The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


God is dead?

Like pastors' kids everywhere, my daughter spends a significant amount of time in church: in the sanctuary, in the classrooms and meeting rooms and, of course, in Daddy's office. I remember those days, being in Dad's office at the church. I knew where everything was — what pictures he had on the wall, what pieces of artwork he had around. I knew that office like it was just another room in my home. Which is why I am surprised when, from time to time, my daughter notices something in my office for the first time — as she did while we were preparing for an evening worship service during Lent.

I was sitting at my desk, hastily reading a few last minute things to help me get my thoughts together for the service. My 3-year-old was playing with the stash of toys that stay in my office for just such an occasion. And then, from behind me I heard her declare, "God is dead."

This is not exactly what your pastor wants to hear his child proclaim, no matter what her age. But I've been to this rodeo before, and I knew that the worst thing I could do was overreact. Maybe I misheard her. Maybe she was talking about something else. Maybe her words got jumbled, as often happens for 3-year-olds. So I asked, "What was that?" She walked over to me, "Is God dead, Daddy?"

OK, less of a proclamation, more of a question. "What do you mean?" She crawled onto my lap as I turned around in my desk chair. And then she pointed to the crucifix that hangs on my office wall, "Is God dead, Daddy?"

Ah, now this makes sense. She is a good Lutheran who understands Good Friday. This wasn't a crisis of faith in my toddler — it was a teaching opportunity. And so, all rushing to prepare for the service stopped. Now was the time to stop everything and answer her questions. We talked about Good Friday and the fact that Jesus died on the cross, and how sad that was. And then we talked about Easter, and how Jesus rose again, lives forever and we don't have to be sad anymore.

The point of this is not that my daughter is amazing (though she is), but about the importance of parents talking with their children about faith. Keep objects of faith around the house — crosses, Bibles, artwork. Bring your children to church to see the people gathering and hear the stories. Do those things, live your faith and they will ask you about it.

Just like grown-ups, children are trying to make sense of their world. The first place children are going to turn with their questions is to parents. Make the time to answer those questions. If you don't — if you're too busy to answer their questions, if the questions make you uncomfortable — then your children will learn there isn't enough time for faith and God is not something we talk about. And, well, a faith not talked about will die out and not be passed on to a new generation. A God not talked about from generation to generation may as well be dead.

Is God dead? Not in my house. 


Patricia Kennedy

Patricia Kennedy

Posted at 11:59 pm (U.S. Eastern) 3/26/2013

My husband and I did all of the above.  We talked about God, prayed, went to church weekly, had Christian symbols in our house, taught Sunday school, went on Youth group trips, etc.  Yet neither of my sons goes to church.  The oldest is living with a girl who claims to be an atheist.  He (without her) will go to church at Christmas and Easter with us, but he does not go on his own.  I have talked to him about how important his own example will be if he has children in the future, but that seems to be falling on deaf ears.  The youngest is gay and has been so hurt by the church I doubt he will ever go back. I can't blame him. I did everything I knew to do to grow a Christian faith in these two boys.  I feel such pain that I seem to have failed at the one job that in my mind was the most important job I had as a parent. Yet this failure must also rest on the shoulders of the community of believers who witnessed the Baptism of these two boys and yet did very little to support their faith journey including a Pastor who was more worried about the church building  than spending time with our youth and who made negative remarks about gays.  These boys are adults now and church seems to have no place in their lives. I wish there was something I could do to change this, but at this point I can only pray that somehow they will at least retain their faith in God and his Grace--in spite of the Church. The only thing I have left to believe in is the promise of their Baptism.  Sadly many of our Lutheran churches say they welcome everyone, but in reality have no place for those who are different. There is a huge chasm between the talk and the walk. 

Note: Patricia Kennedy edited this post at 10:36 am on 3/27/2013.

Posted at 11:05 am (U.S. Eastern) 3/27/2013

Dear Patricia, as I read your posting I feel your pain.  I believe the Church has a lot of work to do to come to reconciling itself to the missing generation from our pews.  The culture we live in, whether we like it or not, or whether we can admit to it, has changed and with it we have changed.  I do not know your age, it may be in proximity to mine, but for me, we went to church with our children because we felt it was the "right thing to do."  Then, after awhile we began to see the importance of faith and spiritual things as opposed to the routine of church membership.  We grew in faith during those years especially.  But the one thing I think parents need to realize is that faith is something we cannot impose on anyone else.  Faith is created, not by parents but by God.  Faith is implanted into each of us by our Creator.  As parents and as the Church, we do what we can to give children a "taste" of what it means to be a Christian.  God does the rest.  We can pray for them and ask God to bring them to faith, but we cannot bear the guilt, the regret [even though we do] for our children not coming to faith. Supportiveness through loving them, no matter what, forgiveness of their faults and things they do that we don't appreciate or accept, these are the things I believe the Church and the family are responsible for.  God is a God of grace.  God is a God of hearing and answering prayer.  Trust God and look for small glimpses of answered prayer in your children.  They will come but they might not look like what we hoped they would.  God's timing and God's purpose is perfect.  There will be a day when you no longer bear the disappointment and the sadnes you are experiencing, when God will wipe away the tears from your eyes and give you peace.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight."  Prov. 3:5-6

Cheri Korte

Cheri Korte

Posted at 7:51 am (U.S. Eastern) 3/30/2013

Thank you for those supportive and encouraging words. Many young adults seem to have fallen on the same path of either denial or a misunderstanding. I believe prayer works wonders and that we have to trust the Holy Spirit to do the hardest part. And perhaps our faith is not demonstrated clearly enough to others in this world. That alone should keep us motivated to share the Gospel with every child...and why we ought to jump at the chance to teach Sunday school, Vacation Bible school and take any opportunity to spend time with a teenager. I love our teens and young ones of our congregation. They often inspire me more than I them. They remind me of how important we are as followers of Christ.Smile

"We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another."  1 John 3.16

Print subscribers and supporting Web members may comment.

Log in or Subscribe to comment.

text size:

this page: email | print

March issue

MARCH issue:

All are welcome