described as a furor. There was a near feverish pitch about the demeanor and behavior of attendees and an air of desperation. They wanted answers and solutions to help their children cope with the secular attacks and criticisms on Christianity and the parents and grandparents were frustrated about what to do. We added several college students as new members to our Ratio Christi Tennessee apologetics club and two new faculty advisors who are professors at UT-Knoxville.
Indeed Christian apologetics can help address doubt in many cases. It is a long stated fact that apologetics does not win people to Christ. The Holy Spirit does that. But if the issues relate to intellectual doubt and unanswered questions, skepticism and concerns about science and the Bible, apologetics is the answer.
One ongoing conversation of interest was with a lady named Shannon. Her parents convinced her to come because she was raised Christian but has a lot of issues with Christianity. She was all over the map with a dozen different questions: why is Christianity so exclusive, she looked at all the evidence and is not convinced, what about the age of the earth and science, why are we so against LGBTQ (she thought she heard a speaker say some offensive things about it), she considered belief an involuntary action, and so on. She came back to our table at least half a dozen times, usually after every speaker. Cumulatively I’m sure we spoke with her over an hour. But she listened a lot and seemed to really think our answers were special. She called us the “island in the middle of a river” compared to others she interacted with. One time she was asking a question and her parents stepped in to answer. She said, “No, go away. I only want to talk to these people.” She had enough of standard “have faith” answers and wanted a real answer. I’m not sure where that is all going but I assured her that God will provide enough knowledge for her salvation if she continues to seek but that she would have to make a decision because belief is not involuntary.
On another note, several Tweens curriculum were sold right off the table displays and perhaps half of all conversations we had were regarding how to help youth in the tweens age group. It was very common for attendees to say nothing was available until they found “Apologetics for Tweens”. In fact, my heart melted when one attendee reviewed the material then immediately purchased and was so excited she was holding the book pressed close to her chest as though it was her Bible. She said she was very happy she found this material and was excited to use it and help her home school students. She literally walked away with a bounce in her step and air of excitement. I found out later when I met her husband that they were just married recently and still on their honeymoon. Imagine that! They invested time on their honeymoon to go to a weekend apologetics conference at a church. That says it all about the perceived importance of these issues. Other Tweens sales were made to a Sunday school teacher and youth pastor. Many, many more took about a hundred business cards and all 50 of my brochures.
Does this sound like nothing more than mild interest and gathering information from a couple vendors while at a conference? Or is it something deeper and urgent and critical? Do you really want to take the risk that your kids will be fine and never develop doubts about Christianity? Download some of our free samples and email or phone me with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-597-2654.
Last week I attended the National Conference for Christian Apologetics. Our organization, Ratio Christi, had a prominent table for interactions with attendees and partners.
In addition to the usual traffic, it amazed and excited me to see the requests for apologetics material to help teach middle school and even younger age youth. I hung out by our table several times for about 20 minutes each over a two day period. At least two dozen people came directly up to the table and picked up one of my sample Apologetics for Tweens curriculum and said, “This is exactly what I have been looking for but there is nothing available.” I kid you not. Senior pastors of small churches, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, parents and grandparents and home school teachers. They were either looking for curriculum to use themselves or to recommend to their church.
Why all the fuss? As I have experienced myself during thirteen years teaching apologetics and scripture to fifth graders and presenting to middle school and high school groups, the need for apologetics teaching has moved downstream to even elementary school. The kids are smarter now than ever before and with the pervasive influence of the internet and accelerating secular attacks, questions about Christianity and other religions form far earlier than ever before.
Now I would not go so far as to say that many 10-11 year old Christian youth have serious doubts about Christianity yet. But they definitely have volumes of questions. If we do not give them good Christian answers to their questions, the secular world will. Then by high school the answers given turn into serious doubts. At that point it is necessary to turn their opinions and doubts around and that is much harder than providing foundational Christian answers earlier.
Research shows that by high school 84% of Christian youth have doubts. Most doubts have to do with intellectual issues like apparent conflicts between science and the Bible, such as with evolution, creation, the Big Bang, truth and other religions. Frequently the doubts become stronger and lead to 70% of Christian youth dropping out of the church by age 22.
Apologetics for Tweens is not the comprehensive answer to this problem. But it is the only curriculum available for 10-14 year olds that provides weekly scriptural and apologetics lessons in brief, straightforward language suitable for teaching use by even those who lack apologetics training. It is designed specifically for Sunday School teachers, home school teachers, youth pastors, parents and grandparents.
Do you really want to take the risk that your kids will be fine and never develop doubts about Christianity? Download some of our free samples and email or phone me with your questions at email@example.com or 770-597-2654.