Parenting In the Midst of Faith Wandering

Today I’m excited to be writing for Unfundamentalist Parenting, a new collective Patheos blog curated by Cindy Brandt. I share my thoughts on raising kids in the midst of faith wandering, and  it might involve a story of how my toddler was recently evangelized by another toddler at the play-dough table.

You could fill a library with all the resources for Christian parents who subscribe to traditional evangelical parenting styles. As for Christian parents who are looking for another way, there isn’t a lot out there for us. That’s why I was so excited when I discovered Cindy and the conversation she has started.

If you’re interested in raising children with the Christian message outside the typical shame-based teachings and disciplines that come with it, I recommend you join the closed Facebook Group “Raising Kids UnFundamentalist” or “like” Cindy Brandt’s writer page so you can have access to people dialoguing some of these important issues regarding faith and parenting.

Enough introduction – here’s the first part of my piece, which you can read in its entirety by clicking here. 

Parenting in the Midst of Faith Wandering

“I have Jesus in my heart. Do you?” My three-year-old daughter Georgie and a friend had been making making a den of play-dough snakes when her friend blurted the question. I whipped my head around to watch the exchange–I’d never seen a toddler evangelize to another toddler.

Georgie looked up and twisted her face in confusion.


I was waiting for her friend to launch into a dissertation of the Romans Road, but instead she threw a ball of play-dough on the floor and giggled. Then my daughter threw  more play-dough on the floor and giggled. I was ten feet away, stifling my own giggle.

I haven’t told Georgie anything about Jesus yet. For the first few years of motherhood, I’ve said we’d cross some of these bridges when we came to them. I’ve joked with my husband before that it seems criminal and unfair to explain Big concepts of God and Jesus and Salvation to a person who believes the people in headpieces at Disneyland are the REAL Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

With a now-three-year-old, the bridge is nearby, and obviously there are parents in my larger network who have chosen to cross it. I’m hanging back. I’m in no rush.

I think for a lot of people, parenting is a time they naturally turn back to their faith roots. They may have wandered from their religion in their 20s but now as parents, they have decided to raise their kids with the same answers they were given as children. Maybe because it’s safer or it’s what they know to do–or they’ve truly found hope and comfort in their own beliefs and want to pass that assurance to their children. Either way, I’ve had a different experience. Having my first child in my mid 20s, I gave birth in the midst of my wandering. I brought a child into the world in the middle of the mess. Keep Reading…



  1. lthompson513 on March 23, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Hi, Carly! I’m catching up on your blog. This was beautifully insightful, as usual. My husband and I talk about this a lot, and it’s a relief to know we’re not alone in struggling to find a way to connect our children with our faith journey in an intentional way. I don’t have any answers either, but I’m glad my child is asking questions. 🙂

  2. Heidi on January 18, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    Hi Carly,
    For the last few days I’ve been wrecking my brain to remember the name of your blog which I had come across several years back. I’m so glad I found it again!
    There is so much of my own experience in your words – you can be absolutely certain I’m going to get your book as soon as it’s available on Amazon in Europe.
    My own break down started in my early mid-twenties, too. But somehow I thought I’d be finding my way back to church at the end of this phase. However, I’m 38 now, and instead of missing my bible, I feel better without it (it still hurts to write that…) I used to think that I just needed a break after having been force-fed all this spiritual wholegrain brain for two years on a mission trip. But now I realize that I want further away than I thought – and that I have no idea what to think of life, God, and faith anymore. We’re still loosely connected with a progressive church and my oldest goes to a (progressive) Christian school. But I’m often ashamed how little she knows of anything to do with Christianity, given that her teacher knows my husband works for a missions organization (in IT, but still). This balancing act that you mentioned is costing a lot of energy – figuring out your own belief system and at the same time raising kids who, at the ages of 6,4,and almost 3,are asking questions. And far too often am I tempted to just give them the “safe” answer. But we follow the same principles – don’t give them more than they ask for because, hey! If I can barely wrap my mind about God, how is a three year old supposed to have a concept?!?
    It feels so good to know we’re not alone in this. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is Thank you for providing a platform and resource.

    • Heidi on January 18, 2018 at 3:59 pm

      It’s supposed to read “spiritual wholegrain bread”… 😉

    • Carly Gelsinger on January 18, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      Wow, Heidi, thank you so much for all these words and for tracking me down. I kind of went MIA for a couple years, so I’m so happy you remembered me. You’re doing well as a parent. It’s so hard. Our kids have their own journey and it may be really different from ours. I’m often shocked by the “godlessness” of my kids too. My daughter regularly tells me she doesn’t want to learn about “GOD STUFF” because “GOD STUFF IS BORING.” I don’t even know where she got that and I don’t ever teach her about “God stuff” anyhow. Guess I’m raising a little atheist? I’m not sure how I feel about that, but at least I’m not brainwashing her? All this to say, I hear you. Keep in touch! (Book comes out in October!)

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