The People of The Way is a group of people that encourages one another in raising children who walk in The Way of Jesus.  Consisting of a monthly “People of The Way” podcast with Father Len Cowan and Pastor Sarah Cowan Johnson, and a private Facebook Group discussion moderated by them, we focus on 12 Christian Virtues, attributes of Jesus which He wishes to manifest in us and in our children.  Through adopting various spiritual disciplines which help us to focus on 12 Attributes of God, participants will be encouraged to pursue a Way of Life for themselves and their children that will position them such that The Holy Spirit can do His virtuous work in them.

Episodes of the podcast are available on iTunes, GooglePlay, and Soundcloud, or by going to the People of The Way podcast website:


God’s Virtues and the Way of Life in which The Triune God can develop and sustain them will be unique to each individual, and at each stage of their personal and faith development.  In his book, Will Our Children Have Faith?, the Rev. John Westerhoff describes four stages of Christian faith development, observable manifestations of a real faith in God appropriate for the age and experience of the child to the emerging adult.  He states that these “styles” of faith are like rings of a tree trunk essential for the development of the deeply-rooted tree described in Psalm 1 or the oaks of righteousness in Isaiah 61.  Just as the tree adds outer rings onto the ones on the inside, so a successive stage of faith still draws upon the ongoing strengths of the prior stage.  We will need the experiences, practices, and manifestations of the earlier stages throughout our lives, and yet, as with the rings of the tree, the current life of faith lies mainly in the outer stages.

Westerhoff describes four stages or styles of faith development: experienced faith, affiliative faith, searching faith, and owned faith.

Experienced faith (pre-school and early childhood) is the faith of the heart that grows by participating in the customs and rituals of the faith tradition with family members. This is the faith of the senses, or the faith of action, particularly repeated action.  By nature, children at this age are primarily self-focused, and so God is often experienced as a part of the self.  The larger meaning behind their faith practices will not be understood.  Nevertheless, in the acts of faith, particularly in a loving family, including a church family, children can come to believe in Presence and experience the love of God within.

Affiliative faith (childhood and early adolescence) is the faith of the group that develops by belonging to (being affiliated with) an accepting Christian community, initially the community of the family, and eventually the community of the church or youth group or ministry.  The relationships and activities of the group offer opportunities for children to deepen their relationship with God as apart from the self, with God in others and in the world.  Connections with believing adults other than one’s parents, who are part of the child’s group, are an essential part of further faith development.

Searching faith (adolescence and beyond) is the faith of the head, questioning and scrutinizing what has long been taught and accepted. It may appear to parents, and to the child, as if “faith” is being rejected, and yet it is in the questioning that faith can be deepened and broadened.  Youth that are not encouraged to question or given permission to step back from routine participation in faith customs can get “stuck” at the earlier affiliative stage, such that, when the group or family experience is left behind, so is faith.  Sometimes accompanying this stage is what we call “The Fence“, a hard season of feeling either confined, restricted, or fenced in by one’s faith, or confined, restricted, or fenced out of a deeper relationship with God.  It presents a crisis, of whether to move away from faith to “greener pastures”, or to pursue God more deeply into His good pasture.  Key to going through the Fence is finding The Gate, Jesus The Good Shepherd, and to be accompanied on the journey by faithful under-shepherds who know The Way.

Discovered faith (young adulthood and beyond) is the faith of the heart, soul, mind, and strength, lived in a personal and corporate relationship with Jesus.  Because of the struggle with doubt that can precede it, discovered faith may manifest as “coming to believe.”  One’s faith is now one’s own and no longer merely that of the child, the family, or the group. Though doubts and questions remain, those who discover their own faith witness to it in personal and social action, and are willing and able to stand up for what they believe in as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Further development of this adult stage of has been been described in 6 stages by Janet Hagberg in The Critical Journey, whose work also informs the Children’s Stages of Faith Development.  For an outline of the intersection between virtues, the way of life, and stages of faith development, please click below:

Raising People of the Way – Outline

For a more complete description of virtues and a way of life based upon them, please click on “The Way of Virtue” tab at the top of this page.

May The Lord bless you as you [and your child(ren)] seek to become followers of The Way of Jesus, and to raise up the next generations to do likewise.