You remember that one teacher at school who was notoriously easy to drag off track when you were bored in class? That teacher who made derailing the whole lesson as easy as asking them a few off-topic questions?
I have a confession to make: I am that teacher.
But in my case, it’s absolutely intentional.
I invite them to imagine our class as a road trip where we each have one hand on the steering wheel. I have a map and a plan (and I reserve the right to point us back on-track when we’re headed into a ditch) but I’ll happily let them steer us down a side road if they see something interesting—because I’m convinced that the detour is often the best part of the trip.
Over and over again I’ve seen how, when we treat kids’ questions like they matter, we open the door to transformative encounters with Jesus that we never could have planned out on our own.
But how do we do that, exactly?
Treat every question like it matters—even the weird ones.
When a child asks, “Why doesn’t God answer me when I pray?”, most of us would recognise this as a profound theological question—one that cuts to the heart of how we understand God’s power, his goodness, and his involvement in the lives of his people.
But what if instead they ask, “Could Jesus beat Thanos in a fight?”
It might be tempting to shrug this question off as less important—who cares if Jesus can defeat a fictional Marvel supervillain?
But here’s why I still think it’s worth stopping to chat. When you thoughtfully engage with any question, you’re communicating far more than just the content of your answer. You’re communicating that you value the child’s questions—and, even more critically, that you value the child. The more you demonstrate your willingness to engage on the small stuff, the more you show that you’re the kind of person they can trust with the big stuff.
But actually, let’s not be too quick to assume this is the small stuff.
Because as you discuss how Jesus might overcome a reality-bending alien, you’ll inevitably find yourself running into deeper questions of God’s power, his goodness, and his involvement in the lives of his people—which, oddly enough, are the very same issues arising from that far-more-important-sounding question about prayer.
Find the question behind the question.
Let’s say a child asks, “Why does God let bad things happen?”
What’s going on here?
Well, it might be a theoretical question, sparked by something they’ve seen online. Or a personal question, prompted by a particularly rough day at school. Or maybe it’s a relational question about their friend whose mum’s cancer has just come back.
Each of those scenarios requires a different conversation—not because the truth of scripture changes, but because the wisest application of that truth depends on the details of a particular situation. The greater sense we have of the question behind the question, the better able we’ll be to wisely apply God’s wisdom to the child’s life.
Which might sound daunting—but as often as not, figuring it out is as simple as saying, “That’s such a great question! Why do you ask?”
Keep pointing them back to God’s ultimate answer.
Sometimes answering a child’s question is easy—you already have a response up your sleeve, ready to go. In those cases, rather than just telling a child what the Bible says, I’d encourage you to physically flip open a Bible together and show them. By doing this, you’re not only modelling that the Bible is great place to turn for answers—you’re modelling how to investigate those answers for themselves.
But what about when you don’t have an answer? Well, this is where it can be useful to call in some reinforcements. Chat to someone at church. Pick up a book. Listen to a podcast. Or, even better, find something that you and your child can both engage with, and then discuss it together.
As someone who encounters countless tricky questions every day at work, I know all too well how hard it is to find quality, age-appropriate resources to help young people search for answers. That’s why I’ve written the Big Questions books—they’re my humble attempt to help fill the gap.
I hope they’ll provide satisfying biblical answers to some of your kids’ toughest questions. But more importantly, I hope they’ll do what any solid response to a child’s question about God does: point them back, again and again, to God’s ultimate answer to all our questions about him: not a tidy little collection of theological statements, but God himself, revealed to us in Jesus.