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Spiritual Growth Levels: Ministering to Spiritual Adolescents


Spiritual Growth LevelsThe Bible does not actually refer to spiritual adolescence but does mention other spiritual growth levels such as infants, children, adult (young men), parents (fathers).

ADOLESCENTS could easily be included as a level between children and adults.

Have you ever heard the frustration of believers who truly want to live for God and grow in their relationship with Him as they say, “It’s like I take one step forward and two steps back”?  They would describe their walk like a roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs.  While we all can experience peaks and valleys in our walk with God, for some this seems to consistently be their experience.  These are the believers I would call “spiritual adolescents.”

Spiritual infants and children can experience this as well but they don’t have the strong desire spiritual adolescents have to grow and become who God wants them to be.

Spiritual Adolescents Described:

Romans 7 seems to especially fit the adolescence growth level.

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.  . . .  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” (Rom. 7:18-19, 22-23)

1)  Adolescents consistently struggle between what they know they should be doing and what they actually do.  They struggle because they want to be mature yet so often fail.

2)  Adolescents consequently struggle with how they feel about themselves as Christians.  They get to feeling defeated, like they will never get there.

Ministering to Spiritual Adolescents:

  • They need lots of encouragement and affirmation for the passion they have to grow and for the steps they do take.  You don’t want them to give up and regress back into spiritual childhood where it was easier because they didn’t care as much.
  • They need you to be patient with them.  Spiritual growth is a process.  For some the adolescent struggle seems harder or longer, but if they persevere, eventually they will come through on the other side.  If they feel as though you have given up on them, they will be more likely to give up as well.
  • They need to sense there is hope for them. Point them to Jesus as the only source of victory (Rom. 7:24-25).  Keep reminding them that the Christian life cannot be lived in their own strength.
  • They need a model.  You need to let them see that no one has arrived yet it is important to press on (Phil. 3:10-14) because it is so worth it.

For more help on ministering to spiritual adolescents, as well as those in the other spiritual growth levels, check out The Teacher’s Role in Discipling Students Toward Spiritual Growth resources.


2 Replies to “Spiritual Growth Levels: Ministering to Spiritual Adolescents”

  1. You have some great materials. Thanks for sharing. I am not certain that I agree with your assessment of “spiritual adolescents.” You use the Apostle Paul’s testimony and I believe that he was anything other than a spiritual adolescent.

    • You are welcome. I see where you are coming from about using the Romans 7 passage as it did come from the Apostle Paul’s experience. If he stayed there, I think it would definitely be a problem to use his testimony. But, he found the source of victory for such a dilemma as found in the final verses of the chapter: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

      I am sure Paul applied the instruction he gave to others about what to do with that sin nature:

      “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature … But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these … put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator …” (Col. 3:5-14)

      “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Rom. 13:14)

      “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Gal. 5:16-17)

      Paul admits he hadn’t arrived but he pressed on (Phil. 3:7-16). He wasn’t stuck in the experience of Romans 7:1-23. He moved on to Romans 7:25, finding the victory in Christ Jesus. It would have been hypocritical for him to write the above instructions if he hadn’t applied the solution to his own life. Would he still struggle with his sin nature? Definitely. He was human. But, he knew what to do about it and I am confident he regularly rose above that struggle rather than stay stuck in it.

      As communicated in the post, those I am calling spiritual adolescents haven’t yet learned the deliverance from that persistent struggle. They haven’t yet learned to forget the past and press on. They haven’t yet learned to consistently walk in the Spirit wherein would come the ability to rise above the pull of the sin nature. They are stuck in this kind of struggle and will stay there until they learn to consistently apply Paul’s instructions about what to do with the sin nature.

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