Mommy, how does God hold the wind and the rain in His hands?
This was the question my son, Jack, asked me just after his 4th birthday. One of his presents was a wooden puzzle of the U.S. When he opened it, he exclaimed, “Look! The weather!” Each day he saw me check the weather forecast so that I would know how to dress us. Since his puzzle looked just like the map used by meteorologists, he thought he got “the weather” for his birthday! A few days later, he asked his question.
Look at the question carefully… he was asking about God (who we sing has “the wind and the rain in his hands”), he was asking about science (after all, Mommy checks the meteorologists’ forecast each day), and he was asking how those go together.
Looking back on it now, Jack’s question helped plant the seed for what has become Discovery & Faith. It turns out how we answer such “God-and-science” questions matters quite a lot. Questions about how faith and science fit together begin at very early ages and many children have an impression of conflict between science and religious faith by the age of 11.1 The eventual resolution to this cognitive dissonance can be the rejection of faith, or science, altogether. After the age of 15, 3 out of every 5 children will disengage from church life. 60% of our children will not take Christian faith into their adult lives.2
Two of the top reasons young people report for disengaging from Christian faith are their perceptions that churches are antiscience and unfriendly to those who doubt/ask questions.2
But, the “dropout problem” isn’t just a numbers problem for the church—it is a spiritual crisis for children and families. We’ve seen an epidemic rise in anxiety and depression in recent decades as participation in organized religion has declined. As older children disengage from faith and church, they also disengage from the spiritual practices taught and supported in those communities. Religious communities have been doing spirituality for a long time and with great success.3 Spirituality has been shown scientifically to be a source of resilience and thriving for young persons, and a buffer against risk-taking behavior, depression, substance abuse, and severe affective disorder.3 It is the “only thing that science has shown to reliably predict fulfillment, success, and thriving”.3
In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it seems appropriate that Discovery & Faith focus this month on the question of 4-year-old Jack. I imagine many children are wondering the same.
I have provided a few “Connections” (below) for learning and as areas of potential conversation and engagement. My prayer is that you and yours grow in faith, trusting the loving presence and providence of God, whether the days be sunny or stormy.
2 You Lost Me. Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… and Rethinking Faith by Dave Kinnaman (2011)
3 The Spiritual Child by Lisa Miller (2015)