This book is amazing it is part history, part theology, part practical guidance and part random fun stuff. What made you put all those parts together in one book?
A quick search on amazon.com will yield various books promoting: “everything a boy/girl should know or do.” Yet all of them are secular in content and approach. The Radical Book for Kids is different; it’s what I wanted my own children to know about God our Savior, the Word He has written, and the world He has created.
So this book is an attempt to point my kids and others toward that goal. And in the background of this desire is that in 2003 I was diagnosed with a blood clot and a genetic blood disorder. When you’re 29 years old, you think you’re fairly invincible, but God brought into my life a daily reminder of my mortality. I’ve not had another scare like that since, but God has used this diagnosis to raise my awareness of the importance of passing along to the next generation the good news of Christ and the truths of His Word.
How do you envision this book used in a perfect scenario? Parent read, student read, or devotionally read?
This is a book that kids, ages 8 and up, can read on their own. For curious readers, a table of contents and index make topics easy to find. So kids can explore their book however they like: hopscotching around via topic or just reading straight through. For kids of younger ages, parents can also read this book aloud in family devotions. Bible teachers can use it to supplement their main curriculum. For parents or teachers, there are plenty of places to stop reading and to discuss issues posed, consider questions asked or just laugh at something funny. (Also, as the book has been previewed, I’ve learned adults have found this book useful for themselves or to give to others who are growing in their faith.)
The chapters are random yet ordered. How did you decide what topics to cover and which ones to leave out?
When I started compiling potential chapter topics, I knew the finalized list wouldn’t be exhaustive. Instead, it’d be more of a starter-kit. So I started by making a list of all the things (about God, the Bible, theology, life, etc.) that I’d want my kids to know about or know how to do. Then I emailed over a dozen friends in ministry, asking them what they’d include on their short list of things for kids to know or do. Initially, over 100 topics made the list, but we eventually landed on the 67 mini-chapters that make up The Radical Book for Kids.
From the beginning, chapters began to fit into one of three categories: “radical depth” (going deep into the Bible, theology, apologetics); “radical strength” (how to live as Christians—drawn from Scripture and from examples in church history); and “radical fun” (miscellaneous topics that might be interesting to kids and are also loosely related to the Bible).
You do an excellent job “distilling truth.” Breaking down complex truth without leaving the essential parts that make it true. What is your process for doing this?
I don’t think I’m a model for how “distilling truth” ought to be done. But my own methods follow one of two paths. Either a particular topic was one to which I’ve given some thought over the years or, lacking that time to percolate, I did some research usually using multiple sources to gain a cursory understanding of the scope of a topic. Then I tried to communicate what might be the most important, applicable, or interesting aspect of the topic at hand.
What books or resources have helped you lead your kids into a deeper walk with Christ?
There are many great resources available today, but here are some books that may be useful in helping your children follow Jesus.
As a parent, I find this book really helpful in the discipleship of my kids. How can I get the most out of it?
I’d recommend that parents carefully read The Radical Book for Kids on their own in order to be able to discuss chapters with their kids. It might also be useful for parents to look up various Scripture passages mentioned or cited in the book. Then the discussion with children could focus on what God’s Word says and how it reveals God and applies to life.
In addition to these kinds of discussions, it’s hard to overstate the importance of prayer for parents actively encouraging their children’s spiritual growth. Although God uses human means (conversations and prayers), the only one who can ultimately change your children’s hearts (and that is what we’re aiming for as parents) is God Himself. So we must always bring our children’s spiritual growth before the Lord, asking Him to work the grace and love of the gospel of Christ into our children’s hearts.
Some parents are so overwhelmed by books and resources they just throw their hands up. How would you suggest that we make things easier for them?
Here are three starter ideas to help keep things simple (and a fourth is included in reply to your next question).
First, for parents who’ve not been making family discipleship the priority they’d like, I’d recommend that parents openly talk to their children, sharing in humility where they’ve fallen short in this area and what they hope to change in the future. Repentance before God and even before our families is a good place to start — and to continue.
Second, I’d recommend keeping expectations fairly low. Instead of planning to have family devotions seven days a week, it might be better and more realistic to aim initially for two-to-three days per week. Even then, that family time in the Word and prayer might only last five minutes (perhaps even less for younger children).
Third, depending on where your children are in their spiritual growth, you may want to pray out loud for them (even at times when you’re in their presence). For example, “Father, I pray you would change [child’s name]’s heart so he/she wants to obey [or spend time in the Word — whatever the issue may be].”
I have been reading about family worship and trying to make it more of a habit in our home. Do you do family worship if so what does that look like?
I don’t think there’s a single or best way to do family worship. And our family, although we gather for family devotions regularly, doesn’t claim to have the corner on this area. It’s an area in which I continue to try to grow, while also recognizing that “family worship” according to Deuteronomy 6 is more caught during the normal course of daily events, than taught in one daily concentrated setting.
Having said that, here’s one piece of advice that my wife and I discovered years ago and have found it very helpful in our own family. Basically, we spend most of the time reading and memorizing one of the Psalms together. Even very little children can participate, reciting together a verse (or verses) from the Psalms, as a parent reads out loud. The verse may be read several times during each family devotion time, and a new verse could be added every few days as previous verses become more and more familiar. In this way, throughout several weeks, you might be surprised to discover how quickly your family could memorize an entire Psalm. Favorite psalms for our family have included Psalm 1, 23, 100 and 103.
We are going to be featuring a different reformer each month of 2017 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. What advice do you have for me in breaking down biographies of famous figures in church history in a way that is helpful to kids and parents.
I’d recommend that parents first learn for themselves about various men and women in church history. If the lives of godly men and women from the past aren’t compelling to parents, then they won’t be able to lead their children to see their interest or value either. There are numbers of short biographies by John Piper that are perfect for parents to enjoy. These biographical sketches were originally lectures, which are available as free audio downloads on the Desiring God website.
Then parents might want to invest in some age-appropriate biographies for their children to either read or have read to them. Many of these are referenced throughout The Radical Book for Kids.