How Faith Grows in Children and Teens

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Faith is mysterious. No matter what we do in church or at home, we can’t make faith happen. But, like a farmer, there’s much we can do to till the “soil” that faith grows in. Though each child’s spiritual journey is unique, we can identify common developmental patterns — and that makes us better “farmers” who can meet kids and teens where they are.

Faith and Brain Development

As kids grow, their world becomes bigger and more complicated. At the same time, their brain’s capacity to wrestle with complex thoughts and emotions is increasing. So while preschoolers are eagerly drinking in stories about arks and rainbows, teens are busy parsing out the relationship between the gospel and organized religion. According to accepted brain research, that’s developmentally appropriate — and it’s exciting!

Seeing things in new ways and asking new questions is hardwired into us by God himself. When teens start questioning their faith, they’re doing exactly what their brains are created to do. So it’s a good idea to become intimately familiar with how a person’s spiritual capacity grows.

New Spiritual Development Resource

Faith Formation Ministries is excited to bring you a resource called Spiritual Characteristics of Children and Teens. This new six-page brochure outlines the stages kids typically go through in their spiritual development, from preschool through the late teen years. While every child’s developmental journey is unique, it’s helpful to recognize the common patterns. Consider using this resource as a conversation-starter for ministry team meetings, adult education, family ministry, elder visits, and more.

Spiritual Characteristics of Children and Teens is an accessible guide for children’s ministry leaders, youth ministry leaders, pastors, teachers, and parents. You can download it FREE here, or order up to three free printed copies from Faith Alive Resources (larger quantities are just $1.00 each plus shipping).

Other Resources from the CRC

If you want to dig deeper into how faith grows, check out the free Building Blocks of Faith toolkit from Faith Formation Ministries. Our Children’s Ministry Catalyzer, Youth Ministry Catalyzer, and Regional Catalyzers also offer free coaching to help your congregation build a faith formation framework that meets people at all ages and stages of their faith journey.

Shaped by God: Twelve Essentials for Nurturing Faith in Children, Youth, and Adults edited by Robert J. Keeley, is a collection of insights by faith formation experts Holly Catterton Allen, Sarah Arthur, Elizabeth F. Caldwell, Erik W. Carter, Robbie Fox Castleman, David M. Csinos, Fred P. Edie, Syd Hielema, Robert J. Keeley, Kevin E. Lawson, Marian R. Plant, and Don C. Richter.

Parents should also check out the Home Grown Handbook for Christian Parenting by Karen DeBoer. It contains 111 real-life questions and answers about how to help kids know and love God.

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