How to Give Your Kids Theology with Jennie Allen

How to Give Your Kids Theology with Jennie Allen

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Today you’re getting to hear another sneak peek from IF:Lead 2020! This episode is my full breakout from IF:Lead called Theology for Kids. There is so much more helpful, encouraging, and challenging available from IF:Lead 2020 on Digital Access! Make sure to head over to

Welcome guys! We're so glad you're here! I don't know if you know anything about my family, but we have a 20 year old kid. Now, when Theolaby was dreamt up 15 years ago, he was little bitty and asking all the big questions. Now he is in college and following Jesus, and he is such an amazing young man. I'm so proud of who he is becoming. Yet that process, that five years old to 20 years old was full of a million small moments that made him who he was. Now that can make us feel a lot of pressure that these short years are going to shape the next generation, but they also can give us a lot of vision and it can cause us to want to be a part of doing this in an intentional way. That's what we dream of: equipping you with tools that help you live this out in an intentional way.

So Barna did some studies of discipling the next generation and how it was going. They polled a lot of pastors and they asked them, “what does it mean to disciple the next generation?” 99% of them said that the primary discipler of the kids is the parents. I know all of you are looking at them and thinking, no we're counting on you to disciple our kids. Well, they're counting on you to disciple your kids. I think we all know that we're going to be the ones that model who God is and talk more with our kids about who God is than anybody else. This matters so much because who we shape God to be in their minds from a very young age, is going to be a hard thing to shake later. Who we shape God to be in the first, early most formative years is going to be difficult to change that view of God as they go into adulthood. These years matter so much. Now in a little bit, we're going to talk about three barriers to giving our kids God. We're also going to talk about three ways we can do this that are simple. We're going to help you win. That''s the goal of this short time we have together. But before we get there, I just want to say that there is a God working with us. We are not sitting here in isolation having to use our mind and our power and our strength to figure out how to help our kids love God. That's God's job. That's the Holy Spirit's work in their lives. I want to take that pressure off from the very beginning and just encourage you that we're going to do our best to be intentional to share with our kids what God means to us. We're going to do our best to learn beside our kids as they are going. But ultimately God is going to give your kids God. He is the expert at that. He has drawn any of us that know Jesus to himself. That is how he works. He takes us from blindness to sight. He takes us from death to life. He changes us and we can't force that on our kids. In fact, the more we try to do that, the more that's going to backfire. So let's all just take a deep exhale.

I want to tell you what my professor said to me in seminary that was the catalyst for the dream of Theolaby. He said by the age of five, the best thing you can give your kids is a huge view of God. Well, I had young kids when I was sitting in that seminary class. I remember just sitting back and exhaling and saying, “okay, that sounds great and I want to do that, but I don't know how.” That was in a seminary class! I'm sitting there with conversations about God filling most of my days and my life and being equipped to have those conversations with other people, but I would go home to my kids and I would get harder questions from them than I have from any adult in all my years of ministry! They had huge questions about God. My son, specifically my oldest son, he was the most curious kid. He liked God. He loved God. He talked to God. I remember one time we were driving in the dark and we had gotten lost. We were kind of out in the country where there weren't any street lights and I couldn't figure it out. This is before iPhones and I didn't have a map with me. So I'm just sitting there kind of exasperated and I don't exactly know what to do in this situation. He said, “mom, we need to pray.” He was three years old. He started praying the most charismatic prayer I've ever heard! He was like, “Jesus, show us the way!” I mean, it was so passionate and so sincere. He knew and believed as a three year old little boy buckled into a car seat in the backseat that God could deliver us from whatever it was that was causing us to be stuck and lost. He had a faith that believed that God could lead us out of that situation. And guys, that is the faith of children. In fact, scripture calls us back to that faith as we get older and more pragmatic and we get more problems in our life and we get more knowledge in our life. God calls us back to the faith of a child. Jesus said this in Matthew 18:2-4, “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Now, what did Jesus mean by this? What was he saying to all of these very brilliant people that were standing around? He pulls a little child on his lap and he says, hey, this is how you've got to be to enter the kingdom of God. What does he mean by that? Let me tell you, watching my little three-year-old pray that night, that verse made different sense to me. He really believed that God could change things for us. He believed that God heard his prayers. He believed that there was a God powerful enough to lead us out of the darkness of wherever it is we were. I think a lot of us ultimately have lost that when we get more and more pragmatic and we get more and more responsibility in life. We lose that just sweet “us and Jesus” and believing that he sees us, loves us, knows us, that he's our friend and that he wants to walk with us.

My dream is to grow up a whole generation hat thinks Jesus is real, I can talk to him, I can hear from him, I can walk with him, I can follow him all the days of my life, and he's going to take care of me. How do we build a dangerous generation that believed God like that? You look at the Bible throughout it and the world changes when people believe that. The stories we still talk about and study, those stories are people who grew up and kept that same childlike faith. That's what I dream of. I don't dream of giving your kids more knowledge. Theolaby is not a vision to get more knowledge, but it begins with knowledge. They have to know who he is. They have to know what he's doing on earth. They have to know where this is all headed to know their part in it. Guys, the same is true for us. Some of you are going to do Theolaby with your kids and hear the story of God in this way for the first time. You might be in your Bible - I was in mine, I was in seminary! But I never lifted up and understood the whole point and the whole purpose. When you understand where we’re headed, and not just Heaven, but what is supposed to be happening between creation and Heaven, you get contagious. You want to be a part of no other story. You don't want to miss one day of this. I believe this is going to disciple as many parents as it is kids, because we have to know the story of God. We have to have some knowledge to have faith like that child. We have to know who it is we're dealing with. My hope and prayer is that you would feel a partnership of us coming alongside of you and putting great tools in your hands. A partnership of the Holy spirit to help you not just raise your kids, but to learn together. I believe that we're going to see a generation rise up. I don't have small prayers for you. I have enormous prayers for you. I pray that God would raise up an entire generation that knows him, that walks with him, and that believes bigger things are possible than we ever believed. That God would move through them in powerful ways to build his church, to save souls, and to heal this land. His eyes move to and fro, and he is looking for hearts that are fully devoted to him. I think perhaps some of the most devoted hearts on earth are the little ones in our homes that we're raising. The little hearts that say big prayers in the backseat, the little hearts that really take God at his word, the little hearts that are teaching us as we teach them.

Here's what I want to do with you today. I want to talk about these three barriers to giving our kids God. If that's the most important thing we can give our kids, what’s stopping us? Now that my kids are grown, a couple of them, I really believe what matters at the end when you're graduating them and sending them out into the world is you want them to like God, you want them to know that God likes them, you want them to like you, and you want them to know that you like them. I boiled down the goals of parenting. The reason I want to start there is because if we don't start with the end in mind, then we’re going to get our goals wrong all along the way. We're going to be confused. Because we're going to start to think, “what we really want is for them to be successful and to make a lot of money.” That's going to be a different style parenting than what I just mentioned. Or you might think, “what we really want is for them to be very moral. We want them to do all the right things.” Well, that's going to build an environment where there's no grace and there's no ability to know how much God likes them because they live in fear that you're disappointed by them and God's disappointed by them. We have to know what our end is because that's going to be how we end up parenting.

Today I want to talk about that first one - that they like God and know that God likes them. The first thing I believe that keeps us from giving our kids a great, awesome view of God and who he is in the scriptures is that we feel shame. We feel like hypocrites when we talk about God, because we're not living the way that we should be to be talking about God in that way. I want to address that first because I think it's the deepest one. I think as parents, the best thing we can do is be healthy ourselves. That's going to build healthier kids. So I would encourage you, this is not long enough to deal with that issue of shame, but what I will say is that Romans 8:1 says, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Jesus.” So if you are living under shame, then you are not living under the gospel, because the gospel of Jesus Christ, the number one thing it promises is that it eliminates shame. Throughout Romans 8, Paul gives you a fuller version of what that looks like, but it begins with that truth. That one absolutely essential truth.

I told you we're going to talk about three barriers, but we're also going to talk about three wins. I've linked these barriers and wins together. I want to talk about the win because the win is actually counter to that barrier. The win is you tell them about that shame instead of hiding it. Instead of hiding what you're afraid of, instead of hiding the mistakes you've made, the ways that you feel like you're a failure, and the ways that you feel like you're a fraud, I'm going to challenge you that one of the best ways you can give your kid God is to tell them your mistakes. To be the best apologizer and the best confessor that they've ever known. We all think that parenting needs to be this great exercise in perfection. But perfection actually teaches them nothing about our God. Perfection steals the need for a God. So you pretending that you're perfect, that you have it all together, that’s completely missing the point. The point is that you need God just like they need God. What we do when we show them our shame, it's so ironic, they see that we're imperfect and we think that's going to let them down. But let me tell you what it feels like. My kids would tell you this if they were here. They would say it’s the biggest relief.

I remember laying in Conner’s bunk with him apologizing to him about losing my mind on him earlier. It probably had something to do with laundry. I remember laying there and apologizing to him and saying, “hey buddy, I'm so sorry that I was angry with you and that I lost my temper and that I yelled.” He had so many questions about that. He was so moved by that. He was like, “mom, you know what? It's okay. This happens to me too.” All of the sudden he turned counselor on us. We’re sitting there talking about it, and I remember somewhere in Romans 7 Paul has the same question. So I pulled out my Bible and found that verse and basically Paul asks himself the question, “Why do I keep doing the thing I don't want to do?” Conner was like, “Yes! That’s exactly how I feel, mom. I really feel that way. Why do I keep doing the thing I don't want to do?” Let me tell you in my mind where this was going: I did not know. It sounds way better in a story later, but in the moment, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew that there was a verse somewhere in the Bible that talked about Paul feeling that way. Then we talk about Romans 8 and the road to life and peace, and how we can choose that road as believers everyday, or we can choose to go on the road to sin and death. My son and I are sitting there beside each other exegeting the scripture together. At that point, I’d never studied that passage in depth or looked at any commentaries. But in that moment, it was just me and him and God working through a passage together all because I had messed up.

If I could go back and give myself and my husband one piece of advice when our kids were young, it would be that your mess-ups are actually the best parts if you let them be. But I felt so much pressure to get everything right. You will get things wrong, and the greatest gift you can give your kids, my favorite moments of parenting looking back at my kids' life were our mistakes. A few weeks ago my husband and I got into a fight. We’ve done a lot of marriage counseling, so we don’t fight as much as we used to, but now when there’s a fight the whole family knows. We’re all very expressive, passionate people in our house. Cooper, my youngest, was worried about it. He was like asking the older siblings, “are they going to be okay?” Connor was like, “yeah, they used to fight all the time. They're fine. They always work it out.” I remember thinking to myself, I love that my kids know we fight. I would have thought when they were younger, we should hide this. But the fact that Connor knows that a healthy marriage results in lots of fights, but that they work it out and that he's now counseling his little brother about that is worth it. After the fight was over, we sat them down and told them what it was about how we resolved it. We bring them into it, not just because they heard the fight, but because we want them to know how to work through conflict.

The second barrier is maybe you didn't grow up in the church or maybe even if you grew up in the church, you still don't feel confident to give your kids God because you don't know the answers. You don't know the Bible. You don't have that verse circling in your head like I did about Paul. That is okay. I want to give you permission. The win is here is not just me giving you permission, but I want to tell you a better way. There is a better way to learn about God with your kids: to do it beside them. In fact, I promise you, it will be sweeter and better for you to study and discover God together as you are going than if you had some seminary degree and you were just spouting out information to them. It begins with both of us seeing our need for God, and then learning about God together. When we were dreaming about Theolaby, we really wanted to take what we believe is a broken thing in the church right now. We all think to give our kids God, we've got to learn a lot about him from God, and then we need to give it to our kid. It’s a line from God, to us (the parent), to the kid. Our hope is to change it to a circle. That we're having conversations and we're all experiencing and learning from God together. That it's not something hierarchy where we get the knowledge, and then we impart that to our kids. But it's all of us sitting down together saying, “God help us understand what this means, help us understand how to know you better.” We open the Bible together and discover it. We use the tools available to us, and our hope is we make those tools really easily accessible for you.

You don’t have to be ashamed if you don’t know something about God. When my sister read the first Theolaby book, she looked at me after and said, “is this why God created the earth? I missed that somewhere.” She'd grown up in church, she's in her Bible, she's walked with Jesus a long time, but the main point of creation and what we're all doing here, she missed that somewhere. Maybe you have too. There are incredible tools that we want to help resource you with so that you can do this yourself. But what I want you to know is that it's never going to be you giving your kid God. It's going to be God giving himself to all of us. That's how our family is. We are such a team. No matter what age our kids have been, it's been this discovery together. Let's learn together. Let's make mistakes together. Let's repent together. Let's admit our weaknesses together. My second daughter is a bit of a perfectionist and when people ask, “what did your parents do right?” she always says, “they just let us mess up.” I never actually said that in our house, but I think they saw us mess up so much, they knew it was okay. They saw us ask God big questions and they saw us wrestle with big decisions. We brought them into those big decisions and prayed together and sought scripture together and discovered our feras together. My kids would say, because of those moments, we have the closest family. My oldest son points to those moments we came in weakness to him and said, “we don’t know the answer, but we’re going to wrestle together and pray together and open the word together.” You don't need to know everything. You just need to trust God and they need to see you do it. As you do that, they're going to want that God. But if we never show our weakness and our lack of knowledge and our insecurities and our fears, then we're going to miss seeing God in that powerful way. It is in our weakness that he is strong. That's what scripture says. My kid would say, “our parents are very imperfect, but they have an awesome God and they really like him. He has shown up for them.” I would rather that narrative than “my parents are so amazing.” That makes me feel like a hypocrite!

The third barrier I see is we are all so busy. Life is so full. Even this year, when some of us have gotten a bit of a respite, if you've got young kids and diapers and toddlers and even elementary school kids and you're homeschooling, there's still a lot going on. It's really hard to make this a priority. We all set good expectations, like doing advent everyday before Christmas or having a daily devotional in the morning. Maybe you do that, and that’s great! But sometimes those things fall away because we’re busy and distracted. I believe the antidote to business is a lot of intention and choice. It takes a lot of decision-making that we're going to prioritize this in our home. Our hope is that our tools are so quick and easy, you can do it in little moments rather than structured and disciplined time. Mostly because that’s how we parented! It still takes intention. It still takes sitting down with your kid and tucking them in when you're exhausted and you've got Netflix waiting. It takes choice and it takes motivation.

I want to spend our last minutes together here on this fact of why does this matter so much? We're talking a lot about where we find ourselves and launching into this next season of the church. How are we going to be strategic in case this is the end times? We want to be excellent at giving God away and walking with him in very turbulent times. But what if it's our kids' generation? What if they're the generation that Jesus comes back? What if they're the ones that are going to usher in the kingdom of God? What if they're the ones that have to persevere tribulation and persecution? We don't know the days that our kids' generation are going to face, but we need to assume that it's going to be worse than this. We need to assume that the enemy is only growing in his attack of us and trying to take down the church and trying to steal our faith and belief in God. We’ve got to get this right.That's how serious we've got to take this. I want to read you Proverbs 22:6. It says, “train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” That is our hope. That we are training up the next generation and they're not going to depart from it. I know there's a million other things that you've cut to get in during these few short years that you have with them, but I don't believe there's anything more important than this. That we train up a child in the way that he should go. In the ways to follow Jesus, in the knowledge of friendship, with Jesus, walking with Jesus, obeying Jesus, and sacrificing for Jesus.

There’s a verse in Isaiah that talks about how we all like sheep have gone astray, each his own way. But Jesus Christ, the powerful story of God, interrupts that way with a cross. He takes care of the sin for all of us that have gone our own way. He sets us on the road to life and peace. He puts his spirit inside of us so we are not alone. That’s what he does in us and that’s what he wants to do in our kids. We have to train up the next generation to know God, to like God, and to know he likes them, so they can live out the purposes God has for them.

We know as parents that you are facing so many tensions when it comes to teaching your kids about God. There's so much pressure to get it right. The search for finding resources and books can be really exhausting. We have some really good news for you! God wants to use you. The story of God is a five book series that starts with creation and takes you and your kids on a journey all the way to Heaven. Make sure to check them out at! If you want to hear more IF:Lead content, don’t forget to head over to and grab your copy of Digital Access!