Posts Tagged "active listening"

22 Ways to Teach Kids HOW to Think And Not Just WHAT to Think

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I recently read a statistic about the overwhelming number of kids that grow up in church then leave as soon as they graduate high school.  It got me thinking.  Why are kids leaving the church in droves?  Should we just blame it on the evil influences of culture?  Are those of us who work in Children’s Ministry failing to give them enough information?  Are we not praying for them enough?  Is it just inevitable?  What are we doing wrong?  Most importantly, what if anything can we do to fix it?

One problem I have observed with many kids in our society is that they are taught WHAT to think and not HOW to think.  We live in a time and a culture where many people just do not possess the mental skills to critically think through an issue and come to a conclusion on it.  This failure to teach our kids how to think is a serious issue in the secular world where indecisiveness seems to be a virtue.  But, it is critical in the spiritual realm where we must teach our kids that faith in Christ is not a blind faith but a considered faith.  Faith is not a leap so much as it is a choice.  In order to teach them these truths, it is critical that we teach them more than just who Jesus is or how to accept him – we must teach them how to question their faith and determine for themselves what they truly believe.

Both in Children’s Ministries and with our own kids as parents, we often focus on filling our kids’ minds up with information.  We tell them the stories of the Bible, we encourage them to memorize scripture and we try to lay a foundation of facts.  Sometimes we try to fill their hearts up with emotions.  We teach them about the love of God and how to love other people.  And, while all of this is necessary in the spiritual growth of our kids, I wonder sometimes whether we are missing the forest for the trees.  Are we teaching our kids in a “just the facts” dragnet style?  Are we emphasizing moral lessons to the determinant of the gospel?  Are we teaching our kids what to believe without encouraging them to question their beliefs and figure out why they believe what they do?  In my spiritual walk, I have found that two things solidify God’s truths in my mind and heart more than anything else.  The first is teaching God’s truth to others.  The second is critically working through challenges to my faith.  Those challenges come both from other people and from me.  A faith that is untested tends to wither and die.  A faith that weathers the storm of critical analysis grows stronger and more enduring.

So, how do we encourage our kids to think about God and analyze their faith even at a young age?  How do we teach them the critical skill of questioning their faith and working through the answers?  How do we teach the essential skills of critical analysis?  Here are twenty-two ideas for elementary age kids:

  1. Encourage questions. Every week in our Children’s Ministry we have some time for small group discussion or a craft for the kids to complete related to the lesson.  Over the last year or so, there have been a number of times when we have asked the kids to draw or write something about their own lives related to the topic we discussed that weekend.  And, every week, there are a number of kids who can’t think of anything to write or draw.  By way of example, last weekend we learned about having faith in God when we are afraid.  I had at least two kids explain to me that they have never been afraid of anything.  By far the easiest week we ever had was when we asked kids to write down their questions about heaven.  Rather than struggling to come up with questions, most of the kids were struggling to decide which question to ask.  The point is clear – kids have plenty of questions!  That is true in everyday life, and it is definitely true when it comes to matters of God and spiritual things.  We should always encourage kids to voice their question.  You never know when the answer may be the one the forever deepens the faith of a child.
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