Tag Archives: Training

J. Warner Wallace explains how to prepare young Christians for college

Here’s a podcast from the master of evidence-gathering and case-making himself, J. Warner Wallace. In this episode, he tries to convince Christians to take the questions that young people ask seriously, and explains what is likely to happen to them in college.

The MP3 is here.

Topics:

  • our nation is becoming more and more secular
  • secularism makes it harder for us to defend our faith and values in public and influence the culture
  • why is secularism happening? it’s because young people are walking away from the faith
  • young Christians are leaving the faith in high school and college
  • this is where the real battleground is – and that’s where apologists need to focus
  • we need to be focused especially on junior high school and high school, and to a lesser degree college
  • it’s good that we have lots scholars working physics, philosophy and biology
  • but what we really need is ordinary Christians to get serious about apologetics and work on young people
  • some people believe that there is no great youth exodus problem: are they right to doubt the statistics
  • it’s undeniable that young people are inarticulate about their faith – that much is certain
  • what young people in church actually believe is not Christianity, but moralistic therapeutic deism
  • young people: life is about feeling good, being liked, and nice people of all religions are saved
  • young people think that there is so little substance to Christianity that it can’t even be discussed
  • the focus among young people today is not on true beliefs, but on being kinds to others
  • even in churches, there is higher respect for helping others than on having knowledge and evidence
  • instead of focusing on the worldview that grounds good works, the focus is on good works
  • young people have learned to minimize discussions about specifics of theology
  • teachers and college professors are hostile to public expressions of evangelical Christianity
  • television is also hostile and much less Christian than it used to be
  • even if young people come back to the church, they come back for the wrong reasons
  • the adults come back for tradition and comfort but they don’t really believe Christianity is true
  • they want to pick and choose what they believe based on what they like, like going to a buffet
  • they return to church when they have kids so that their kids will absorb values – but not truth
  • that’s what we have sitting in the pews: people who think Christianity is false, but “useful”
  • and that’s why so many christians are so liberal on social values (abortion, same-sex marriage)
  • they don’t really accept the Bible as authoritative, they pick and choose what they like and don’t like
  • if Christianity is taught as “useful” then they will dump it when they find something more “useful”
  • people who leave the church are exposed to Christianity, but it doesn’t stick
  • young people lose their faith before college, and then when they escape the nest, they act it out
  • the disconnecting from the faith occurs in high school, but it only becomes public after they leave home
  • young people are becoming more focused on redefining “the good life” with consumption and materialism
  • the typical experience of young adults involves alcohol use, drug use, and recreational sex
  • young people actually want more than niceness – they want real answers to serious questions
  • young people have doubts and questions, but no one in the church or home is equipped to answer them
  • adults have to be involved in the education of young people
  • parents who are engaged in teaching their children Christian truths see much better retention rates
  • we need to stop teaching people (one-way preaching) and start training them (two-way interactive)
  • when you give a young person a definite goal – a fight with a date certain – then they will be engaged
  • when people know that they will fail unless they can perform, then they will be more engaged in learning
  • church needs to be in the business of scheduling battles, and then training young people for the battles
  • there is no sense of urgency, risk and purpose in young people, so the teaching is not effective

I’m sure that you’ll enjoy this very practical podcast.

Apprenticeship programs help boys develop maturity and job skills

If you have boys, or if you know any, then this article in the left-leaning Atlantic is a must-read for you.

Excerpt:

Young men are more likely to drop out of high school and are less likely to aspire to college than their female peers. Young men who are poor, live in a city, and are black or Latino are at even higher risk of unemployment and unplanned teen fatherhood than their peers in other demographics. As men’s earnings have stagnated, marriage has declined. It’s a vicious cycle: Being unmarried weakens men’s commitment to the work force, but a stagnation in earnings is contributing to the decline in marriage.

Robert Lerman—an economist at American University and fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research center in Washington, D.C.—has a solution. He believes bringing apprentice-based learning to America’s schools would both raise earnings and give young men the skills they need to be good husbands and fathers. Put boys in a real-world situation outside the classroom, with skilled adults as mentors, Lerman says, and students have a chance to engage in on-the-job training in a wide range of fields from baking to boat-building, farming to architecture, public health to civil engineering. This is learning in context and it’s what young men (and women) crave: It feels immediate and real. It is not isolated or abstract; it is refreshingly relevant, and it is taking place in real time, in real space, and among adults who take young people seriously. Youth apprenticeship has an immediacy that engages students who have trouble paying attention in class; instead, they are being given the time and the means to develop genuine mastery in a given field. At the very same time, they are cultivating skills—such as how to communicate effectively, problem-solve, work in teams, and maintain a positive attitude—that help them be reliable partners to their spouses and present, stable fathers to their children.

“If we teach everything entirely in a classroom context, we’re not going to be as effective—even when it comes to academics,” Lerman tells me. “The reality is that people learn best—whether it’s cognitive or technical skills or even how to get along with others—in context.”

Although skill-based training is in decline, the article convincingly show how boys learn better when their education includes real-world skills and real-world behaviors.

Here’s just one snippet:

Robert Halpern, a professor of education at the Erikson Institute in Chicago, whose research focuses on after-school programs for poor children and their families, argues that the best schooling for adolescent developmental needs goes beyond the classroom. During a 30-month investigation of one afterschool apprenticeship program, After School Matters in Chicago, Halpern found that participating youth, who attend the program a mere three afternoons a week for one school year, became more flexible thinkers and undertook tasks with more care. The youngsters learned to persevere and understand the value of working through problems. They became more self-responsible and more patient. Notably, their public behavior changed; they became “more mature, more appropriately assertive,” Halpern explains in his book The Means to Grow Up: Reinventing Apprenticeship as a Developmental Support in Adolescence. These are all skills that serve young people well when they enter the workforce, and when they start families of their own.

These apprenticeships, according to Halpern, gave youth “a sense of different ways of being an adult, what it means to be passionate about a discipline, and what it takes to become good at thinking.” Not only were students learning actively rather than passively for the first time in their lives, the experience enabled many of them to begin to overcome years of thinking of themselves as subpar learners. In so doing, their experiences opened up a future that would otherwise have remained closed, and influenced them at a critical time in their lives. These “very specific learning and work experiences leave a deep imprint on still malleable selves.”

You need to read the whole thing if this is relevant to you. It’s no use complaining about “man up” and other nonsense. The real causes of male decline are systemic. Find the policies that work and implement them. Throw out the failed ideology of feminism from the classroom and do what works for our young men.

How early can you start to teach children about Christian apologetics?

Here’s a post from a new blog called Beyond Teachable Moments, which offers best practices for Christian parents who want to prepare their children for a world that doesn’t always support Christian convictions – and that’s putting it mildly. In this post, the author explains how she is able to prepare her two boys for a pretty common objection to Christianity.

The challenge:

I think all kids, and adults, have a curiosity about where the Bible came from, how it was put together, and how it was passed down.  That is why my husband and I wanted to teach our kids some of the basics about this topic early on in their lives.  We have found our kids to be really receptive to this material.

[…]Do these differences in the gospel accounts mean that the disciples made up the story about Jesus, or that they are at least unreliable eyewitnesses, as some conclude?  If the eyewitnesses to the gospel accounts can’t get their story straight, should we believe their testimony at all?

So the mom planned out an activity to teach her kids to defend against this objection: (how old do you think kids have to be for this to work?)

The gist of this activity is to set up a scenario where your kids act as eyewitnesses to an event, and then help them to discover that they each will remember and report on different aspects of that event.

There are many ways to do this activity.  I chose to create my own scenario, which I detail below.  You could alternatively have your kids, or one child and a different adult, watch a video clip together on YouTube or on a DVD.  Just make sure to watch the clip on your own in advance so you that have the details straight in your own head first.  Then ask similar pointed questions to the ones listed in the activity outlined below.

I arranged for our kids to meet me in the living room at an appointed time.  I told them that I had something special to show them.  I didn’t give them any further preparation.

Then I dressed up in a strange and elaborate costume.  I put on various pieces of my kid’s dress up costumes (a hat, a mask, ponytails in my hair, a cape, a shirt with a picture on it, gloves, a scarf, and various things sticking out of my front and back pockets, and I had a stuffed animal tucked in somewhere to boot).

At the appointed time, I came into the room where my kids were seated and announced with a strange accent:  “Welcome everyone.  I am Mommy the Magnificent and I have a magic show to perform for you!”

I then explained how I was going to make something disappear in my magic hat.  I put a small toy in my hat; I waved a fancy cloth over top of it that I had taken out of one of my pockets, turned around a bunch of times (mainly so they could see the back of my costume), and said some magic sounding words.  I did some fancy dancing moves and made the toy disappear (by concealing it in my hand).  I then bowed and left the room.

The kids were amused, but also confused.

I told the kids to stay where they were, and quickly took off all of my costume and hid it out of sight.  I re-entered the room where my kids were bouncing off the walls, re-gathered them onto the couch and told them that that they were just eyewitnesses to what I had performed for them.

Then I asked: What is an eyewitness?  (Answer: Someone who sees something with their own eyes.  As they also heard something, our kids coined the term ‘earwitness’ as well!)

I told them that I was going to interview each of them to find out what they saw in my performance.  I took them one by one into a different room where our conversation could not be overheard by their brother, and interviewed them individually.  I told the one waiting to be interviewed to think hard about what he had just seen in preparation for his interview.

Click through to read how the kids responded. I don’t have any kids of my own, but I am reading this blog to see how it’s done. Each post is showing a completely new creative technique for teaching apologetics to these two young boys. If you have any techniques like this, post an example in the comments.

Do you think that it is worth it to have a stay-at-home mom doing these sorts of activities with kids? Do you think that a government-run daycare would do similar activities? What sort of policies should a liberty-minded government enact in order to free up mothers to stay home and nurture their children like this? Which political party do you think is pushing for those policies? Which party is trying to make it harder for moms to stay home and do these sorts of activities?

J. Warner Wallace on the importance of engaging young people with training

This post by J. Warner Wallace made it onto Pastor Matt‘s three must-read posts of the week.

Excerpt: (links removed)

I’ve been writing this week about my recent experience at Summit Worldview Academy and the nature of student training. There are a number of similar worldview programs around the country (including the Centurions Program and the Worldview Academy), and I’m always impressed to see how many students are interested in this kind of intensive preparation. To be sure, there are always some students at these conferences who are present because their parents demanded their attendance, but these young people are always in the vast minority. Most students come (and put themselves through the rigorous material) because they heard about it through a friend who highly recommended the experience. And while there are some fun opportunities to hike, relax and play games along the way, these activities (commonly associated with youth group retreats) are typically few and far between at worldview camps. Students are here to roll up their sleeves and get to work. They’re far more interested in learning than lounging. Youth pastors can glean somethingfrom worldview academies.

I have to confess: When I was a new youth pastor, I was more likely to provide my students with pizza than preparation. I thought the only way to attract students in the first place was to satisfy their desire for entertainment and social interaction. I simply tried to wedge in the important stuff (theological and apologetics training, Spiritual formation and Biblical literacy) along the way. It took me a year or so to find a better approach. I eventually realized my students would willingly delay their desire for fun if I could effectively show them their need for truth. I began to take them to places where their worldview was tested and I did my best to demonstrate their deficiencies. As a result, the Utah and Berkeley trips became a regular offering of my ministry. It wasn’t long before my students were ready to do whatever it took to better defend themselves. They were more than willing to delay their desire for what they used to think of as fun to achieve a greater goal. Along the way, they discovered how satisfying it is to learn the truth, articulate it effectively, and engage the world.

It turns out that students are willing to raise the bar and do much more than we expect of them in most youth groups across the country. If you’re a youth pastor or are serving in a youth ministry, think about what your students are typically willing to do in order to succeed on their club sports team or to prepare for their next academic AP test. Our students are already working hard to prepare themselves in some area of their young lives; why aren’t we willing to ask them to prepare this rigorously as Christians? It’s time to show students why it’s so important to equip themselves as Christian ambassadors. It’s time to stop teaching and start training.

Wallace has also posted a new podcast on this very topic.

The Please Convince Me podcast is my favorite podcast. There is just something about the way he speaks about Christian topics that is so practical and real-world. I even like it better than all the political and policy podcasts that I listen to. This particular episode is so good.  I never had parents and youth pastors and pastors that sounded like this.

I blogged before about another podcast that he did about training a group of students to defend the faith at the University of California at Berkeley . That’s what our youth pastors should be doing instead of working to hard at entertaining the young adults. He really knows what it is like to deal with young people, and he has a real passion for teaching high school students about how to defend their worldview before they get to university. I would really like to see more pastors looking at young people in this way – as people in need of training who will be facing challenges in college. Without the training, our young people will be the ones who are changed. I don’t think that a lot of pastors and parents are working on projects like this the way that Wallace is. That needs to change.

Apologetics 315: Top ten reading plan for complete beginners to Christian apologetics

Here are the items from the Apologetics 315 training plan for complete beginners:

1. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
All of Lee Strobel’s books are required reading for two reasons. First, they are good introductions to the subject and provide a good overview of the material from some of the best scholars in their fields. Second, the writing style is very accessible, taking you alongside a journalist in his investigation of the evidence for Christianity. In this particular title, Strobel focuses on the life and identity of Jesus.

2. The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
This book is just as readable as The Case for Christ, but this one delves into the evidence for the Creator. Another thing that makes this good reading for the beginner is this: whatever areas you find particularly interesting can be pursued further by reading the sources interviewed in the book.

3. The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
In The Case for Faith, Strobel moves from making a positive case for Christ and a Creator to defending Christianity from some common criticisms and objections. This one deals with the hard faith questions such as the problem of pain and suffering and issues of doubt. Again, all three of the Lee Strobel books are a great starting point for the beginner.

4. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics by Doug Powell
Now it’s time for something different. This odd-shaped and colorful book (with more graphics than words) will introduce you to the wide landscape of apologetics by outlining, diagramming, and illustrating all of the key arguments for the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, the beliefs of other world views, and common objections. This is very helpful in providing visual categories for the content you are taking in. If certain things you have read up till this point have been overly academic, then this book will give you a sort of pictorial overview. This is also useful as a “primer” on the key topics and helpful to establish a bird’s eye view. Illustrations of the ideas are also great for sharing with others what you have learned.

5. Love Your God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland
Ok, so you have taken in some of the key content and ideas that Strobel presents in the “Case for” series. But what does intellectual engagement look like? What does it look like to “love God with all your mind”? In this book you’ll be challenged to live a vibrant life of intellectual engagement with your faith. This is a classic book that every apologist should read, and that’s why it finds itself firmly in the foundational books recommended here.

6. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl
Information without application results in stagnation when it comes to apologetics. That’s why it’s time for a good dose of Tactics, which will train you not only to use apologetic content in everyday life, but it will also train you to be a better, more critical thinker. This is another “must read” book, and mastering its contents early in your apologetic studies will put feet to your faith.

7. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Mike Licona & Gary Habermas
The resurrection of Jesus is central to Christianity. This book equips you to understand and defend the resurrection from an historical perspective. Not only does the book have useful diagrams, summaries, and an accessible style, but it also comes with a CD-ROM with interactive software for teaching you the material. This is an essential book for the apologist.

8. Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow
Now it’s time to look at some of the most common objections that have come against Christianity since the rise of the new atheism. There’s no better book at dealing with these in a concise yet dense way, while providing additional reading suggestions and introducing some of the key apologists that deal with these questions. If you really want to master this material, consider taking part in the Read Along project for this book.

9. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist by Geisler & Turek
Geisler and Turek have authored a great apologetics book that also takes a step-by-step approach to showing that Christianity is true—and it’s filled with lots of information. This gives the growing beginner a ton of good content, while strengthening the framework of a cumulative case for Christianity. This book will help to grow your overall general apologetic knowledge as well.

10. On Guard by William Lane Craig
Finally, it’s time to dig deeper into some of the more philosophically rigorous arguments with William Lane Craig. On Guard is, in essence, a shorter, more concise and accessible distillation of his weightier apologetics book Reasonable FaithOn Guard has illustrations, argument maps, and sidebars which aim to make the material easier to grasp and engage with. This book will introduce the newer apologist to Craig’s time-tested arguments for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus. While it is still not light reading, this will serve the reader well before moving on to more advanced material. Highly recommended.

I love to give away books to people who want to learn apologetics (if I trust them not to give away my identity) and just last week I gave two people numbers 2, 4 and 8 last week. But all of these books are must reads. The ordering is good too! The only books I might add to this list is J. Warner Wallace’s “Cold Case Christianity”, which is a nice book for beginners on how to defend the gospels as historical sources. I would put that one in at #9  drop his #9 completely. His #8 “Is God Just a Human Invention?” is my favorite basic apologetics book for beginners, because it covers everything just a little bit in only one book. If I had to pick one out of that list, I’d pick that one.