How to Shepherd Your Child When He/She is Exposed to Bad Teaching

Little Jimmy comes home with a smile on his face. (It’s always little Jimmy, isn’t it?) He has spent the weekend at dad’s, as he has since the divorce, and he is pretty jazzed up about the church service that he went to. As a faithful mommy you are excited that he is excited about church. Trying to contain your grin you ask him what was so cool about church. Little Jimmy explains,

Mom it was so cool! We were singing songs, then the preacher said something about snakes and faith…I can’t really remember what…but then Pastor Jenkins hopped out of that place where people get babatized (cause little kids never pronounce it correctly), and he was holding this huge snake around his neck. It looked like one of those really mean snakes that we see on television. Then he started speaking in this really cool language. It was awesome how God saved these people and gave them His Spirit.

That’s probably an extreme case—but what do you do if your child is exposed to poor teaching? If it’s a television preacher then you can tell him that those guys are nutjobs and invite him to watch a cartoon. But if this poor teaching is coming from someone like his daddy, then that makes things a little more difficult.

One option is to tell little Jimmy that daddy is nuts and part of the reason for the divorce is that daddy lost his mind at that snake handling church. You can teach him what you believe and then you can tell him all the reasons that daddy’s theology is about as sound as that rattlesnake that he tries to handle.

I would not advise that approach. One of your chief goals in shepherding your child is to help him be dependent on the Lord and to be able to handle God’s Word for himself. If you pit your theology vs. daddy’s theology then he’ll determine what is correct based upon whether he believes mommy more than daddy. That won’t help him in the long run.

What little Jimmy really needs is to know what God says. Therefore, whenever your kid is exposed to bad teaching, take him straight to the Bible. Say, “let’s see what God says about this”. Then you can show him from the Scriptures why you believe what you believe. It’s difficult. You might still have questions. You likely won’t do it perfectly. But at least you are teaching him a valuable lesson; namely, that when he has a theological question he goes to God’s Word to find the answer.

You don’t have to spend a ton of time in polemics (showing why daddy and his snake handling is nuts). Just help your kid see the truth of the gospel and hold fast to Jesus. The Spirit will take care of guiding your son/daughter into all truth. And He does that through His Word. Help your kids be hungry for the Word and confident that God accurately and sufficiently reveals Himself in the Word—and I bet daddy’s whack theology will be shown for what it is.

I’ve written this from the perspective of a mom trying to shepherd her little boy. But it could be just as likely that a little girl is being led astray by a crazy mama and daddy needs to step in. My advice would be the same. Take them to God’s Word no matter their gender or yours.


  1. I’m blessed with a great wife. We generally agree theologically. But all of us need to teach our kids how to approach bad teaching.

    One I’ve always done is to disciple my kids as a matter of identity. I say things like, “Others may believe [this or that], but we believe [this] and here’s why.” So I give them something positive to believe that gives them a place as part of the family. They are free to discuss it with us if they have questions. One example was my oldest son had a cage-stage experience with a Bible teacher at his school who was semi-pelagian out of ignorance if nothing else. He was the only person in the class who was informed about the soteriology debate and the teacher seemed reasonable enough according to pop culture. So we had a discussion about choosing battles wisely.

    Choosing battles wisely – knowing when to hold your tongue – that’s another one.

  2. Good article, though I would point out that, in a situation like this, you must also go to the Bible when there is good theology coming Jimmy’s way, otherwise “Let’s see what God says about this” just becomes kiddie-code for “Let’s discuss how daddy is wrong again”…..

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