4. Faith

CORe churches teach phases of faith development, and apply this knowledge in their ministry.

I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. (1 Corinthians 3:2)


Additional Bible texts:

Matthew 8:5-13 (The faith of the centurion)

Mark 6:1-6 (Lack of faith)

Ephesians 4:1-16 (Unity and maturity)

Hebrews 1:1-3 (What is faith?)

Mature, adult faith does not happen overnight. As a person grows in Christ, their faith changes and develops. This is an intricate and multifaceted process. Imagine the complications added when faith is developing at the same time as a young person develops their identity and persona. Too often mature faith is expected without an understanding of how it develops.

CORe churches understand how faith develops. They know each of the phases of faith development and actively teach and apply this knowledge in their ministry. They allow people new to the faith to progress at their own speed, and specifically minister to them in the right way for each phase.

Thought

Victor Marley, Norway

The other day my kids found some old photos of me. They cracked up, laughing and rolling around on the sofa. I looked at them curiously. When they had recovered themselves enough to speak, they said, ‘You were quite fat Daddy!’ I went over and looked at the picture. And it was true. There was a time that I was a bit bigger. But not only that, my hairstyle had changed, the clothes I had on betrayed that these pictures were taken in the 90s.

The truth is that in life we go through stages. And faith development is no different. Your ability to think about abstract concepts, understand biblical doctrines and apply biblical truths to your everyday life varies depending on whether you are 6, 12, 16, or 22. Think about it. Just like old photos, your faith will have looked quite different some years ago. It’s like the Apostle Paul said to the church at Corinth:

I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. (1 Corinthians 3:2)


A CORe church recognizes, therefore, that there are stages of faith through which young people go. Now, the obvious implication of this is that faith is something which needs nurturing, and just as a baby’s growth will be stunted through lack of nourishment or inappropriate nourishment, the development of faith in our young people can also be stunted or stopped by a lack of nourishment or the wrong kind of nourishment.

A CORe church will understand the stages of faith development that young people go through. It will educate its church members, its parents, and its youth leaders in this. And it will seek to create an environment where an individual’s experience with Jesus can grow and flourish, wherever they are on their faith journey.

So, what are the stages of faith? Well briefly they are these:

  1. Children tend to reflect the faith of their parents or other significant adults in their lives. The have the ‘right’ answers without necessarily understanding what they are saying and they enjoy the approval they receive when they demonstrate their faith. In this phase faith is simple. They need to know the stories of Jesus and of the Bible, they need to enjoy church, and they need to learn to pray.
  2. Teenagers are gradually thinking more abstractly. So sooner or later a teenager will be asking the questions: ‘Who am I?’, ‘Where do I belong?’, and ‘What power do I have as an individual in this big wide world?’. This is the phase where young people experience a personal faith for the first time, and as such often decide to get baptized during these years.
  3. Young adults experience for the first time that they can take full responsibility for their faith. At the same time they are beginning to think about really big questions and are being challenged by the realities of an adult world. A great deal or re-evaluation goes on in this stage, and it is important that young adults have an arena where it is possible to explore questions that they have. At the same time young adults need to feel that they are valued and can make a contribution. So, the local church will need to create space to think and space to try new things in new ways.

Now, I have to admit that I have just scratched the surface here, but there are great resources available on the CORe website that will tell you more about the stages of faith.

Ultimately, the whole thing can be summed up by thinking about what allows a person to grow. When a young person experiences a safe place where they can be themselves, ask the questions they need to and be understood by people who care, they will grow in faith and maturity.

How does your church cater for stages of faith?

Discussion

  • How has your faith matured and developed over the years?
  • Which question has challenged your faith?
  • What role does the home play in faith development?
  • How can you foster decision making and commitment among the young in faith?

Implementation questions

  • What do you already do to teach phases of faith development?
  • Are there elements of your church’s culture that need changing to apply this knowledge in your ministry?
  • How can we equip parents to develop faith in the home?
  • Can we implement at least 3 of the suggestions below?
  • What is achievable to place more emphasis on faith development within the next 12 months?

Suggestions for implementation

  • Have a yearly workshop for the whole church about stages of faith, promoting understanding of development in young people.
  • Have a process for faith development amongst 6-12 year olds, such as Kids in Discipleship (KiD), or adventurers (in addition to children's Sabbath School).
  • Have a process for developing identity amongst 12-16 year olds such as KiD teens, a baptismal class or small groups (in addition to Sabbath School).
  • Have a coordinated effort for personal visitation focused on youth and young adults, 16-25 year olds.
  • Equip parents through parenting seminars and support groups.

 

Stages of faith 27 kb download