Equipping Kids with a Biblical Worldview

Equipping Kids with a Biblical Worldview<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Sean McDowell
            What is your greatest fear? When I was a kid my greatest fear was sharks.  I always feared that under the murky water of my surfboard a great white would lurch out and have me for lunch.  As I get older, my fears have radically changed, especially since I have learned that about one person per year in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />United States is actually killed by a shark, whereas 168 die from a car crash after hitting a deer. 
My greatest fear today, which I know you can relate to, is that my own son, as well as the kids I work with, will leave the faith I so cherish. And in many ways this fear is coming true.  Denominational leaders indicate that between 69% and 94% of their churched young people are leaving the traditional church after high school…and not returning.  According to a recent UCLA study, as many as 50% of Christian students say they have lost their faith after four years in college.[1]
            James Dobson recently said that the great fear among parents today is the possibility that their kids could leave the faith.  Parents fear that the relativistic, sex-saturated culture will steal the hearts and minds of their youth.  Just the thought of that sends chills down my spine-chills far deeper than the damage a shark could ever inflict.  Jesus recognized the validity of this fear:   "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).  We rightly fear that our kids' souls are being devoured by the world around them.
            So, what can we do to protect our kids from the cultural onslaught intent on destroying our kids' souls?  Based on my research and personal interactions with thousands of kids, I am convinced that one of the greatest step we can take to protect our kids is to help them develop a biblical worldview.  What kids believe will make a world of difference in the kind of lives they lead.  You see, when kids' views of the world become distorted, then how they relate to God, others, and ourselves is radically affected.  And, sooner or later, what they believe will govern how they think and act.  Consider the following facts about kids without a biblical worldview:

  • 225% more likely to be angry with life
  • 210% more likely to lack purpose in life
  • 48% more likely to cheat on an exam
  • 300% more likely to use illegal drugs[2]

According to the 2005 study on youth entitled, "National Study of Youth and
Religion," thousands of non-religious teenagers were interviewed who said they were raised to be religious but had become "non-religious." The teenagers were asked, "Why did you fall away from the faith in which you were raised?"  They were given no set answers to pick from; it was simply an open-ended question.  The most common answer (32%) was intellectual skepticism.  Their answers included, "Some stuff was too far-fetched for me to believe in," "I think scientifically there is no proof," and "There were too many questions that can't be answered."[3]  The data is clear-many kids leave the Christian faith because they have too many unanswered questions.
The Worldview Difference
In his recent book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, Ron Sider demonstrates that the small circle of people-including youth-with a biblical worldview demonstrate genuinely different behavior.  They are nine times more likely to avoid "adult-only" material on the Internet, three times as likely not to use tobacco products, and twice as likely to volunteer to help the poor.[4]  Clearly, a biblical worldview makes a difference.
A worldview literally means a "view of the world," a perspective on all reality.  It is much like a mental map that tells us how to navigate the world.  Most of us have a mental map of our bedroom, so that if we get up at night, we can walk around in the dark and not bump into things.  But if we're spending the night in an unfamiliar place, then we're liable to hit our shin on the furniture or smack our nose on the door frame.  Similarly, when our mental maps aren't accurate-not corresponding to reality-we find ourselves bumping up against the world in painful ways. 
This is precisely what is happening to our youth.  Because so many of our kids have a distorted view of God, truth, and reality, they are making costly choices.  Research shows, for example, that kids who believe that premarital sex is morally right are far more likely to be sexually active.  Thus, if we want to see our kids make biblical choices, we must address their faulty beliefs.
How Do I Teach a Biblical Worldview?
            Believe it or not, but the best way to help your kids develop a biblical worldview is to first model it yourself.  Studies reveal that for the most part American teens turn out religiously to look a lot like their parents.  Christian Smith, author of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers puts it this way, "The general rule of thumb for religious adults considering the possible faith outcomes of their youth is 'We'll get what we are.'"[5] Take a moment to ask yourself a simple question: Do you read, study, and think about what it means to be an ambassador for Christ today? The effort you give to build your own worldview will echo in the lives of your kids.
Ask Questions
            Helping our kids build a biblical worldview is often done best through asking questions rather than "preaching" at them.  Chris Clark stated it so well in the January issue of Living with Teenagers: "In the spirit of growing relationships, ask questions rather than going on the attack.  Ask your teen about the foundation of those beliefs."  Genuinely listening is critical.  One of the best lessons I had in high school was after I went with my family to see Schindler's List. After the movie we went out for pizza and my dad asked us questions about truth, morality and God.  In the context of a family dinner, I learned a valuable lesson about thinking biblically.
Challenge Kids
            Kids today desperately need to be challenged to do something significant.  I once heard Tony Campolo say, "We will lose this generation of young people not because we challenge them too much, but because we fail to challenge them enough."           So true! Take your kids on a mission trip or challenge them to lead a Bible study at their school.  Sometimes they will respond quickly, while other times it may take some prodding.  But don't give up.  Kids often get excited when they realize that they can do something significant for God in their generation.
Focus on the relationship
            My dad taught me a principle that has transformed my ministry to kids.  He once told me that "truth without relationships leads to rebellion."  Kids don't respond merely to truth.  Rather, kids respond to truth in the context of relationships.  If we want to shape the worldview of our kids, we must first build relationships with them.  As Christian Smith put it, "What is badly needed is connection."[6]
            Like a great white shark attacking its prey, our kids are under fire from their culture.  But they don't have to be victims.  If we are intentional about helping them build a biblical worldview we can counter today's culture and help our kids stand strong for their faith.

[1] As cited in David Wheaton, University of Destruction (Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House, 2005).

[2] Josh McDowell, Beyond Belief (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 2002), 6.

[3] Christian Smith, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 89.

[4] Ron Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience (Grand Rapics, Mich.: Baker, 2005), 128.

[5] Smith, Soul Searching, p. 216.

[6] Ibid, 271.

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