Critical thinking in family ministries

How do you apply these levels of critical thinking in your family ministry? I’d dare say that most sermons focus on 1, touch on 2 and turn 3 into a 1st level exercise (because I’ve been told, “people can’t make application on their own.”)

If that’s how we preach to adults, think how much more we might cheat children and youth out of learning to apply and evaluate.

Not long ago, I was talking with a fairly influential alumnus of a area Bible college. We were talking about learning to apply knowledge of the scriptures in the context of a youth group review. He told me under no uncertain terms was college about more that just learning what to believe. Seminary, in his words, what when you learned to consider why you believe it.

I was shocked and said that I want kindergarteners to begin to learn why they believe something.

I’ve traced this chart back to this source who says it comes from this source but cannot find the original. Sadly, I’d like to give credit if I could.

4 thoughts on “Critical thinking in family ministries

  1. Steve, I agree but we have to be careful how we go about it on the level of the children. I learned this with my own children when I was Children’s Pastor at a church. Here is the story of what happened. I’ve just copied and pasted the story from training curriculum. Note my daughters estimation of Dean because he didn’t understand how children think. My son, who is now a children’s pastor says he still feels frustration when he thinks of that day.

    Another story that demonstrates how children think literally happened during the summer between Kristin and Joseph’s 5th & 6th grade of school. They were involved in a day camp at their church where Dean, a young idealistic college student, was the day camp director.

    On Wednesday afternoon when Wanda, their mother, picked them up, Kristin got into the car with tears streaming down her face. “Dean is mean, he hates us! He really hates us! I’m never going back!”

    “What happened?” Wanda inquired.

    “He keeps asking us why we are Christians. We keep telling him it’s because we asked Jesus into our hearts. Then he says we are wrong. Are we wrong Mom? Isn’t that why I’m a Christian, because I believe in Jesus?” Kristin pleaded.

    Joseph, though not as vocal, was just as upset.

    Because Wanda was the children’s pastor, she was responsible for what happened at the day camp. She called Dean as soon as she got home. Dean told Wanda that as he reflected back on his own Christian upbringing, he felt that he had not been challenged to think through why he was a Christian. He was determined that during this week of camp he would challenge the 11,12,& 13 year olds to think through why they were Christians.

    Dean wanted the children to dig inside of themselves, to think in the abstract. But he was expecting something they could not give.

    One of my passions with the curriculum I write is to get the children to think critically. However, we must think critically of how to do that so that the children will intuitively do it. They think different than we do – are we willing to put in the effort it takes to go deeper with them.

    • Thanks Wanda,

      I agree that we need to be careful with children. We need to be careful with all people. Children don’t think abstractly. We know that. Many adults don’t think that way either. It doesn’t seem that Dean understood that fact.

      If I were in Dean’s shoes I think I’d want to get to the bottom of what the kids thought “asked Jesus into their hearts mean.” The problem with that phrase is concrete words but the principle that it develops is way more abstract that what Dean was trying to get the kids to understand. In that way, Dean needed to help the kids to deconstruct how they became Christians. I think he could have benefited from this chart.

      Imagine this:

      Dean: Why are we Christians?

      Kristin: Because we asked Jesus into our hearts?

      Dean: That’s great! Tell me how you did that?

      Kristin: One day when I was sad because my dog died, my mom talked to me about how Jesus loves people who are sad. She talked to me about how I need him to help me be strong and she asked me if I want him to help me. I said yes, and I asked Jesus into my hear.

      Dean: Good. He does promise to help those who are sad. We call that kind of sadness “morning.” He said in Matthew, “Blessed are those who morn, they will find joy.” Why to you think it’s important that we must first be sad before we can find real joy?

      Kristin: Maybe because if we are happy all the time we won’t know what it really means to be happy.

      Dean: I think you’re onto something there. Why do you think that Jesus had to die on the cross then? What did he show us by being God and dying like a human?

      Kristin: I don’t really know, but it makes him more like us.

      Dean: I guess it does. Now if he’s like us in that way, can we trust that he really knows when we are sad?

      Kristin: I guess so.

      Dean: And if he understands that about us, he demonstrates that we find our salvation in that he became like us so we can be like him. He became a man so we can be like Jesus.

      So, let me ask you again. Why are we Christians?

      Kristin: I guess so I can be more like Jesus.

      Dean: And besides having a beard, what is Jesus like?

      Kristin: He loves people and he makes them happy when they’re sad.

      Dean: Very good.

      This may seem too simplistic, but I’ve had many discussions like this with children. If you track back, you’ll see that Dean asks questions in the first 4 levels of the chart. Sometime he offers the “right” answer but it gives a child a way to begin thinking above their level of reasoning.

      Hope this long response helps.

      • Steve – may I say I have a bit of a problem with some of the theology 🙂

        “Kristin: One day when I was sad because my dog died, my mom talked to me about how Jesus loves people who are sad. She talked to me about how I need him to help me be strong and she asked me if I want him to help me. I said yes, and I asked Jesus into my hear.”

        Salvation requires a lot more than wanting Jesus to help me. Salvation requires repentance and submission. Children can understand they are sinners and are in need of salvation.

        I know you were trying to get in the various levels of thinking and probably weren’t concentrating on the theology of what you wrote. The fire in the belly just drives me to want to make sure we are Biblically accurate. Thus my questioning would have guided her more towards an accurate understanding of salvation because what she said needed clarifying.

        God bless.

  2. Wanda, Thanks for your well thought out response. If you’ll notice, the portion of my fictitious (but well representative of conversations I’ve experienced) story was from the child’s perspective. Dean then asked questions that help the child to think through salvation.

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