A Psychological Perspective of Spiritual Formation (Rooted 2017 Workshop Preview)

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As a psychologist, I frequently work with parents and families, particularly with issues related to their children’s development. I help them think through parenting strategies and educational options that are developmentally appropriate for their child’s stage in life. The field of developmental psychology has given us an immense amount of insight into human change and growth as well as a road map for the building blocks of cognitive and emotional maturity. Our educational system is largely oriented around the research in human development. For instance, did you know that there are developmental reasons why algebra isn’t typically introduced until early adolescence?

Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson were the leading theorists in understanding the stages of human growth, however they were not revolutionary in seeing and articulating the process of development. An appreciation for development was first articulated thousands of years before in scripture. Proverbs 22:6 asserts the importance of childhood experiences in the long-term maturity of an adult. Isaiah 28:10 connects the appropriateness of the message to the development of the child. Paul, in I Corinthians 13:11, acknowledges the difference in thinking and behavior from childhood to adulthood. The Bible is full of references to the process of growth and maturity as physical, emotional, and spiritual beings.

As parents and youth ministry leaders, we need to be acutely aware of where our kids are in their ability to take in, comprehend, and own spiritual and theological concepts and truths, and gear our message to them accordingly. An understanding of the key needs and abilities of each developmental stage can significantly help us as we speak into the spiritual formation of our kids.

In this workshop, as well as in my second workshop, “Teaching the Teenage Mind: Communicating Spiritual Concepts Effectively to Adolescent Brains,” we will look at practical ways to communicate the Gospel and spiritual truths in ways that appreciates the developmental stage of the student.

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