What it is: This thinking skill requires the
ability to paraphrase, summarize, and interpret. “Tell us in your
own words what you think that verse means?” “Can you say that
another way?” and “Please summarize what has happened so far” are
examples of this thinking skill.
How Jesus used it: In Luke 7:40-42, Jesus told the story about two
debtors who owed differing amounts of money to a man. But the man
forgave both debts. Jesus asked, “Which of them therefore will love
To have asked, “How much did the two men owe?” would have been a
knowledge question. But Jesus dug deeper to get his listeners to
interpret the true meaning of this story.
How you can use it: Ask “Why?” or “What does
this mean?” questions to get kids thinking. Comprehension questions
are easy to integrate into your lesson and will tell you much more
about the understanding level of your students. Avoid
“only-one-right-answer” questions. Kids may give off-the-wall
answers, and that’s okay. If they do, ask follow-up questions such
as “What do you mean by that?” or “Say more about that.”
Kids LOVE these Sunday School resources!
What it is: The application level is the ability
to put knowledge to use in new or novel situations. In other words,
it’s the ability to “practice what you preach!” As children think
about how biblical principles actually apply to everyday life, they
position themselves at the great precipice of change. They’ll
either leap to do the thing they’ve heard or they’ll fall into the
great gulf of failed applications-with no change and no growth.
How Jesus used it: Jesus was always seeking a
response from people. In John 8:46, he asked his followers, “If I
speak the truth, why do you not believe me?” It was never enough
for Jesus to have people hear him but not act on what they’d
How you can use it: Help children choose
appropriate actions based on biblical principles. Use application
questions such as “How can you use the story of the good Samaritan
to be a good neighbor at school this week?” “What can you do to
avoid gossip?” or “In what ways can we honor the Sabbath?” Identify
and praise behaviors in class that are on the application level.
For example, say, “Thank you, Paula, for sharing your Bible with
the new student today.”
What it is: Analysis involves breaking down
material into its component parts. It’s being able to make the
organization of ideas clear. Outlining, diagraming, recognizing,
distinguishing, relating, and inferring are examples of analytical
How Jesus used it: A perfect example of Jesus
using analysis is in the story found in Matthew 13 of the farmer who went out to plant
seed. Some fell by the road, some on rocky ground, some among
thorny weeds, and some on good ground. Later in that same chapter,
Jesus explained every component of the story.
How you can use it: Analysis is a higher
critical thinking skill used in problem-solving. Get kids thinking
by having them solve problems together. For example, have groups
design a ministry to meet the needs of younger children in the
church. Or have them read a case study and decide what the main
character should do to solve a problem.
What it is: Synthesis is the ability to
generalize, relate, compare, and contrast objects and ideas. It is
also the ability to put together elements to form a new, creative
product or viewpoint.
How Jesus used it: In Luke 13:18, Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom
of God like, and to what shall I compare it?” Jesus used this level
of thinking in his teaching more than all the others. He was
constantly urging his followers to synthesize. Salt, light, birds,
lilies, wedding feasts, wise men, and foolish men are just a few of
the items Jesus used to compare or contrast the life of a
How you can use it: Having to translate an
active-learning experience with everyday objects into real-life
learning takes synthesis. “How is wearing the rose-colored glasses
like telling someone about Jesus Christ?” or “How was building the
card tower like growing in faith?” are just a few examples of
questions that encourage the thinking skill of synthesis.