Westerhoff and Your Ministry Context

We Have a Great Desire to Populate Heaven

Westerhoff’s book titled Will, Our Children, have faith was written for Christian educators to rethink how to conduct the learning process. He was correct when he said that there is a difference between learning about the Bible and living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. No Christian in this world is saved by what they know, beliefs, or church membership, just as no one is saved by action or religion. The love of God was demonstrated on the cross for us all; therefore, Westerhoff stated that faith, even though faith is described in our own worldview and value system, is ready for what we do. It is the way of believing that involves knowing, being, and being (P.89-91).

In Christian education, many might think that as they move on with Christ, they learn one style of faith and outgrow the other style. On the contrary, Westerhoff was clear that faith is like an organism; it can grow; we do not leave one style of faith and move to the other, but we expand in our Faith (P.91). This statement of wisdom from Westerhoff is critical for all Christian educators because it is easier to think that you are bringing people into a new style of faith by bringing new materials. For example, I listened to a preacher who alluded that he was teaching new faith because he was neither a Christian non a Jews. So, John Westerhoff and others have done outstanding work in faith development. But in this work, I will only focus on Westerhoff’s suggestion on the four stages of faith formation. For example, experienced, affiliative, searching, and owned. Westerhoff used the four stages of faith formation for us to understand his position on the matter. Therefore, to explain the growth process, Westerhoff offers a tree analogy and proposes four rings (P.91-97).

Experienced Faith– This is the first stage of faith formation. This is the pre-school stage; no one can give or determine anyone’s faith; however, we can all share life together and our Faith (P.91). This time can also be considered the time of impersonation because a child prays the Lord’s Prayer without understanding the meaning of all the words. I agree with Westerhoff that anything without a foundation does not stand, and I agree that faith is built on experience. For example, a person comes to Christ not as a theologian but as a baby Christian and grows over time. When we started the church, many people were in this stage, after many years, people started to grow because we give them all the time they need to grow.

Affiliative Faith – This stage is like the early adolescent period; “This is what ‘we’ believe and do. This stage is the belonging stage; the person has passed through the experience stage and is now a church group member. The only problem I have with this stage is that some get stuck in this stage. Right now in our ministry, many people are in this stage, while some are yet waiting in the first stage. Our ministry opens doors for people to feel belonging to some small group.

Searching Faith– late adolescence age, because this is the time to ask questions, not just accept what others say about the Christian faith. This stage of faith formation is finding an answer. This is why when someone comes into our office and asks a question, we do not just turn them back because they might be in the searching stage. So, answering them may help them grow in their faith.

Owned faith– this stage is the adulthood stage because the person knows and has excepted what they believe as Christian. In this stage, the person cannot go back. I believe this is the stage of many people in history who has left a positive mark on our Christian Faith. For example, people like John and Charles Wesley, Luther of Germany, Augustine, etc. These people reached a stage in their Christian Faith and did not turn back until death. In our ministry, those who have reached this stage are promoted to a leadership positions.


Westerhoff, J., H. (2012). Will our children have faith?

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