How you can help teenage girls grow in godliness

Lindsey Carlson on her book, "Growing in Godliness"

July 17, 2019

The teenage years can be tumultuous. The constant pressure and pull of this hyperconnected society can magnify the angst some teens go through, especially girls. What these girls need most isn’t more likes on Instagram or more friends in their social circles; they need to know Jesus and grow to be more like him. That’s why Lindsey Carlson has written a new book for teen girls about discipleship. In this article, Carlson answers a few questions about Growing in Godliness: A Teen Girl's Guide to Maturing in Christ and what teenager girls need from their parents and mentors.

What led you to write this book?

As a teenager, I longed to understand what it looked like to love God and grow in godliness. While I attended church weekly and was familiar with Bible stories, I didn’t know Christ or understand the gospel. Even inside the church, I needed discipleship to help me answer questions and grow in my faith. In my own life, theologically rich books have been instrumental in my discipleship. It is a joy to have the opportunity to pour the hope and encouragement of Scripture back into others through the same methods that have so significantly shaped my own faith.  

Because I came to faith as a teenager, I am quick to recognize how pivotal these years can be in the life of a teenager. As my own daughter Madeline approached her 13th birthday, I felt a growing sense of urgency to disciple her on the process of sanctification. I felt she needed a simple primer on how the gospel gives her hope and what Christian growth can tangibly look like in the teenage years. Since my daughter is an avid reader and I’m a writer, I thought writing her a book that could serve as a platform for conversations about identity in Christ, God’s sovereignty, and the nature of Christian growth seemed like the best gift I could give her on her 13th birthday. I pray this book will serve as a gift both to teenagers joyfully following Christ and to those still figuring out what Christian growth and maturity looks like.

What are some of the most common struggles that you notice among teen girls today? 

While in many ways smartphones and social media have shaped and changed the world my daughter is growing up in, I believe many of the struggles and heart issues remain the same. While these listed struggles are not all indicative of every teenager, they are the ones I most frequently observe in my own teenager’s friends and in the teenagers I’ve discipled over the years. 

What are some of the most important topics that you think parents and mentors need to be addressing with teen girls as they seek to help them grow in Christ? 

I think as parents and mentors we sometimes tend to spend so much time giving answers to particular situations and not enough time developing tools of discernment. In discipleship, the goal is not to create disciples who are dependent on us. Instead, we pray to develop followers of Christ who can sufficiently handle Scripture, trust the Holy Spirit, and lean on God in prayer. That being said, I want to challenge adults to think past the topics that easily appear to be “hot topics” and instead aim to equip teenagers to personally address those topics with discernment. 

As my own daughter seeks to grow in Christ, these are the ongoing, “not-so-hot topics” that we strive to faithfully and frequently discuss and practice applying: 

Tell us a little bit about the format and what readers can expect as they go through your book. 

This is a book aimed toward discipleship. For this reason, I write not from the perspective of a know-it-all mom, or someone who has a pulse on how to be cool (I don’t.) or without addressing lots of specific culturally relevant trends. Instead, I’m just trying to level with teenagers about some basic, time-tested tools they might find helpful as they strive to grow in godliness through the awkward teen years. My goal is to encourage teen girls to joyfully pursue maturity in Christ, by making theology humorously approachable and practical.

This small book is only 120 pages and should be readable for most teens. It is divided into three sections: “Partner with God,” “Depend on His Ways,” and “Monitor Your Growth.” 

The first section, “Partner with God,” introduces the concept of sanctification, God’s purpose for the believer’s life, and the good news of God’s sovereignty. 

The second section asks readers to learn to “Depend on His Ways” by learning from God-given limitations, turning to Scripture, investing in the Church, and through the discipline of prayer. 

The last section, “Monitor Your Growth,” calls teens to examine their words, emotions, and spiritual fruit as measurable evidence of their spiritual life and health. 

Each chapter ends with a thesis statement for teens to meditate on, questions for personal reflection or group study, and a few easy action steps for practical application. The book may be read independently or studied alongside a mother or a youth discipleship group. 

What do you wish you had learned as a teenager that you hope to pass along to girls through your book? 

I wish I had understood that accepting Christ and desiring to follow him didn’t mean that I would immediately be capable of living a perfectly holy life. Being freed from the desire to sin is a slow, progressive work that takes a lifetime and isn’t complete until Jesus takes us home to Heaven. I wish I’d known that my desperate desire to please God was actually evidence of the Spirit’s ongoing work in my life. And even though I wasn’t spiritually growing and maturing as fast as I’d like to, my story was sovereignly ordained by God. I pray that Peter’s assurance of Christ’s sufficient provision in 2 Peter 1:3-4 gives teenagers the promise of hope that I longed for:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 

What encouragement would you give parents who buy this book for their teen girls?

It is my hope that this book will give teenagers a framework for understanding spiritual growth and the process of sanctification in the life of a believer. I pray that parents will use this book to encourage their teenager not to overlook the call to grow in godliness simply because their schedules are busy. Parents, use this book to connect with your daughter, a teen in your youth group, or a friend—for the purpose of discipleship. Tell her you desire to invest in her life in meaningful ways and want to have conversations about life and faith. Ask God to help your teenager establish healthy patterns of spiritual growth that will last a lifetime. Set regular times to meet and discuss what she’s read or read and answer the chapter questions together. 

Lindsey Carlson

Lindsey Carlson is the wife of a church planter, a mother of five, and a Texas transplant adjusting to life in Baltimore, Maryland. You can find more of her writing on The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, True Woman, and her blog, Worship Rejoices.  Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24