Tag Archives: Training

Can parents lead their children to be effective and influential Christians?

A family praying and reading the Bible
A family praying and reading the Bible

I’m not going to surprise any of my regular readers by stating that I believe that fathers should lead their children to pursue advanced degrees and to reach high positions of influence. I think it is the man’s job to survey the world, to decide where the battles are being fought, to encourage his children to be the best in every academic discipline, to push them to take on difficult practical tasks, to assess their strengths and weaknesses as they progress (not their likes and dislikes), and to push them towards success in areas where the battles are being fought and where they have talent.

So, for example, if I had a child, here are some areas I would steer him/her toward:

  • cosmology, to study the Big Bang and fine-tuning arguments
  • software engineering, to make tons of money and not have to conform to teacher’s expectations
  • philosophy, because that’s what William Lane Craig, Jay Richards and Stephen C. Meyer did
  • New Testament, because that’s what Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, and Ben Witherington did
  • economics, as long as they went to Hillsdale/Grove City, then George Mason, because they could go on to politics
  • law, as long as they went to Hillsdale/Grove City, then George Mason, because they could go on to politics
  • biochemistry, because intelligent design is all bound up with the origin of life chemistry – but this is risky
  • paleontology, because the Cambrian explosion is an excellent apologetic argument – but this is very risky
  • dentist, because you can make a ton of money, and it’s not regulated
  • veterinarian, because you can make a ton of money, and it’s not regulated
  • mathematics professor, because you can influence children, but not be turfed out for your religion/politics
  • medical physics, you can make a ton of money and no risk of being discriminated against
  • bioinformatics, combine software engineering and biochemistry – but this is somewhat risky
  • social scientist working on social issues like marriage and parenting and social policy, but this is pretty risky

I want to lead my future children towards academic excellence and effective professions where they can exert an influence. I would do this by using things like rules, standards, accountability, and moral boundaries. I would teach my children to learn to sacrifice their happiness to love God more effectively. I would encourage them to take risks, work hard, be enterprising, and to earn and save money.

I’ve been practicing all of this over the years on my male and female friends. I encourage them to go back to school, get advanced degrees, bring in good speakers to church and universities, show debates, read good apologetics and economics books, earn and save money, etc. The consensus view , among men and women who I’ve challenged, is that all this hard work is not much fun, but that they loved the feeling of being confident in their faith, and that they loved having a worldview that was comprehensive – integrating science, politics, history, economics, philosophy, foreign policy, etc. And they felt that it made them feel closer to God because they liked having the experience of defending him.

Although the leading seems to work really well on friends, but as soon as you try it on girl friends, some of them get really mad. And they don’t think that it’s a good parenting style either. Some Christian women say that children should do whatever they feel like doing, that every vocation is as effective as any other, and that children will rebel against high expectations and hard work, and become atheists. And worst of all, some women think that children need to be protected from the expectations, boundaries and standards of their own fathers. For a Christian man thinking about having a family, the thought that his children will not amount to anything is his worst nightmare. Women need to not only be comfortable with men leading the family through goal-directed parenting, but they need to encourage the men to be leaders.

So some women think that male parenting is bad for children, and doesn’t work to produce effect Christian kids.

But is it true?

Well consider two children of famous Christian apologists.

First, Lee Strobel’s son:

Kyle Strobel is a speaker, writer, and a practitioner of spiritual formation and community transformation. His main focus is on discipleship, spiritual formation, and creating a community of disciples who do the same. He has done masters work in Philosophy of Religion as well as New Testament. After doing further masters work in Spiritual Formation, Kyle has started his Ph.D in theology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland in order to help integrate the often divorced spheres of theology and spirituality.

Kyle has focused his ministry on developing and equipping people to live a Jesus way of life, which is also the subtitle to his book Metamorpha: Jesus as a way of life(Baker, April 2007). Kyle and his wife Kelli live in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Second, Josh McDowell’s son:

Head of the Bible Department at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools, where he teaches the courses on Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary with a double Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Sean received the “Educator of the Year” for San Juan Capistrano, California in 2008. His apologetics training was awarded Exemplary Status by the Association of Christian Schools International. Sean is listed among the top 100 apologists.

I’ve talked to Greg Koukl, and he is amazingly intense and thoughtful about how he is raising his kids. I asked him this personally. He has a plan. He’s put a lot of thought into it. I’m sure his wife supports him leading the children. Apologists are good at persuading other people, and that is exactly what you do with your friends… and with your children. If you are tough on your friends, and that works, then you can be sure that being tough on the kids will work too.

I was talking to my friend Lindsay the other day, and asking her if she thought that any of her four homeschooled children would grow up to make a difference. Her response was very different than the women who distrust men as leaders. She said “all of them will grow up to be influential Christian conservatives. I’ll see to that.” That answer is music to a Christian man’s ears. There’s nothing a man wants to hear more than that he is leaving someone in charge who respects his desire that his children will make a difference for Christ and his Kingdom. What is the point of working so hard if your wife cannot be trusted to make something happen. Even if Lindsay somehow fails, at least she intends to achieve something.

If I have children in the future, I will have to pull money away from the ministries and scholars and conferences that I like to sponsor. My friends will not be receiving gifts and books and lectures and debates. I will have a lot less time for writing and relationships with atheists and co-worker debates. I’ll have to work for many years more at a boring job to pay for stuff that’s just normal every day stuff. If I have to do all that, then I would like to see that my wife is prepared to raise children, is supportive and understanding of what men do in a family, and focused on serving God effectively. And I would like to see her value the fact that a man has demonstrated his ability to lead by building up his friends over the long-term into effective and influential Christians – by giving them time and money and setting high expectations and monitoring their progress.

Women should not be afraid of men who have a track record of leading other people to be effective and influential. In fact, they should value it.

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.