Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools had three major pluses: (1) It was concise, at only 20 pages; (2) It was filled with lists, charts and diagrams; and (3) It provided questions to ponder and examples to apply.
Elder and Paul essentially offer a guide on how to have an intellectual conversation and disseminate information. I am a visual learner. When I see a concept illustrated in a diagram or flow chart, I engage. Likewise, with a list of questions to ask or principles to apply, I can better grasp the concept and understand what the author wants me to learn.
In an effort to practice one of the skills emphasized in this book, I pulled out the problem-solving template, as I am struggling to make a decision in my ministry position (Elder, 19). The question is whether to continue with an existing five-year old partnership, or to withdraw and focus our monetary resources elsewhere. We send a significant amount of money to a specific mission organization on a monthly basis, yet problems continue to arise, they request more money, and we detect little to no change. (I will not be too specific here, so as not to badmouth an organization attempting to promote the Kingdom of God!)
To clarify, the problem is a lack of communication and accountability from the international partner. We have continuously received conflicting information from the overseeing mission organization. For example, January’s report listed 120 orphans, while March’s listed only 89. Yes, there may be turnover due to various reasons, but what are those reasons? Are those numbers even accurate? Another report applauded the fact the mission organization raised funds to pay for teachers at each orphanage, yet the next month, the pastor of one orphanage sent an email to say his teachers had quit because they had not been paid. Due to the lack of communication from the front office to the field staff, we have no precise numbers. Despite face-to-face conversations to state each problem one-by-one and offer solutions, benchmarks are ignored.
I am looking at the breadth of this decision, knowing some in our congregation will suffer heartbreak from cutting ties with this mission organization, and more specifically the orphans, while others will find comfort and confidence knowing their stewardship is going to a worthy cause with proper accountability and significant results. After all, when most congregants give large sums of money, they want to know their dollars are being spent wisely. Moving forward, we have narrowed our actions down to three options: (1) Continue supporting the organization, on a probationary basis; (2) Supporting the organization with only sweat equity and no monetary resources; or (3) Discontinue all support. Face-to-face meetings are again scheduled for the next weeks, and
So while I did not use the questions and application for an article or book to read, the problem-solving template came in handy! Critical thinking and processing, when utilized correctly, will prevent decisions from being made in haste, so that the facts, figures and truth can be collected beforehand. For that, I am grateful for this book falling on this week.