Big, Holy Questions: Resources for Theological Conversations with Kids

How can you wonder together about big, important questions with the children in your life?
children praying
difficult conversations theme image for february 2022

One of my favorite things about being in ministry with children is their questions. At my church, our children are steeped in Godly Play method’s “wondering questions,” so we often phrase our curiosities that way. 

“I wonder why it’s hard to love everyone like Jesus taught us.” 

“I wonder how people felt when Jesus told them to change their hearts and lives.” 

“I wonder how Jesus’ friends and community knew that he was raised to life again.”

These questions can arise while sitting criss-cross-applesauce on a carpet square, at the craft table surrounded by pipe cleaners and glue, or while hugging a heart-shaped pillow in my office after telling me about a hard day at school (I have “Snug: the Hug” pillow from Ikea in my office). 

Yet sometimes, all ministry leaders (paid, volunteer or parents) feel poorly-equipped to engage deep theological musings from a shy six-year-old or a precocious tween, regardless of whether we’ve been to seminary or not. 

They trust you

But remember, when children ask you questions, they are telling you two things: 

1. They feel comfortable enough with you to be vulnerable and share their curiosities with you and 

2. They want to wonder WITH you. They are inviting you to accompany them in their questioning, and that is an offer you cannot refuse. 

Conversations about theology are often (necessarily?) open-ended. But for some reason, when it’s kids doing the questions, adults clam up and feel like we have to be experts giving 100% confirmed (ok, 98% is fine) facts. And yes, depending on their cognitive developmental stage, some children will want to know if something is “true” or “good” or “wrong.” But in general, the phrase, “I don’t know, let’s find out together,” can be a wonderful tool for leveling the playing field of “expert” and “learner” and lead you into a relationship of exploration and accompanied curiosity. 

New Directions for Holy Questions, a new book I co-authored, isn’t about providing answers, but about wondering together. Stories about individuals and groups of people pursuing justice, spiritual practices that help ground bodies in the present moment, and Bible stories with reflection questions encourage cooperative curiosity between children, and between children and adults. 

“Anytime we study and read and pray with the Bible and theology, we will run into questions. Sometimes questioning faith is scary or lonely, and it can feel like you’re the only one wondering. Let us say here and now that you are not alone! Asking questions is one way to love God with your mind, by growing deeper in your understanding of Holy Presence in our world.” (New Directions for Holy Questions: Progressive Christian Theology for Families)

Other books that can offer guidance for grownups accompanying children in developing their spiritual lives and Christian theologies include:

  • Why Kids Ask Hard Questions: Vol 1 and Vol 2 (Volume 2 published November 2021) edited by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Karen Ware Jackson
  • Little Theologians by Dave Csinos
  • Bad Things, Good People and God by Bryan Bliss (published Jan 29, 2022)
  • Traci Smith’s Faithful Families series, containing conversation starters and activities for engaging the Christian liturgical year at home

Wherever you are in your faith journey, and wherever the children in your life are on theirs, know that you are enough to meet them where they are. As a caring adult dedicated to following Jesus’ way of love and justice in the world, you are prepared to help steward their faith by joining them in their sacred wonderings. 

Further reading:

Family Devotions Time

How to Best Use Children’s Books in Pandemic Ministry: An Interview with Glenys Nellist

The Gospel of Matthew: Life in the Way of God

Experience the life and teachings of Jesus through art, reflection, and application
Anita Peebles

Anita Peebles

See Profile

Want to Join the Conversation?

Members with an account on our website have commenting privileges! If you want to be a part of it, create your FREE account now.

You Might Also Enjoy...

No results found.

Come to work with us

Want to learn about the container experience and start working in a shared place

We make use of cookies on this website to help it work better for you. Cookies give you a more personalized experience, and provide analytics that allow us to serve our users better. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the terms outlined in our privacy policy.