Hillary Morgan Ferrer: Mama Bear Apologetics
About the Guest
Our culture’s lies don’t sound like lies—& our kids absorb them. Mama Bear Apologetics’ Hillary Morgan Ferrer offers ideas to guide kids to unshakable truth.
Hillary Morgan Ferrer: Mama Bear Apologetics
Hillary: Mama Bear Apologetics is like doing whatever you have to do to protect your child, no matter how much you don’t want to do it. But if it’s going to protect your child, you’re going to rise up and do it, and do it with fury. What if we could take that Mama Bear instinct and then channel it towards looking at challenges and defenses of the Christian faith?
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Okay, so if you think back to when we were raising our boys—
Dave: —you know before they were out of the house, married, now grandkids, what would you say as a parent was your biggest concern spiritually for their lives?
Ann: Mmm. What I hoped was that they would walk with Jesus and be totally surrendered to Him. My concern is that I would fail in being able to communicate that. [Laughter] I have so many—and my fear was that the world would shape them instead of the Gospel.
Dave: Yes. I thought you’d say something like that. One of my fears was that their faith would be so shallow that when they left our home it could be destroyed by—
Ann: Oh. What? I didn’t know that.
Dave: Yes, there was a part of me as a dad, at least, thinking—
Ann: But you’re also the pastor.
Dave: Yes, that’s part of the reason. Am I giving them enough depth/foundation so that when those beliefs are challenged, they can stand up and say, “No, no, no, what you’re saying is a lie because of this and that”?
Ann: I think so many parents worry about that, especially when our kids leave the house, and they go to college. Don’t you?
Dave: That’s why we’re talking about this today.
Dave: Because we have the woman that can help us really do this. We have the Mama Bear. [Laughter] We have Hillary Morgan Ferrer in our studio, and again, you can tell us in a minute why you’re called the Mama Bear of Apologetics, but first of all, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Hillary: Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’ve had a great time so far.
Dave: Yes. When I picked up your book, and I know you’ve written a couple, but Mama Bear Apologetics™: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies, of course my first question was “What is a Mama Bear, and what does that mean?
Ann: Every mom knows what a Mama Bear is!
Hillary: I was going to say, every woman’s like, “I don’t know; I just know I am one.” The men are like, “What does that mean?”, going all philosophical. Mama Bear—so I initially thought of it—there was a woman—I think we have this in the introduction to the book—where she was talking about how she had raised her boys in the church.
They’d gone to Awana®. They’d gone to youth group. One of them had even rededicated his life, and when he went away to college, he was fine. It wasn’t until his first job that his boss basically said, “Jesus is like Santa Claus for adults.” For some reason that just rocked him.
She was talking about how every time he came home, she would say, “Okay, tell me your questions,” and she would go and research. She wasn’t academically inclined. She was a fitness instructor, was kind of more—liked the physical stuff—but she would dive into apologetics and philosophy and history and geology. Whatever it was that he needed to have the question answered, she was going to do it.
I thought, “That’s an instinct that I don’t think we’ve really seen,” but I think all moms have it. It’s doing whatever you have to do to protect your child no matter how much you don’t want to do it. But if it’s going to protect your child, you’re going to rise up and do it, and do it with fury.
Ann: Yes, that’s what a Mama Bear does.
Hillary: That’s what a Mama Bear—
Ann: She protects her kids. But I love that. She was super-intentional. It wasn’t even her thing.
Hillary: No, it wasn’t.
Ann: But she thought, “I’m going to protect my kids. I’m going to protect this son, to dig in and to find out.” So you started a ministry.
Hillary: Yes. I never thought it would become what it’s become today, but I just thought, “You know what? Mama Bear Apologetics.” It’s like I just had this phrase going through my head of “What if we could take that Mama Bear instinct and then channel it towards looking at challenges and defenses of the Christian faith?” and kind of just repackage it like that.
Because a lot of times I think people think of apologetics as trying to either talk to people who are unconverted or trying to answer skeptics or atheists, which very rarely are you ever going to see really full successful apologetics used in that way.
Apologetics was introduced to me when I was young, and I attribute it to the reason why I never walked away from the faith. Because I couldn’t unknow what I knew, and I just knew that I knew that I knew—because of the evidences for the resurrection, the evidences for the reliability of the New Testament documents. I was grounded in that. At age 12 was when it was introduced to me by my pastor, and walking away from the faith—I felt like I would have to check my brain at the door to walk away from the faith, which is the opposite—
Dave: Yes, the opposite of what most people think.
Dave: You have to check your brain at the door to become a follower.
Ann: And we as parents, though, are called to develop our children’s faith.
Ann: But why moms?
Hillary: You know what? I came across this quote saying that the average mom, especially of young children, gets more questions per hour than the Queen of England does in an interview. [Laughter] I thought, that’s totally true. I’ve seen that; I was that child. So it’s like moms just have the questions. Kids come to mom with the questions first.
One of my ministry partners, Amy, saw some research on it; that basically everything—kids were asked, “Who do you ask first for this type of question, this type of question?” All age groups in everything—it was always mom, until it was maybe in the mid-teens and politics, and then they went to dad. [Laughter] But everything else, they would go to mom first.
I thought, “We need to be reaching the moms with this.”They are that apologist you can have in every home; that are very, very motivated to see their child grow in this area, just because of that nurturing aspect of being a Mama Bear.
Dave: That is so true. I hear you say it and I’m like, “Wow!”But there’s also this side where a lot of women might look at your background and go, “Well, Hillary is schooled.”You have a master’s in biology; I’m sure the sciences are big in your brain. A lot of men and women would say, “Well that’s not my background, so—”
Ann: Yes, and some moms are like “I have to make dinner. I don’t even know what to have, and now I need to do apologetics with my kids?”
Hillary: Yes. I very purposely wanted to make the books fun and funny, just because no one wants to read a textbook when you have soccer practice and dinner and folding the laundry. It really was a challenge, but I wanted to make it to where moms felt like “I can do this. We can all do this. Let’s all do it together.” In fact, that’s my email signature: “We’re all in this together.”
Dave: Some people might be listening, going “Okay, I’m not even sure I understand the word ‘apologetics.’”We’re using it in your title, we’re just talking like we know.
Hillary: Are we apologizing for something? [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, exactly. So explain it and help us understand what it means.
Hillary: Yes. The Greek word ‘apologia’ means “to give a defense for.” So it’s for the ones that are growing up in a Christian family. You’re not necessarily having to defend them against their objections, but you’re building up their faith to where it is a firm foundation that can withhold the questions from science and from philosophy, from archaeology, all those different things. It is just building that more robust faith.
Anything that makes you more sure and more certain which is the evidential aspect of the faith; anything that makes you think stronger about this/more sure, more certain, that actually increases your faith. I think a lot of times people don’t understand that because they have this bogus definition of faith.
You would not say, “I have faith in my accountant” if you had never worked with that accountant before. It’s because they’ve faithfully followed through, and you’ve seen the evidences of them being faithful; that’s why you have faith in them. It’s the same way with Christ.
Ann: So, Hillary, when should we start as moms and dads? When should we start talking about this stuff and teaching?
Hillary: Oh, golly. I don’t think it’s ever too young. Of course we want to start out with the basics. They need to know what we’re believing, but once they get to the point where they can start asking questions, answering those questions, I think, needs to be a part of our regular discipleship.
One of the things I think that happens with kids is that every time either a question isn’t answered or answered poorly or just kind of sloughed to the side, they kind of stick that in their back pocket, thinking “Oh, that’s too bad.” And one day, if something really big happens, either something emotional or a sin that they don’t want to give up, all of a sudden, they want to walk away from the faith, and they’ll pull out that list of questions they never had answered.
But in my experience from growing up with apologetics, what I discovered was whenever I had these—even questions I didn’t know I had, because I didn’t know I had these questions when it was first presented to me, but I had this history of really tough questions have really good answers. So whenever I would get to a point where there was a tough question that I didn’t have the answer to, I could at that point in faith say, “There’s probably a good answer to that, if I look for it.”
And if I’d always had the experience of there’s not good answers, I wouldn’t even go looking for them.
Ann: Okay, I have a question for you, because this happened in our house, and I’m going to have you answer the question.
Hillary: Oh, golly. No pressure.
Ann: Okay, our son was four, and we had been reading about King David and Goliath.
Ann: We read the whole story, went through it, and then he’s going to bed, and he goes, “So, Mom. So David loves God. He’s following God, but then he cuts off Goliath’s head. Why is it okay for David to kill someone, but then it also says in the Bible that we shouldn’t kill anyone?” Which is such a good question for a four-year-old—for any age that’s great.
Dave: Our kids were the smartest kids ever born on the planet. [Laughter]
Hillary: Of course. Yes. I think that would probably be going into the difference between war and murder. I think there is a difference in that. These were the people, if you look at them, they were taunting and mocking the Living God, and God, in the time of Israel, was showing His status as God—when you have all these other gods that people would claim—saying “I am the Lord. I am the Lord over all these other gods.”
Yes, I think God sometimes uses people to execute judgment. Now I don’t think He does that today with our laws now, but back when you had a theocracy as opposed to a government, the Lord had the right to have capital punishment, and He had the right to ask people to execute capital punishment. I guess I would talk to them about the laws of the land versus the laws of God, what kind of government we’re in, as much as a four-year-old could understand that.
Ann: Yes. That’s pretty much what you answered, Dave.
Dave: Oh, did I answer that one?
Ann: You came in, and I loved what Dave said, because—
Dave: That was my Papa Bear Apologetics.
Ann: I was thinking, “Oh no. This is only the beginning of questions that are going to be difficult.” But I love that Dave walked into the room and said, “Man, I’m so excited that you’re asking those kind of questions.”
Ann: Even that—what a great question. And to be excited and not fearful when our kids pose those questions.
Dave: Yes, as a parent at least, my perspective is I wanted them to be asking questions. I’m wired that way. I’m always asking questions.
Hillary: Me too.
Dave: I want to dig deeper. It was never fearful to me; it was exciting. I’d rather have them asking them while they’re still under our roof than later.
Dave: And of course, they’re going to keep asking them; but I wanted to encourage it. But at the same time, I think a lot of parents are afraid of it maybe because they don’t know.
Dave: I know you do this almost daily now with especially moms. How are you helping them ground their own faith so that they can answer and pass that on to their kids?
Hillary: There was a study done, I believe, by Fuller Youth Institute® that talked about doubt. One of the things that they said that helps alleviate doubt was just being able to express the questions. So many people who have walked away from the church said, “The church was hostile to my questions.” So I think we want to be encouraged that sometimes you don’t even have to have all the answers. Encouraging them to ask the questions is going to at least take away some of that—just kind of takes the wind out of the intensity of it.
So, encouraging the questions first, and then maybe having a book. This is one of the things that I would love to do, is have a book where if we get a really good question, let’s go write it down in the book, and then we’re going to spend some time as a family sometimes, researching this or finding a book that we want to read together. Like maybe we notice a bunch of these questions have a similar theme. Okay, well let’s crowd source to see if there’s a book out there that answers a lot of these.
Start going through that together. Parents need to know that you don’t always have to have the answer right off the bat. Just encouraging the question itself; that creates a safe and opening environment for your child’s faith to grow.
Ann: I think that’s such a good idea, to sit at the table—and even especially as your kids get older—"What are the questions you have about the Bible/about God? Let’s just talk about those.” I like the idea of writing them in the book, because your kids will think, “Oh, they’re taking—this is for real.”
Hillary: Yes, “They’re taking this seriously!”
Ann: Yes, and “We’re going to talk about it. They’re not saying they know all the answers, but they’re saying ‘Let’s research that. Let’s find out more.’” I think that that’s a great posture, because it’s teaching our families and kids how to become biblical thinkers. I think that’s really important.
Dave: One of the questions that I think a lot of parents have is, “Are kids walking away?” You hear that our kids are growing up in our homes and maybe going to youth groups and maybe part of our church, and then when they go to college or leave, at least you hear “They’re all walking away.” I know they’re not all walking away, but what is happening?
Hillary: We’re seeing kids—it’s like walking away from what? Are they walking away from church or are they walking away from orthodox Christian belief? Because I think we would be surprised at how many people who claim to be Christians actually don’t believe what the Bible actually teaches.
So first off, that, and second of all, people notice when they walk away in college, but a lot of times the process started much earlier—a lot of times somewhere around middle school. Middle school and high school is when that process started, and they keep going to church because that’s what their family does/that’s what their parents do, but mentally they have already kind of started to distance themselves. There are some who do return and who do come back—
Hillary: —but I think especially now we have even more that are leaving. I think Pew Research just came out—for the people who identify as a religious “none,”—and we’re not talking “nun” like a Catholic nun, but n-o-n-e—
Hillary: —back in 1950 was three percent. Then in the 90s it went up to, I think, eight percent, and then maybe 2014 it was up to twenty-one percent, and now it’s almost a third of all adults say that they have no religious preference. But then you look at the ones that still do have a religious preference, and “What do they actually believe about the Bible?” and it is not a biblical worldview.
So I think we need to get past this idea that we’re living in a Christian nation. This is a post-Christian nation, and we can’t rely on culture to reinforce these ideas. I think even back when I was young, we still had a lot of positive peer pressure for church, especially in the South, for church and for religion/for Christianity, but that’s not assumed anymore.
It’s like we kind of have to almost be treating this like we’re raising kids in a semi-hostile territory.
So being able to establish their cultural identity as a Christian, saying “This is what our family follows. This is what we believe. This is why we believe it, and this is how we are going to separate ourselves from the rest of the world, while still loving those who are around us.” It’s a completely different calling than what we had before. Anyway, I do think the statistics are showing that so many are walking away, but not all of them.
Dave: So here’s my question: If I’m a parent and I’m raising my kids the way I hope I want to raise them—I’ve seen them come to Christ in faith, maybe in their middle school years, or even earlier, high school—but I’m starting to see them walk away—whatever we define that as, from their parents’ faith or from the faith they once professed, what do I do? I’m not a Mama Bear; I’m a Papa Bear, but Mama Bear or Papa Bear—
Ann: —are freaking out.
Dave: —what do we do when start to see it? We start to see this drift, and it’s the opposite of what we dreamed our whole life, and there it is right in front of us. It’s maybe still in our home.
Dave: What do we do?
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Hillary Morgan Ferrer on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear Hillary’s response in just a second; but first, as a listener at FamilyLife Today, you have heard many stories of how God can do amazing work in even the toughest marriages. And the amazing thing is that God chooses to use people just like you to help. One way you can make an impact for more marriages and families is by financially partnering with FamilyLife Today.
All this week, as our thanks for your partnership, we want to send you a copy of Hillary Ferrer’s book as our thanks. It’s called Mama Bear Apologetics. You can get your copy when you give this week at FamilyLifeToday.com, or when you call with your donation at 800-358-6329. That’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Alright, now back to Dave and Ann’s conversation with Hillary Ferrer about what we do when we start to see our kids walk away from the faith.
Hillary: I think that’s where you start asking questions and you really start listening, because a lot of times there is going to be a root, and it might be a root that is different than what is expressed to you. Right now, personally, from what I’ve seen and from what I’ve heard from a lot of parents, is that the root right now is gender and sexual identity; that it’s actually messing with this idea of: what does it mean to be male? What does it mean to be female?
Because if we don’t have male and female/if we don’t even know what that is, then we don’t know what the image of God is/the image and likeness of God. If we don’t know what the image and likeness of God is, we don’t know who it is that we’re worshipping. Just the whole LGBT movement, I think, is undermining a lot of things. You’ll see kids start to fall in line with culture on that, and it kind of slowly starts morphing them in their ability to see God accurately. So that’s one thing.
Sometimes it can be something emotional that’s been going on, where they don’t understand the goodness of God because they’re suffering in a way that we can’t see. We look at the mental health statistics for young people, especially basically once you introduced the smart phone, mental health issues have been steadily rising since that time.
So I would start looking at what some of the roots are, talking to them, seeing what they actually believe, and then loving them through that. Back before we had any of this technology, we also had identity crises at that age; and how much more compounded is that now, with just all the technology that we have.
Ann: So you’re saying get in there, know your kids, ask them questions. I think sometimes as parents we can get fearful, so we pull away, thinking “Oh no; oh no.” But I think as parents to first get on your knees. I have prayed countless hours for my kids. I have this place in the woods where I have these rocks, and I have dates on the rocks of what I’ve prayed for. I’ve prayed that—
Dave: It’s like an altar.
Ann: It’s an altar.
Hillary: I love that!
Ann: It’s a monument.
Ann: I just went back to it the other day. It makes me teary because my dad just passed away, and my mom not too long ago. I put their dates on there and I just thanked God—“Lord, this has been an answered prayer of what You’ve done in my parents.” But I can’t tell you—hundreds, hundreds of these little rocks of “Lord, I’m praying this for my kids.” when you feel like they’re slipping or they’re questioning, to not run away from it, but first go to the Father, Who already knows what’s happening and loves them.
But then, to start asking my kids questions, like “Guys, what’s going on? What do you think?” And don’t jump on their answers in fear, like “That’s wrong. You shouldn’t be thinking that!” It’s that question of “Tell me more,” and “Oh, that’s interesting.” And even ask this question if your kids feel like “They’re not going to answer truthfully,” ask them this: “What do your friends? What are kids in school—?”
Hillary: Yes. That’s a good way of getting around it.
Hillary: “What do you hear other people in school saying about x, y, z topic?” That way it depersonalizes it. It’s not just what I think, it’s “Oh, I’ve kind of heard this,” and they can interact with that idea without feeling like it’s going to be a personal—yes, that’s excellent.
Ann: “My parents aren’t going to freak out if I say, ‘I’m feeling this.’”But when they say, “My friends” and don’t—I made this mistake one time. I remember saying to my son, “Oh, is that that bad kid that smokes pot?” [Laughter]
Ann: Oh my, and he said, “Is he bad, Mom, because he smokes pot? Is that what he is?” I’ve learned don’t judge the kids and what they’re doing or what they’re feeling or what they’re saying, but ask genuine questions, but don’t place judgment of good or bad on their friends for thinking that.
Ann: Be careful, because God loves all of us and sees us all.
Dave: Yes. I love the prayer you put in your book. I wrote it down in my notes—just a sample prayer. I’ll read it to you. It says, “Help me to teach my children to hold the biblical rather than cultural definitions. May my children never align the Bible to their thinking, but rather align their thinking to Your Word, oh God.”
I just thought “What a beautiful prayer for us as parents.” One of the things that we’ve mentioned here many times is when our oldest, CJ, was born 36 years ago, I took Fridays and started fasting. I thought I’d do that for a couple maybe months.
Hillary: Can I even tell you how powerful fasting is, especially for—I don’t know if this is an isolated thing but having a male in authority. My husband fasts for me, and there is going to be times—it’s not very often. He loves his food. But I get to the point of where there’s so much chaos in my brain that I can’t even think straight. When I can’t even pray for me anymore, I’ll say, “John, it’s time. I need you to fast for me.” It’s like for those days that he’s fasting, there really is something spiritual that happens.
Hillary: There’s just this—I don’t know. It’s like being in the pouring rain and someone just puts an umbrella over you for that period of time and just covers you, so kudos to you for fasting for your kids. I think spiritual strongholds get broken with fasting.
Ann: Me too.
Hillary: I don’t know why, and I can’t explain it, but there’s something about it.
Dave: Yes. Well, I’m 36 years in now, and I’m just saying to the parent who’s maybe fearful of what their children are walking into or what they’re starting to believe, you can pick up Mama Bear Apologetics, which would be very helpful. I’d say you also have to get on your knees and say, “God, I can’t do this. Only You can do this, and I’m going to surrender again my child to You, and I’m asking You to do a miracle.”
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Hillary Morgan Ferrer on FamilyLife Today. Her book is called Mama Bear Apologetics, and you can get your copy when you give this week at FamilyLifeToday.com. If you know anyone who needs to hear today’s conversation, be sure to share it from wherever you get your podcasts.
And while you’re there, a simple way you can help more people discover God’s plan for families is by leaving a rating and review for FamilyLife Today.
Tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson will continue their conversation with Hillary Ferrer when she lays down some easy, realistic ways to start engaging your kids to build their biblical foundation.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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