Book Reviews

Book Review: Growing Up Christian

“God greatly blessed me by allowing me to be born into a strong Christian family…My parents had not grown up in Christian homes, but God had saved them before I was born…They faithfully raised me according to biblical principles.  Our family regularly attended church, prayed together…My parents sent me to youth-group meetings, a Christian school, and a Christian college.  I grew up a fairly typical church kid.  Just before I turned four…God drew me to himself…At that time I repented of my sins and professed Jesus as my personal Savior.  I had a four-year-old’s understanding of the gospel and, in retrospect, I think a genuine conversion…I do not remember the time prior to my salvation.  I practically grew up Christian.” (pg. 19)


Growing Up ChristianThe statements above describe my upbringing, and my own testimony of salvation in amazingly accurate detail!  While this could easily be my own account, it is not.  The statements above are from Karl Graustein’s book, Growing Up Christian. 


Over the last few months, I have become increasingly aware that being a “church kid,” or, “growing up Christian,” is often perceived as a liability, even by many within the church.  And, if popular research is to be believed, “growing up Christian” produces more hypocrites and apostates than genuine believers.  After reading and/or hearing about a few books directed at stemming the tide of supposedly “Christian” kids leaving the church upon graduation from high school, the title of this book was enough to make me curious.  


Because he grew up as a church kid, the author is able to offer a unique perspective on the challenges, dangers, temptations, and tendencies of kids who grow up in the church.  But, unlike other books addressing the great exodus of young adults from the church, his target audience is notthe parents.  Graustein is writing to the current generation of kids, teens, and young adults growing up in the church, in Christian homes, and Christian schools and/or colleges.  His passion – which is evident throughout this book - is to help them recognize, and safely navigate, the dangers and temptations commonly faced by young people growing up in Christian environments.  But, his passion extends beyond recognizing the dangers, to helping them truly understand the great blessing that it is to grow up in the church.


The book is divided into three sections.  The first several chapters deal with recognizing the blessings and dangers of being a “church kid.”  The second section explains the importance of thinking biblically.  And the third part sums up his message that church kids have been given so much.  But, he explains that knowing about the Bible is not the same as living biblically. 


Chapter 3, “Un-amazing Grace,” discusses the differences in the way that church kids view and experience the saving and forgiving grace of God, versus those who are saved later in life.  Church kids are often saved at a young age, so they “can erroneously think that salvation did not make any difference in [their] life.” As a result, they are “tempted to be un-amazed at the saving grace of God.” (pg. 52)  But, he goes on to remind church kids of the blessing of being saved at a young age, and all that they have been protected from,

“Church kids should be some of the most appreciative people on the earth.  God has shown us amazing grace not only in saving us, but also in saving us at such a young age and placing us in Christian homes where we can be protected, trained, and discipled.  God has shown us immense favor every day of our lives.” (pg. 53)


In the second section of the book, the author shifts his focus from the dangers and blessings of growing up Christian, to the need for church kids to think biblically, and develop their own convictions, based on Scripture. 


“It is far too common to hear of church kids who have walked away from their faith.” (pg. 140)  I would venture to guess that most people who spent the majority of their childhood and young adult years in a Christian environment, know of at leastone person (or, sadly, more) that has walked away from their professed faith in Christ.  According to the author, the reason so many church kids walk away from the church is “due to a lack of a personal relationship with God and a firsthand knowledge of biblical truths.  When our beliefs are just copies of our parents’ values or what’s expected of us at our Christian school, we probably do not have genuine faith.” (pg. 140)  In these chapters, Graustein urges church kids to stop resting on their pastor’s sermons, their school’s expectations, or their parents’ rules to guide their “convictions.”  He encourages them to study the Bible for themselves, and to learn the truths of Scripture, so that they can develop their own convictions.  But, he is also careful to warn them that studying the Word is not for the purpose of amassing knowledge.  The end result should be to develop a growing love for God, out of which flows trust, worship, and obedience.

“It isn’t enough to know the facts of the Christian faith.  We need to think seriously about them, know why they are important, and take them to heart.”  (pg. 141)


The last several chapters focus on just that – taking the facts of the Christian faith to heart, and living biblically. 


The chapter entitled “The Fight of Your Life” (ch. 10), was a good example of the difference between simply knowing what the Bible says about sin, and actually living it out.  “Church kids know a lot about sin.  Having been taught the standards of Scripture our whole lives, we know what we should and shouldn’t do.” (pg. 78)  Graustein then goes on to describe five critical mistakes that church kids often make in their battle with sin: We do not take sin as seriously as we should; we wrongly categorize sin as “major” or “minor”; we lack perseverance in battling our sin; we battle our sinful actions, but we fail to deal with our sinful hearts; and we confuse godly and worldly sorrow. (pgs. 178-179)  He also offers sound biblical responses to help them think biblically about their sin, and to put off sin and put on righteousness (Eph. 4:22-24).  But, putting off sin and putting on righteousness is not what saves us.  As he often does throughout the book, Graustein points his readers back to the cross, reminding them that, 

“Only Jesus Christ who has paid the price for our sins can restore our relationship with God.  Yet the life of a Christian should be marked by obedience and a deep desire to live in a way that pleases God.” (pgs. 189-190)


In light of all the “negative press” that surrounds church kids today, this book is a wonderful reminder, to teens and parents alike, that while there are challenges, temptations, and struggles associated with being raised in a Christian environment, “Growing Up Christian” is also a privilege, and a great blessing!


  1. AWESOME review. This book sounds like one I would love to really get into – having grown up Christian myself. I appreciate you highlighting the chapter “The Fight of Your Life.”

    Thanks much!

  2. Veronica – Thank you for taking the time to write this thorough review of my book. It is encouraging to hear of people God is reaching through the message of the book. I pray that young people are inspired to take a hold of their faith and live all out for Him! Karl

  3. […] did finish Karl Graustein’s Growing Up Christian, my review can be found here.  It was a wonderfully insightful look into the lives of kids who have, or who are growing up in […]

Comments are closed.