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Starting Spiritual Conversations with Kids and Adults

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“It is befitting that . . . in your meaningful conversations with your friends, neighbors, acquaintances, colleagues and other like-minded souls, you explore together how better to contribute to the material and spiritual welfare of others and to build a society in which the innate talents of every individual can flourish without regard to distinctions of class, creed, gender or ethnicity.”
— The Universal House of Justice, 21 March 2011

 

How often do you and your family talk about matters of faith with people who don’t share your religion? Sometimes it can feel daunting or awkward to bring up spiritual topics, even if they’re important to you. You might wonder if the other person will take offense or feel pressured to accept your beliefs or defend their own. Sometimes it can feel like there’s an unspoken rule not to talk about religion with people outside of your own religious circle.

At the same time, sharing our thoughts and feelings about spirituality can be a great way to connect with kids and adults of all beliefs. Exploring ideas about the meaning of life, our purpose as human beings, and how we experience the divine in our lives—even with people who see things differently than we do—can broaden our understanding of truth and enrich our spiritual lives.

Empowering kids to be comfortable discussing faith and spirituality will help them throughout their lives. As parents and mentors, we can serve as examples for kids in our own conversations, in addition to sharing these ideas with them directly. Role-playing or talking through imaginary scenarios can be helpful, too. Encouraging meaningful discussions in everyday life will accustom them to such conversations, and help build the skills to navigate them.
 

Here are some conversation starters you can use to connect with kids and adults on a deeper level:

  • What do you think is the most important thing in life?
  • If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
  • What would be your idea of a perfect world?
  • What makes you feel hopeful for the future?
  • What are the greatest gifts or blessings in your life?
  • Why do you think about when you’re out in nature?
  • Do you think it helps people to pray? Why or why not?
  • What are some things that motivate you to do your best?
  • What do you believe is the purpose of life on Earth?
  • Do you think there’s a purpose to having beauty in the world?
  • How does being generous affect people’s relationships?
  • Besides your own, what religion(s) do you find most interesting?
  • What do you think the world really needs in order to overcome its challenges?
  • Do you think there is a purpose to suffering?
  • What helps you make important decisions?
  • Who is one of the most inspiring people you’ve ever met, and why?
  • What do you wish people understood about your religion?
  • What can people of all faiths do to help improve life for all on our planet?

 

Here are some things to keep in mind as you engage in spiritual discourse.

Focus on Common Ground

The purpose of bringing up spiritual topics is to elevate the level of conversation above the mundane and trivial, not to persuade others about specific religious concepts. Talking about the beliefs that we hold dear can put us in a vulnerable state, which is all the more reason to find common ground on which to stand together. When we know we have things we agree on, it’s much easier to discuss our differences. We can always come back to that solid ground if things get rocky.

 

Keep a Humble Posture of Learning

One tip for keeping spiritual conversations productive is to remain humble and to listen as much as—if not more than—we talk. We all come into these discussions with our own views and beliefs, but we can also learn a lot from one another. This is especially true if you look for the beauty and strength in others’ spiritual practices. I have gotten some amazing insights into meditation and mindfulness from Buddhist friends. I’ve been inspired by the faith and generosity of Christian friends. I’ve gained new understanding of humility and trust in God from Muslim friends. Look for ways you can learn from others’ beliefs and faith traditions.

 

Show Respect and Reconnect

Sometimes spiritual conversations turn to differences, and it’s okay to express our individual beliefs. The Bahá’í writings say, “The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.” But if people start getting angry or argumentative, spiritual conversations can become disunifying.

If that happens, remember to show respect for the other person, and try to reconnect on common ground. Focus on a point of agreement and acknowledge that no one agrees 100% on everything. Let the other person know that you appreciate their willingness to engage in conversation and that you respect their right to have a different opinion. Responses such as “That’s understandable,” or “I can see that,” or “That’s an interesting point of view” can help keep the conversation from feeling confrontational.

 

Share and Listen with Love

Keep in mind that the person standing in front of you is a child of God and a noble human soul. You may have different—even conflicting—beliefs about God (or whether God even exists), but you’re part of the same human family. The Bahá’í writings advise, “Let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path.”

With kind words and deeds—or even a simple, warm smile—you build bonds of friendship. When people see and feel that you have genuine love for them, then spiritual conversations become that much more uplifting.

Not every conversation you have with your friends needs to be on a deep topic. But the more you practice going beyond the superficial details of life and delve into matters of the soul, the deeper and more enriching your friendships can become.

 

Annie Reneau is a freelance writer, homeschooling mom of three, lover of chocolate and travel, and former assistant editor with Brilliant Star. She shares her thoughts on parenting at Motherhood and More.

Updated on 2.01.19