Let’s be honest. We leave in a greedy world. Our society wants us to believe we need all sorts of things that are actually wants. Christians aren’t immune from materialism either. So what can you do to raise kids who truly understand God’s view of needs v. wants?
Grab some magazines, random items around your house and a Bible. Tell your kids the story of David and Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and 1 Kings 1 and 2. It’s not necessary with young children to focus on the sexual aspects of the story, but rather that David felt like he needed Uriah’s wife, even though he already had wives of his own.
Explain that David was so intent on getting what he wanted, he committed several sins to get it. Explain that God wants us to understand we actually need very little. Most of the things we think we need, we actually want. Explain that when we get confused, we can often do things that make God unhappy and even sin – especially if we primarily focus on getting all of those things we want for ourselves.
Explain to your kids, you are going to play the game Wants v. Needs. Hold up one of the items you gathered. Ask your kids whether it is something they want or need. If they believe it is something they need, they should also share how much of it they think they need in a given time period. Older children can be asked to support their choices with evidence.
After a few items, give them the magazines. Have them find pictures of things they want versus things they need. Older children can examine ads to see how companies try to convince people they need something, they actually merely want.
Can your family come to an agreement about what your needs actually are in life? Now think about playing the same game if you were a family living in one of the poorest countries on earth instead of one of the richest. Would your answers be different? What if your grandparents had played the game when they were little? What if Jesus played the game when he lived on earth?
End your time by discussing ways your family can be less concerned with getting “stuff”. How can you all be more grateful for the blessings God has given you? How can you share your blessings with others who may not even have everything they need?
One of the challenges Christians face is that the world is full of opinions. The Bible is filled with Truth or facts. The difficulty comes in recognizing the difference between a person’s opinion and someone who is relaying an actual fact or one of God’s factual truths from the Bible.
In our world today, people often state their opinions as if they are indeed proven facts. Even school textbooks often contain opinions masked as facts. Others purposely present lies as truthful facts. The lines between fact and opinion can quickly become almost totally obscured. No wonder even Christians are often confused about whether something is someone’s opinion or an actual fact.
Differentiating facts from opinions is a critical Christian life skill your children must learn. Otherwise, they will be easily swayed by arguments fueled only by opinion masquerading as facts. This can cause them to believe all sorts of lies and false teachings – accidental or intentional.
There are some fun things you can do with your kids to help them learn to differentiate between opinions and facts. Here are some of our favorites.
What’s the news? Grab a newspaper. Have your kids choose an article that interests them. Can they highlight the facts in one color and opinions in another? Remind them that facts must be backed up by evidence while opinions may or may not have any evidence supporting them. Older children may also want to look at an editorial and then compare the results to a news article. Which piece has more opinions?
But the book says… Have your child grab a social studies, economics, history or government textbook. Encourage them to analyze a chapter of the book. Can they find examples of the author’s opinion? Does the author write his or her opinion as if it were fact? If your child finds what he or she believes is a fact in the text, is there actually evidence to support the supposed fact? Can the evidence be trusted or is the author merely quoting someone else’s opinion as proof of their supposed fact?
What did the preacher say? Have your child jot down every statement the preacher makes that they believe is a fact. Afterwards, have them look through the Bible to see if those “facts” are accurate. Or have them write down the statements the preacher made that they believe are the speaker’s opinion. Can they find scriptures to support or refute that opinion?
Mother may I? The next time your child wants to present an argument to convince you to change your mind on a topic, have them present it as a lawyer might in court. Only the ground rules for their case is that they can only present facts, no opinions. Can they provide enough facts to make a strong case?
Should it be a law? Politicians are masters at making opinions look like facts. Have your kids analyze political ads, speeches or legislative debates. Can they point out all of the “facts” that are actually opinions? To make it more challenging, have them analyze both political parties – especially the one your family generally supports.
Sometimes opinions are accurate. They are based on evidence, facts and truth. If the person stating the opinion does not give your kids that supporting information, they need to learn to investigate themselves. This is especially important when it concerns matters regarding their spiritual lives. Giving them guided practice differentiating between opinions and facts can help protect them from being deceived by someone’s opinion.
The great thing about kids and teens is their passion for changing the world. They notice things many adults have given up on trying to change. They have the innocence and passion to believe complex problems have simple solutions and that they have those solutions.
Unfortunately, Satan has a vested interested in the world’s problems remaining untouched. He will do what he can to discourage young people – especially Christian young people who might also teach those they are helping the things God wants them to know and do.
You can’t totally protect your kids from Satan’s interference, but you can lessen his effectiveness by teaching your kids some basic truths.
God has a plan. Find it. Follow it. God doesn’t want our world to be full of sin and chaos any more than we do. He gave us free will though so we aren’t just robots He controls. Unfortunately, many people believe because God doesn’t force us to follow His plan for how He wants things to be that He doesn’t have one. God has a plan. Your kids just need to be taught how to figure out what God’s plan is for solving the problem about which they are passionate and follow it. When they do that instead of trying to force their plan on to God, the implementation and results are often easier and better.
Pray. A Lot. Then really listen for God’s answers. Many people who want to make the world a better place, forget to pray to God for His guidance and assistance. Or when they do, they ignore all of the people and circumstances He sends to tell them to go in a different direction. Prayers often don’t seem to work, because we fail to remember it’s a conversation and we need to listen as much, if not more, than we talk.
Use their gifts or ask someone to help who was given the gifts you need. There are times when God asks us to do something for a period for which we are only adequate. In general though, God has built everyone a lane and their most effective ministry occurs when they stay in that lane. World changers often give up because they are trying to do tasks which God meant for them to ask others to do.
Take advantage of the opportunities God gives them. Sure, their plan may be more fun than the opportunity God is giving them right now, but there is a reason He wants them to serve in this way at this moment. Turning down those less glamorous, less fun opportunities God gives them to serve, may mean their personal ministry will never reach its full potential.
Be patiently impatient. God’s timing is perfect. Sometimes that means we need to wait until it is in His plans for us to do the next thing. On the other hand, sometimes God can’t use us, because we refuse to do all of those little things He is giving us to do now. Or we procrastinate for any number of reasons. Or we let others discourage us from pursuing the dream God has given us for our personal ministry. The key is balance.
Do their homework and be humble enough to learn from those who have gone before them. There is often an underlying arrogance about those wanting to change the world. They believe because previous people have failed to completely solve the problem, they have nothing of value to teach newcomers. They may indeed have a bright great new idea that will work. Or they may be getting ready to waste a lot of unnecessary time, energy and money on something that is not going to work. Ask questions, listen, learn…then analyze and make choices.
Remember bigger isn’t always better. It’s better to start small and let God give them a larger territory if it’s in His plan rather than starting too large and failing miserably – hurting others unnecessarily in the process.
Empathy Works. Sympathy doesn’t. Too many people in ministries and charities are full of sympathy. Unfortunately, that reads like they have all the answers and the people they are serving have nothing of value to offer. Empathy looks for commonalities. It learns from those it is serving rather than assuming it is the only one with the solution to the problem. Empathy loves like Jesus.
Equip and empower. Don’t boss and control. Ineffective leaders feel the need to control and boss people around. Effective leaders find people gifted in certain areas and equip, support, nurture and empower them.
Remember the ultimate goal is to help as many people as possible get to Heaven. Earthly needs and problems are important. If we help solve those, but don’t teach anyone about what God wants for them and from them, we have failed as Christians. We cannot and should not ignore earthly needs, but we can’t let them distract us to the point where we forget eternity is forever and our primary goal should always be to help people spend eternity in Heaven.
Who knows what good works God has planned for your children? If you help them learn these truths when they are young though, it is much more likely they will help the world be more like God planned it to be.
If you are on social media or read any newspapers, it is easy to see that critical thinking skills are missing in the education of many. Yet critical thinking skills can keep us safe and help us make wise decisions. Your kids also need to develop strong critical thinking skills in order to remain faithful to God and avoid false teachings that would pull them away.
Christians have historically avoided teaching critical thinking skills. This may be in part to the word “critical”. They believe critical thinking skills undermine God and His teachings in some way. Yet, real critical thinking skills can actually strengthen your child’s faith in God. God is Truth. Analyzed properly, His truths will always withstand any challenge.
Unfortunately, many Christian young people are also missing the knowledge and understanding of scripture that is necessary to be a skilled critical thinker. Many churches have moved away from truly equipping young people to be strong, productive Christians in our world. Instead they focus on helping Christian teens blend into their culture instead of standing out as a light within it.
Unless you teach critical thinking skills at home, your kids will probably not learn them in school or at church. The good news is that critical thinking skills can be as much fun to teach as they are to learn. There are a lot of entertaining things you can do to help your kids learn and practice critical thinking skills. Some of these ideas are secular, but the tools they teach can be applied to religious discussions as well.
Here are some of our favorite tools for teaching critical thinking skills:
Mysteries. Whether it’s Nate the Great or Agatha Christie, mysteries teach critical thinking skills. Read them aloud and see who can analyze the suspects’ alibis and other clues the most successfully. Talk about why they believed or didn’t believe certain statements.
Critical Thinking Activity Books/Puzzles. Logic puzzles are an example of fun activities that teach critical thinking. The Critical Thinking Company has a lot of great resources you can purchase. They also offer a free puzzle they will send to you each week for your kids to solve. One of our daughter’s teachers in elementary school sent home a puzzle every week for families to do together. They were just as hard for the parents as the kids – in fact sometimes the kids could figure out an answer before the adults. Families were even known to work together on some of the tougher ones.
Fact Checking. Journalists have (in general) become very lazy about fact checking their sources. Some have even been caught fabricating stories and using photos from other events in place of events in the story. Many articles and reports are riddled with errors. Grab an article or two and teach your kids how to fact check what they read. If you want to go the extra mile, encourage them to write a letter to the editor when they find errors!
Read books by Lee Strobel and J. Warner Wallace and discuss them as a family. Strobel was an investigative journalist and Wallace a cold case detective. Both have used the skill sets necessary in their professions and applied them to Christianity. They have great books with variations for different age levels. Everyone in your family could read the version for their age level and then compare and contrast the information shared. Strobel has additional books on other topics impacting Christianity including the resurrection of Jesus, Creation and more.
Doubts and Bible lessons/sermons. There is a huge difference between criticizing a Bible class or sermon and using critical thinking skills to analyze it. Teach your kids to not worry about the style and presentation, but focus on the content. Were scriptures used appropriately? What other passages might apply to the topic that could change the speaker’s conclusions? Was the logic faulty, even though the conclusion is correct? How could the point be made more clearly or with better logic? Were there points they didn’t understand or are not sure were valid? Help them find those answers to their questions and doubts as part of their need for increased Bible knowledge and understanding to be godly critical thinkers.
Learn logical fallacies. I’m not saying you or your kids need to learn all of the fancy names for the various logical fallacies. It is important that your kids understand them well enough though to recognize them when they see them. Logical fallacies do not necessarily mean the conclusion is right or wrong. They serve as a red flag your children can use to understand they need to do more research before accepting or rejecting them. You can purchase books for kids on the topic or our recent post on logical fallacies can help. Our new free book, Effective Teen Ministry has an appendix on logical fallacies that is more detailed than our blog posts for those who really enjoy the topic.
Taking the time to teach your kids critical thinking skills is important if you want to help them navigate a world filled with lies. The best part of teaching this particular skill set is that you both can have a lot of fun doing it together.
Stranger danger right? As much as the idea scares young parents, it is much more likely your child will be pulled away from family, friends and God by a predator. Predators are slick, savvy and often subtle at first. Not all of them are sexual predators, but they are all dangerous in their own ways.
Thankfully, there are ways you can protect your kids from being targeted by predators as their victims or their enablers (enablers are often used to help the predator recruit more victims). Predators look for some key characteristics in their prey. If your children don’t have them, predators will often ignore them in favor of easier victims.
Give your kids lots of emotional and physical attention. Predators look for young people who don’t feel connected to their parents. Often these kids are run aways, but predators also target kids from families where the parents are too busy with their own lives to give their children the attention and love they need. If your child is well loved and has consistent, meaningful interactions with you and your spouse, they won’t be attracted by the attentions of a random adult.
Give your kids a strong spiritual foundation. Many of the things predators use to attract kids and teens either won’t appeal to young people with strong spiritual foundations, or will at least set off warning bells. Kids who have a strong understanding of what God has declared right and wrong, know something is dangerous about an adult who is encouraging them to do things they know are wrong. Most healthy adults, protect young people from those things – even if they’re not Christians and participate in them themselves.
Reinforce constantly that your kids can tell you anything – even if they know you won’t like it. Predators often use fear of parental reaction to manipulate young people. Make it clear that if any adult asks your child to do something they know is wrong, they will not get in trouble for telling you. Often predators will blackmail kids they meet online by threatening to tell them they were spending money on video games or something similar. Make sure your kids understand that while there may be consequences for those minor infractions, you are more concerned that they are safe and not being manipulated by someone who wants to hurt them.
Help your kids establish and defend healthy boundaries. They should be comfortable declining to participate in activities they know are wrong and be willing to be firm and walk away to get help if necessary. (This skill set also helps with peer pressure.)
Teach your kids about the lobster in the pot. Or is it a frog? Either way, the heat is turned up so gradually, the animal doesn’t realize it is in danger of being cooked and eaten until it is too late. Predators don’t usually start at the end goal. They start where the person is and encourage them to stretch their boundaries over time. Teach your kids to be watchful of anyone who keeps encouraging them to go just a little bit beyond what they know is right.
Teach your kids to be careful around people who make promises that sound too good to be true or who flatter them too much. “Free” things often come with strings attached. Predators will often “give” kids lots of things and then tell them they owe them an impossible amount of money. They tell the young person, they can be repaid (without parents finding out) if they will “just” …fill in the blank with send nude photos, run drugs, etc. Predators also use flattery and praise in their recruitment process. If your child is average looking, being told they have the looks to be a “top model” may feel good, but many young people have lost lots of money on “modeling” lessons from predators who knew they had no real chance in the industry.
Teach your kids critical thinking skills. Cults can be just as dangerous as other predators. They hide their motives in words of altruism and higher purpose. Often their actual beliefs are strange – especially compared to scripture. Kids with strong critical thinking skills will often ask lots of questions before just accepting something new. Cult leaders and other predators don’t appreciate questions as it can cause trouble with those they are already preying upon. They will often reject questioners outright as “not ready” for whatever it is they are claiming to offer.
Teach your kids that they may not make great decisions when afraid or elated. There are very few choices that absolutely must be made in the moment. Teach them to ask for time to think about it. If the person says “no”, there is a very good chance someone is trying to manipulate them in some way.
Teach your kids that drugs and alcohol do not lead to great decisions. Predators use alcohol and drugs to lower the inhibitions of their prey. They know people will do things when drunk or high they would never do when sober.
Teach your kids to distance themselves from people whom they regularly catch lying. Predators lie….a lot. In fact, they are pathological about it. Young people need to avoid people who lie constantly – even if they aren’t predators. They just don’t have enough maturity and life experience to handle it.
Don’t allow your kids to view themselves as victims of others. Yes, your kids may have had an experience when they were someone’s victim. Defining oneself as a perpetual victim makes them very vulnerable to predators. Young people who allow themselves to be defined as a victim because of any number of factors, believe they have no voice and no power. That makes them vulnerable. God can help your kids process and move away from bad circumstances so they are defined by how God sees them and not as a perpetual victim.
Teach your kids to recognize and avoid narcissists. Predators often use enablers to identify new prey and help groom them for the predator. For some reason, these people are often narcissists. Everything is about what they need and want. The feelings and needs of others are meaningless to them. They often act in cruel ways to anyone who questions them or asks for parity. Young people don’t have the tools to handle the narcissists of the world. They need to spend as little time with them as possible.
Teach your kids to think carefully if friends and family are all expressing concerns about their relationship with someone. Yes, there are rare times when they will be wrong. In general though, if everyone who loves you is concerned, there may very well be something to be concerned about. Teach them to at the very least take a break from the person of concern so they can clear their head and think clearly.
If necessary, teach your kids to ignore any threats to you and come tell you what is happening. In the more severe cases of predators, victims are often told their family will be hurt in some way if they tell anyone what is really happening. Make sure your kids know that you will get the help you need to be safe, but you can’t help them if you don’t know they are in trouble.
No one can guarantee your child will never be approached by a predator. Doing the things in the list above though, will make your kids much less attractive to predators looking for prey.