Exploring the Growth Model II: Developmental Tasks

If the growth environment is the soil in which we grow up, we can think of four stages (or “tasks”) that put language to the stages of growth in our lives. Rather than being completely linear, these are interrelated and happen cyclically as well. The four developmental tasks as described by Dr. Cloud are: Bonding, Boundaries, Good/Bad Split and Adulthood. Recognizing that even the terms themselves are culturally-informed, in Epic we often use different language to describe these growth tasks.

By TJ Poon

Authentic Belonging

Bonding, or authentic belonging, is the ability to form meaningful connections with others. Authentic belonging is the ability to establish an emotional attachment to another person. It is the ability to relate to someone on the deepest level without fear of rejection.

God is a connected being – we were created to be connected with God and others in relationship. Fruitfulness in the Christian life comes as the product of relationships where we experience connection and belonging; Jesus talks about this when he talks about us abiding in him in John 15. People who have been raised in an atmosphere of belonging, love and affirmation have the ability to trust which is necessary to have connected relationships with others.


  • Where have I, in the past or currently, experienced authentic belonging?


  • Recognize need for others.
  • Move toward others.
  • Create an environment that values story, honesty, and vulnerability.
  • Be intentional about cultivating relationships with others who value vulnerability, transparency, and you.
  • Internalize God’s love; rely on the Holy Spirit for the ability to do these things.

Owning Voice and Choice Within Community

If the first task is connecting with others, the second task is separating from others. This is often called boundaries, but that word can be misunderstood. The process of separating from others is the ability to recognize our own selves – who we are apart from others. We all have a self, but we don’t all have the skills to recognize that self; we can be so enmeshed with others or with expectations from others, that we aren’t able to recognize parts of our own being or even our own desires. Recognizing self can be thought of as owning your own voice and choice within community. 

A person who is living in community may choose to submit his or her own desires for the good of the community, but that is not the same as being unaware of one’s own wants and desires. For each of us, it is essential that we are able to recognize what we are and what we are not, what we will choose and what we will not choose, what we will endure and what we will not endure, what we feel and what we will not feel, what we like and what we do not like, and what we want and what we do not want. Only when we have a fully-defined self can we offer that self to God and others. 


  • How frequently are you aware of your own voice and desires? In what situations do you tend to lose connection to yourself?
  • In what areas do you need to grow in recognizing yourself? (Body, attitude, feelings, abilities, limits, desires, behavior, choices)


  • Get to know your own preferences.
  • Learn to own your feelings.
  • Embrace your “no” muscles and learn to respect others’ “no” muscles as well.
    • This is critically important in a ministry context. While we desire for others to grow and serve, we need to be aware of creating an environment of compulsion. It is important that others be able to say no to us, even when it comes to ministry.
  • Try different opportunities to lead and serve to find your unique God-given SHAPE. 
  • Seek community to grow to become your true self. Seek mentors who help you discover your true self surrendered to Christ.


First we have to bond with others, second we have to separate from others: the third task is to be able to accept and integrate the good and bad that we find in ourselves and others. If we do not have the ability to deal with the simultaneous existence of good and bad, we cannot successfully live in reality, because the world is good and bad.

Some people deny the bad in themselves by never dealing with their problems. Others deny the good in them and focus only on their weaknesses and failures. Both of these things exist simultaneously and through maturity, we learn to bring those things together. When we have a hard time with it, we will know by paying attention to our internal responses. If we have a difficult time accepting good and bad, there will be a condemning relationship between our ideal self and our real self. Have you ever said to yourself when you made a mistake, “I’m such an idiot?” That kind of harsh and critical self-talk reveals our struggles in this area. 

While difficult, it is necessary to live in reality about ourselves and others, seeing that we are a mix of good and bad. The less that love and acceptance of ourselves and others is tied to our ability to be all good (which is impossible), we will become more and more whole people, able to see the truth about ourselves and others.


  • The following can indicate that we need to grow in embracing our own authority. Which ones might be issues for you? 
    • Perfectionism
    • Idealism (the inability to see the “bad”)
    • Inability to accept difficult feelings, weakness, failure
    • Harsh self-talk
    • Critical attitude towards self and others
    • Hiding parts of ourselves from others


  • Practice self-compassion.
  • Admit/own your mistakes. “I really messed up. I’m sorry.” 
  • Celebrate failures in front of others.
  • Integrate uncomfortable emotions: fear, anger, sadness. These emotions enable us to grieve losses, which is how the Lord designed our hearts to receive healing.

Embracing Own Authority

We need to bond with others, we need to separate from others, we need to be able to accept the good and bad we find in ourselves and others. The fourth task is adulthood and authority – it is the act of  embracing our lives as adults, or acknowledging ourselves as the primary agent of our own lives. 

Becoming an adult is a process of gaining authority over our lives. Becoming an adult is recognizing our mutuality with every other adult. As we do this, we bear out an important aspect of the image of God and who God created us to be in the garden  – people who have responsibility and dominion over our own lives.

Again, the way we choose to do this will look differently from culture to culture. In many (not all) people from majority-culture homes, this external change can be fairly abrupt and happen at 18. In other cultures, the process may look different. Rather than relying on external cues, it’s important to examine our internal realities. Regardless of how our choices appear to others, are we becoming people who are choosing for ourselves and owning our lives?


  • The following can indicate that we need to grow in embracing our own authority. Which ones might be issues for you? 
    • An inordinate need for approval
    • Need for permission from others to think, feel or act
    • Intense fear of failure
    • Disdain for or idealization of authority figures


  • Take opportunities to lead. They will grow you in discovering your unique calling in life, to be yourself for God’s sake. 
  • Invest in having older mentors, peer mentors, and younger mentors.
  • Learn to submit to others out of freedom.
  • Learn to be a leader, a follower, and a friend as adults.
  • Give yourself permission to be an equal with your parents/higher-ups in your organization. Learn to see yourself as an adult with your parents. 
  • Respectfully disagree with authority.
  • Make your own decisions (while honoring others and seeking input).