Review: Growing With by Kara Powell & Steven Argue

Like many youth workers I know, I make it a point of reading anything that Kara Powell writes. She’s brilliant and so is the research that she and Steven Argue do at Fuller Youth Institute. It continues to shape the way I do ministry and for the past two years, I’ve been privileged to be a part of it by participating in FYI's Youth Ministry Innovation cohort.

For that reason, I was excited to read Growing With: Every Parent’s Guide to Helping Teenagers and Young Adults Thrive in their Faith, Family, and Future. It took me months to read this book… Not because it wasn’t good but because I found myself pondering each part of it – consistently wrestling with how to apply what I was reading to the ministry I lead.

In Growing With, Kara and Steve define growing with parenting as “a mutual journey of intentional growth for both ourselves and our children that trusts God to transform us all.” Throughout Growing With, Kara & Steve focus on parenting three different age groups:

Learners – Kids who are in late middle school through high school (ages 13-18) and are learning in a season marked by “rapid physical, emotional, relational, intellectual, and spiritual growth and change.”
Explorers: Young adults ages 18-23 who are venturing away from home for the first time and exploring career paths, their own interest, gifts, and talents, new ways of relating to their parents, and their beliefs.
Focusers: Young Adults ages 23-29 who are focused on their careers, relationships, and beliefs as they gain a clearer sense of who they are.

Using that framework, Kara and Steve spend the rest of Growing With exploring how parents can thrive in their relationship with their kids in each of these three stages. With that in mind, here are seven things I loved about Growing With: 

1. Growing With is based on in-depth research conducted by Kara, Steve, and their team. Yet, the book doesn’t stay academic. Like the mission of Fuller Youth Institute, it gets practical – offering parents (and youth workers!) concrete ways to flourish as they parent and minister to young adults.
2. Even though Kara and Steve are two of the smartest people I know, they write from a position of vulnerability. They share just as many (if not more) of their parenting fails as they do of their parenting wins.
3. Even though Growing With is about helping teenagers and young adults thrive in their faith, it’s still applicable to parents of young children. Although my girls are young, I will still be applying what I learned from this book to how I parent them not just in the future, but now.  
4. Kara and Steve understand that people can and should change and grow as they parent. I loved how they offered different suggestions for parenting learners, explorers, and focusers.
5. Growing With acknowledges and address cultural differences. Kara and Steve are the first to admit they wish their research included more people of color. Yet, they do a great job of readily acknowledging that what is true in the white church may not be true in other places. They also do a fantastic job of highlighting various learnings from people of color that they gained from their research.
6. Growing With addresses a gap in the youth ministry world. Churches say we need to focus on young adults but surprisingly little has been written about how to do so. Growing With helps fill that gap.
7. Even though Growing With is written for parents, its strategies will also strengthen churches and youth ministries.

Growing With is a book that I wholeheartedly recommend to youth workers and parents alike. It will help youth workers – especially those who do not have teenagers themselves – better empathize with and understand parents who do. What’s more, it will help youth workers more effectively minister to these parents. It will also help parents to strengthen their relationship with their teenage and young adult kids so that their families flourish.  


I was honored to receive a copy of Growing With from Baker Books and chose to review the book. All opinions are my own.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

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