By Stephanie Ziebarth, Barnabas Ministry Coordinator
The other day I spent two hours walking around my neighborhood, catching up with the best friend of my youth. Chief among the topics we covered was parenting. I could not help but share the newest material from my parenting toolbox: Growing With by Kara Powell and Steven Argue.
Released earlier this month by Baker Books, Growing With has a long subtitle that happens to be very appropriate: Every Parent’s Guide to Helping Teenagers and Young Adults Thrive in Their Faith, Family, and Future. The book introduces new research from Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and includes relevant and relatable life stories from both authors–all for the purpose of helping parents learn to teach, guide and resource their emerging adult children.
As my friend and I swapped parenting triumphs and trials, I quoted research from the book, and I affirmed that her–and my–parenting journey is tracking with that of many other people nationwide.
Between the two of us, we can relate to all three stages of the teen and young adult years:
Learners are typically 13-18 years old and are “in a season of rapid physical, emotional, relational, intellectual, and spiritual growth and change” (52). Learners need parents to serve as teachers, “integrat[ing] new ideas, skills, and competencies into the frameworks and paradigms our teenagers already possess” (58). The bottom line: our teens need us a couple steps ahead of them, providing guidance, encouragement and training as they move forward toward adulthood.
Explorers are around 18-23, and they are “ventur[ing] for the first time away from home or home-oriented routines to pursue their goals, relationships, and beliefs” (54). Explorer parents need to embrace the role of guide at this stage. “With explorer kids, we shift our parenting focus away from setting goals for our kids and toward guiding them on the journey of setting their own goals” (61). We do not carry the pack for our young adult child, but we walk beside him/her, attending to needs as they arise.
Toward the end of emerging adulthood, around age 23-29, our children become focusers (yes, Powell and Argue created new words as they introduced their research). Focusers “begin to gain a clearer sense of who they are and have likely made educational, vocational, and relational choices that set them on particular trajectories” (55). Our focusers need resourcers as parents. Rather than walking ahead or beside them, we intersect with them as needs arise. They come to us when they need advice.
Powell and Argue flesh out what these stages and roles look like in three key areas of life: withing (supporting each other within family relationships), faithing (owning and embodying our own journey with God) and adulting (growth in agency while embracing opportunities to shape the world around us). (Yes, those are more made-up but surprisingly useful words. The authors don’t take credit for “adulting.”)
My highlighter was put to good use as I learned how to best “with,” “faith,” and “adult” with my three children during their current and future stages. Fuller and Argue managed to put together what is now one of my favorite parenting books.
I appreciated the practical structure of the book, which is clearly divided according to which area of development (withing, faithing or adulting) feels most urgent at the moment. For readers like me who love solid data to back up the material presented, there are insights sections offering just that within each chapter.
Every chapter also includes ideas sections that essentially offer practical applications. If you want to come up with original applications (which is always a good idea), there are practical questions at the end of each chapter as well. Top those off with useful, repeated graphics that help ingrain the key points into your mind and you have a book that seemingly provides something for every type of reader.
I will not neglect to mention that Powell and Argue astutely consider their audience. They address many factors, such as:
A variety of cultural backgrounds
Parents of special needs children
Same-sex attracted offspring
All these are also backed up by solid research.
I recommend this book for any parent with a child approaching or already in the age categories between 13 and 29.
However, I did not read this book merely for my own family’s sake (though that alone would be reason enough). I also read this as Joy El’s Barnabas Mentor Coordinator.
Along with the leaders of all Joy El’s departments, I want to continue to educate and develop myself within my primary area of ministry. Knowing the characteristics of the generations we are reaching, as well as the challenges facing their families, helps me better equip the mentors who serve within the Barnabas program. I pass along what I’m learning to the Barnabas mentors through both formal trainings and informal interactions. Fuller Youth Institute (https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/), through which Powell and Argue did their Growing With research, has been one of my most reliable resources for almost a decade.
To learn more about Growing With, visit https://growingwithbook.com/.
May we all grow with our children and our mentees as we pursue the Christ-following life.
Joy El Camps and Retreats is a Christian Youth Camp in PA, we offer Christian sleep away camps and retreats year-round for all ages in PA and we are a Youth retreat center in Pennsylvania since 1974. Our focus on making disciples is seen in Bible Adventure and the 4.12 Leadership Training Program