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.