The first time I came across Kara Powell’s name was when I picked up the book Sticky Faith eight years ago as a volunteer leader with Blackhawk’s high school ministry.
Sticky Faith was an invaluable help to us as we re-evaluated the way we did high-school and middle-school ministry at Blackhawk. Sticky Faith was based on extensive research conducted by the Fuller Youth Institute. That research was the impetus for youth-ministry transformation, not only at Blackhawk but at many other churches across the U.S.
Kara Powell and Steven Argue bring that same recipe for success to their latest book Growing With. They waded through countless studies and research to come up with keen insights and recommendations for parents as they help their children navigate their teens and twenties.
Powell and Argue see parenting as a journey of mutual transformation. They define Growing With parenting as “a mutual journey of intentional growth for both ourselves and our children that trusts God to transform us all.” This book is for parents who are parenting (or about to parent) children in their teens and twenties. That includes teenagers (age 13 to 18) and emerging adults (age 18 to 29).
Parents are keenly aware of a gap that develops as their small children turn into emerging adults. The parenting playbook that worked fairly well when kids were in grade school just doesn’t work very well as they get older. The gap between parent and child grows wider. Growing With is an attempt to close that gap.
Part 1: Identify your child’s developmental stage
The book is divided into two parts. The first part forms the foundation for the rest of the book. It gives parents a much-needed lens through which they can view the world their teens and twentysomethings encounter. It also introduces a key parenting concept: children progress through the stages of learner, explorer, and focuser. They need parents who travel with them as teachers, guides, and resourcers.
Each developmental stage in your child’s life needs a different parenting strategy. Learners need teachers, explorers need guides, and focusers need resourcers. As a parent, you’re always growing with your child as he or she moves from one stage to the next. It’s mutual transformation.
Part Two: Identify practical ways to grow with your child
The second part of the book offers practical ideas for growing with your child through these developmental stages. For example, when children are learners (typically ages 13-18), they’re learning about their increased intellectual capabilities, their physically and emotionally changing bodies, and how to start living out their own faith. Kids who are learners need parents (and grandparents) who are teachers. As teachers, parents must be patient, attentive, available, interested, and encouraging.
Explorer kids (ages 18-23) need parents who are guides. This parenting stage requires wisdom to know when to encourage independence and when to offer proactive support during trickier life scenarios.
When children enter the focuser stage (ages 23-29), they need parents who are resourcers. Parents in this stage intersect with their kids’ lives during crucial points by exercising patience, offering perspective, and preserving their relationship—even if their kids’ beliefs, values, and goals differ from their own.
Not sure what stage your child is in? Kara and Steve created a quiz you can take to help identify where they’re at, and then how you can adjust your parenting to better support them.
Growing With is a refreshing parenting book because it underlines the importance of parents growing with their children. It’s not just children who grow; parents must grow too. In this sense, parenting can be a wonderful dance where you and your children are always learning and changing. You’ll inevitably step on each other’s toes a few times, but doing this parenting dance with your children will help you grow closer to your children and to God. And isn’t that what it’s all about?