Are Your Kids’ Assumptions Hurting Them?

Have you noticed that whenever anything happens lately, there is an almost instantaneous rush to judgment? The culture around us encourages us to assume motives without the person whose motives are being judged having said a word at times. This hasn’t just impacted major news stories either. We are encouraged to assign blame, assume motives and give consequences without waiting for evidence, often other than what someone thinks they saw or heard….from some random source that may or may not have an agenda.

The problem with rapid judgments is that they are often wrong. That person we thought was mean because he hated women, actually just got a terminal diagnoses and was distracted and grumpy. The person who cut us off in traffic was actually distracted by a crying child and felt horribly as soon as she realized what she had done.

Your kids will be encouraged by the world around them to jump to quick judgments about the motives, hearts and thoughts of people who have not had a chance to even attempt to share those things. Yet, God wants them to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. They will be encouraged to be angry with people who God wants them to love, serve and teach about Him. They will be encouraged to hold grudges and get revenge on people God wants them to forgive and teach a better, godly way of living.

The next time your child rushes to judgment or makes assumptions about things for which they have no real evidence, you might want to include these scriptures in the discussion.

  • “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2
  • ”Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1
  • ”Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
  • ”With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3
  • ”Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,”Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
  • ”Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
  • ”Bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” Colossians 3:13

There are many other scriptures you can include in your discussions. Are there people who have evil motives? Of course. Not every one does for everything they do, though. Sometimes your kids may have misunderstood the situation. Sometimes the person is not angry or mean just to them, but to everyone – including themselves. Sometimes people make mistakes or sin in the moment…even when they generally are trying to be loving to everyone. Sometimes people don’t realize what they did or how what they said sounded. Sometimes people are just having a bad day and are taking it out on everyone in their path. Sometimes people are in so much pain, they don’t realize they are lashing out at others in their pain. And sometimes people have evil, ungodly motives, but need a chance to learn about God, obey Him and change their ways.

Your kids will need to understand, they are not God. They cannot read minds and hearts. Which means, sometimes they may be right about their assumptions and sometimes they will be very wrong. They need to understand that being quick to listen and slow to speak and get angry, will help them make better choices and not add to or create a problem situation. Hopefully, they will eventually learn to assume the best motives and be prepared for the worst without deciding which motives are involved until they have all of the evidence (realizing that since they are not God, even with all of the evidence, they may still be wrong in their conclusion).

If you can teach your kids to jump to grace and forgiveness before judgment and condemnation….because they need those same gifts from others and especially God, then our world may start becoming a place where people are allowed to learn and grow from their mistakes and their sins. If they can focus on teaching people who need help finding more godly ways of living rather than mocking and destroying them, the Kingdom will grow and thrive. They won’t learn those lessons from the world around them. They need to learn them from you.

Teaching Kids About Truth and Love

There is a misconception in today’s world that truth and love cannot exist in the same space. Your kids will probably be told that it is preferable to lie rather than to risk hurting someone’s feelings. Or that it is important to tell everyone they are going to Heaven, rather than risk upsetting someone by telling them they are disobeying God. Or that it isn’t loving to believe God will indeed send people to Hell for disobeying clearly stated truths in the Bible. And sadly they will watch as supposedly strong Christians take a clearly written declaritive sentence in the Bible and twist the words into a pretzel so that in the end, the sentence means the exact opposite of what it says.

The problem has been that many have done a very poor job of how they choose to share God’s truths. Or their “truth”. Love has come disconnected from truth and it seems to be getting worse every day. Fortunately, you can actively teach your kids how to keep truth and love connected – the way God intended it to be.

There are a few basic principles about truth and love that your kids need to know and practice.

  • Not every “truth” is actually “truth”. Just because your child believes something to be true, does not mean it is. Your child could be mistaken or wrong. Your child may only know part of the truth, but not all of it. Or it may just be your child’s opinion on a topic where everyone has a right to a different opinion (like a favorite color). Part of keeping truth and love connected is to constantly search for truth and make sure something is definitely truth before we present it as such.
  • Not every “truth” is equally important. God’s truths are absolute, unchanging and of eternal importance. Much of what people believe is “truth” is actually an opinion. There is no real evidence to prove whether or not it is absolute, unchanging and valid for everyone. An opinion positioned as “truth”is not nearly as important as God’s absolute truths.
  • Not every “truth” must be spoken immediately. Timing is crucial. Sharing a truth that could embarrass someone is perhaps best not done loudly in front of a large group of people. Your kids also need to understand that the “truths” of their opinion may not need to be shared at all. Just because your child doesn’t like someone’s outfit, doesn’t mean five hundred other people won’t love it. It’s not necessary to hurt someone’s feelings with your personal opinion.
  • God’s truths are absolute and do not change. We do not get to vote to change God’s commands. Current popular culture may not approve of God’s commands, but that does not mean they should be changed. God knows what is best for us. We have to trust and obey Him.
  • There is a way to share God’s truths with love. Most people believe they are doing the best they can. They will usually become defensive and stop listening if someone uses harsh, ugly, angry language to communicate God’s truths to them. Yes, Jesus may have sounded a bit harsh at times, but those occasions were rare. Most of the time he was very loving, but firm in the ways he corrected others.
  • Keeping God’s truths from someone is not love. There is a thought process that people cannot “help” who they are. It is not their fault if they want to live their lives in ways that disobey God. The fear by many Christians is that sharing God’s truths with them will make them reject God. The reality is living a life enmeshed in sin is a rejection of God. Making someone believe they are “right” with God while they are living in enmeshed sin is not loving. You are giving them a false sense of security. Sharing God’s truths in such a way that they will hopefully want to make changes and obey God is ultimately the most loving thing anyone can do.

Take the time to teach your kids how to keep truth and love connected. It is a skill set our world desperately needs.

Do Your Kids Need Christian Apologetics?

Christian apologetics isn’t what it may sound like. It’s not apologizing for being a Christian or for Christian beliefs. Rather it provides the answers to the questions and challenges to Christianity in the world.

It’s part Bible knowledge, part critical thinking skills and part good communication skills. Done well, it relies primarily on scripture while pointing out the logical fallacies and error in the question or challenge.

Because apologetics is based on truth, most great apologists are kind and loving as they present their case. Since God’s Truth is on their side, there is no need for the emotional ugliness that is often a part of debates. While great apologists hope those listening are persuaded, primarily because of the eternal consequences of rejecting God, they are usually passionate about the truth while still being considerate and respectful towards those with whom they disagree.

This doesn’t mean that apologists are perfect. Some may still have been swayed by inaccurate theological arguments from time to time. Most of them seem to avoid topics, however, that can divide Christians and focus on the basics of Christianity upon which most Christians would believe.

Apologetic materials are much easier to find than in the past. Many have materials designed for kids and teens, as well as adults. You can find some information free online. There are videos on Right Now Media, to which many churches will give families free access codes. There are also plenty of books which you can purchase from almost anyone who sells books.

Some apologists are so well known, you may be familiar with their work. Lee Strobel, Ravi Zacharius, J Warner Wallace and Sean McDowell are probably the best known. While I haven’t read everything each of these men has written, the things I have read were well done and biblical. As with anything though, it’s best to read any books or watch the videos before sharing them with your kids.

There are also highly focused groups that are part apologetics and part science. Answers in Genesis has some great scientific materials that are strong in both apologetics and science. Lee Strobel also has a book, Case for the Creator, which is filled with more scientific information than your kids probably care to digest.

Apologetics used to be somewhat optional. With even some ministers and churches questioning what have always been considered main tenets of Christianity, it’s important your kids thoroughly understand what they believe and why they believe it. Not only will it strengthen their personal faith foundations, but it will also make it easier for them to share their faith effectively.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids to Separate Facts From Opinions

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.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids Critical Thinking Skills

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.