Spiritual Formation at a Slower Pace
by Chris Sasser

My wife and I recently had a moment. Our college son came home for the summer and joined us at church on his first Sunday back. He’s a young man who is still a kid at heart in so many ways, but he is morphing into a young adult right in front of our eyes. He is in no way the perfect child and still has areas he’s working on, but we love him and are very proud of him. He’s been around church literally all his life and has made a decision to follow Jesus. But, if I’m honest, we haven’t always seen the fruit of his faith. But as he’s been back home, something seems different. Maybe he’s just developing a level of maturity that naturally occurs, but we like what we see. The moment happened when our pastor stepped up and began his sermon. Our son, who had simply sat through church for years (hopefully listening), pulled out a notebook and started taking notes. Notes? On the sermon? He really wanted to write things down and look at them later? Is he really that interested in his faith and growing as a disciple? My wife and I gave each other a subtle glance and a sneaky smile. We were thankful. 

As we talked about it later, we thought through all the years of planting and watering seeds of faith. When he was younger, we wanted it all to come together then, and we wanted for him to “get it.” There were certainly times when he was growing in his faith, but it often felt like one step forward and a few steps back. I was reminded of something that I’ve known to be true for a while. It’s been true for me, and it’s true for my son. True, deep spiritual formation does not happen fast. It happens slowly, over time. Sure, there can be moments of rapid growth, but developing a real faith that lasts is a process that simply takes time.

As you are thinking about the spiritual formation of your family, there are a few things that might be helpful to keep in mind. These ideas apply not just to your kids and teens but to you as well. If we want our teenagers to grow in their faith, we need to be growing too. If we can learn how to embrace these principles ourselves, we will have a tremendous impact on our teenagers as they progress on their journey of faith. We all want transformation, so we need to pay attention to what makes that possible.

In order for true transformation to happen, we have to be honest with ourselves, with others, and with God.
If we aren’t honest about where we are, how we think, what is influencing us, and how we are being molded, we really don’t have a chance to grow and change. Do you take regular time to evaluate where you are in your spiritual journey? Do you have people in your life who you can talk to about what’s going on and how you are developing in your faith? Are you truly honest with God about what is happening in your heart and mind, and do you honestly ask Him to be with you along the way?


In order to allow transformation to happen, we have to put in the work and be intentional with our growth. We can’t expect growth to happen without planting something and watering it. Spiritual formation happens intentionally, not accidentally. Formation happens automatically, but not spiritual formation. We are being formed every day by the things we see, conversations we have, things we listen to, and situations we are in. The key is to make sure that we are being intentional about what and who is forming us, and time in scripture and prayer should be at the center of our formation.


Spiritual formation happens slowly, over time, not quickly. This is the story of our son. Let’s be honest; we value quickness. We microwave our food, are entertained on demand, and can find the information we want at the click of a button. But God does beautiful work over time. God molds and shapes us through a process. When we look for a quick fix or instant change, we can miss so many things, and we don’t fully form into the image of God. When it comes to our spiritual growth and the spiritual growth of our teens, we need to have patience and trust that God is doing the work, even when we don’t see the results.


Spiritual formation happens when we encounter something beautiful enough to change us. Jesus, his love for us, and the redemption He offers are beautiful. We sometimes miss this. Some of us have heard the stories for so long that they can seem distant and irrelevant. In order to allow the beauty of God to really move us, we need to learn to be still. We’re good at busy, but we need to slow down and contemplate the beauty of our savior. To see this, it requires less, not more.


Spiritual formation happens in the reality, tensions, and challenges of real life and real community. It rarely happens in a vacuum, and it takes bumping into people and situations that force us to rely on God. This will be messy, not pretty. But God forms us as we face the difficulties of the day, and He promises us that He will be with us along the way.


So, when it comes to your spiritual formation and the spiritual formation of your teens, understand that it is layered, complex, and takes time. It doesn’t happen in the light-speed world we often fall into, but it takes us learning to slow down and live at a slower pace. Take some time to evaluate where you and your family are when it comes to your spiritual formation and see where you can make some adjustments to foster growth.