Spiritual Developmentgenerations


Reflect on the encounters with God that you have had. Many times we do not realize these encounters until afterwards. One’s personality and childhood experiences (birth order, family history, sociocultural upbringing) sets the stage for a relationship with God. Think about how you came to know the concepts of Trust, Hope, Will and Purpose in your life and how that impacted your faith journey.

A baby develops trust in those that care for them, but the baby is still self-centered on their needs. Toddlers begin to learn about the world around them as they ask ‘What is it?’ and ‘Why?’ Around seven or eight, children learn that other people have viewpoints different from their own.  By fourteen or fifteen, they can explore the world or ideas and philosophies. The Golden Rule requires that persons be able to think of themselves simultaneously in two roles: the person needing help and the person giving help. This is a complex thought process and develops well after the child can memorize the rule.  A childhood’s image of God is not adequate for a lifetime.

Parents and other adults give children a precious gift when adults:

  • continue to develop morally and become persons of integrity whose words and actions are in harmony (be a good example)
  • take time to listen to kids needs and pray together
  • affirm children for who the kids are, not just for what the kids do (unearned love)
  • welcome children’s spiritual questions and give honest answers (even saying as adults they do not know the answer)
  • give children stories rich in positive images of God, goodness, and courage
  • introduce kids to symbols and rituals that point to God’s faithfulness, love, and protection
  • make a practice of listening to children to discover how the kids see events and to understand the reasoning the kids are using
  • understand that a child’s encounter with God is not totally in the control of parents or teachers, but ultimatley it is in God’s control

How did you respond to your spiritual hunger? Often in our journey, we have to unlearn some items from our early life experiences that have built up roadblocks. Perhaps, the adults in your life did not provide all the bulleted items above. Can you give this gift to  children you interact with?

We also have difficulty waiting patiently for God’s timing and persevering in obedience.  We may encounter  a ‘desert’ experience (a time of difficulty when we don’t feel God’s presence). We may need help from our church family to get through a difficult time.

Reflect on how you can help others encounter God. Can you help them on their faith journey by sharing your story?  Can your help others by your acceptance and love? Many times we receive more than we give when we help others.


During our journey, we need to let God work on our strengths and our weaknesses.  You may be familiar with Carl Jung who organized  people’s preferences in four areas:

    • extraversion (E) and introversion (I)
    • sensing (S) and intuition (N)
    • thinking (T) and feeling (F)
    • judgment (J) and perception (P)

Folks tend to swing to one side or the other in each area.  But we need to develop across the full spectrum for each. Even our worship can incorporate elements to guide the extravert into quiet prayer and the introvert in joyous song with the congregation.

It is important not to just concentrate on spiritual disciplines that you naturally feel comfortable with, but explore and try more difficult ones too.

Classical spiritual disciplines of the Christian tradition include prayer, bible reading, daily devotion/worship, study, fasting and retreat. These can be done individually.

But our walk with God, is not by ourselves.  We need to interact with  others. We need to be Christ’s presence in the world.  Corporate worship, group study or service is often the means by which we recover our focus and return to our center (focused on God) so we can interact with the world.

Our walk is not all mapped out and clear cut.  Each one’s journey is unique but it is good to learn what has helped others to be more receptive to God in their lives.  This often includes how doubt  helped to build one’s faith and seek answers to basic questions:

Who am I?                                Where am I?                                 What should I do?


Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by M. Robert Mulholland Jr.

Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith (Bridgepoint Books) by Catherine Stonehouse