GrowthRings: Spiritual Formation in the Faith Family - Birth through Age Five and Beyond

Teams are most successful when working together, and the faith-forming team of church and home is no exception!

The church, or faith family, plays an active role in forming children. Teaching classes, providing snacks, and holding babies in the nursery are common ways we serve. These opportunities, along with following a curriculum and providing safe environments, are all pieces in the larger faith formation puzzle.

Spiritual benchmarking provides another critical piece to that puzzle. These markers help parents and faith families walk alongside children as they grow in Christ. We call them GrowthRings®.

We’ve taken twenty years of GrowthRings®and grouped them into five-year phases. The church can develop practices that contribute to children’s faith formation in each phase. Here I provide a few ideas for use in the church context, whether interacting with children individually or in a small group setting.

As always, let me remind you that no plan, formula, curriculum, program, or checklist guarantees spiritual formation and forever faith in our children. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, with the role of the Holy Spirit being most significant.

The first phase of GrowthRings® focuses on birth through age five, but these markers should continue to permeate the lives of children of all ages.


Establish covenant love as the heartbeat of the faith family. Covenant love is nothing less than the very example of Jesus Christ. It’s sacrificial love offered when we least deserve it.

  • Host child dedication or infant baptism, depending on your faith practices.
  • Have parents choose a Scripture passage for their child. At the dedication service, hand out cards with the child’s name and the verse. Ask the congregation to pray the Scripture over the child regularly.
  • Commit to providing a safe, loving environment for children.


Speak life-giving words from Scripture into the lives of children regularly. Blessings can be spoken over a child for the purpose of declaring God’s protection, joy, or wisdom over them.

  • At the end of any class or worship time, as parents pick up children from a group or nursery, release each child individually with a blessing.
  • Give blessings at the end of a service or class as part of dismissal. Alternatively, set the tone for your time together by blessing each child as they enter.
  • Post Scripture blessings throughout the nursery, such as over the changing table. Empower volunteers to bless children while changing, feeding, rocking, or stacking 50 blocks.


Model “faith talk” as a primary language so kids can experience faith in their daily routine.

  • Mold play-dough with a small group, creating things that show God’s blessings or things you are thankful for.
  • Take advantage of teachable moments during which you can illustrate your faith. If you see a rainbow share Noah’s experience; after playing “Follow-the-Leader,” point out how you try to follow Jesus; when replacing a light bulb, explain what it means to be a “light” to others.
  • Share your favorite passage of Scripture or Bible story with a child.


Show children that God is everywhere in everything by marveling at His care and creation. Take notice of the small things with admiration and amazed curiosity, from raindrops in puddles to smelling the roses!

  • Marvel at God! Share stories where you see God at work in creation with awe.
  • Ask open-ended wondering questions when sharing stories of the Bible, such as “I wonder how Mary felt when she saw the angel?” Don’t expect an answer; allow children space to live in the story.
  • When worshipping with children, you don’t have to fill every minute with activity. Provide intentional, guided, quiet space to allow children to experience and hear from God.


Acknowledge God’s constant presence and fellowship through constant communication and trust.

  • Connect children with a prayer partner, a member of the church family who will hold that child in prayer regularly.
  • Designate a space for a “prayer board.” Keep it updated with children’s requests for prayer along with answered prayers.
  • Have a class or group “Prayer Bear.” Use a small stuffed bear with a card of instructions around his neck. Children take turns bringing the bear home for one week. The card around the bear’s neck should instruct the family how to pray together throughout the week. The bear is returned the following week.

These markers should be adapted to use with children as they grow. Seek ways to connect with children in love, blessing, wonder, faith, and prayer as a faith family. You will see growth not only in children but in the faith family as a whole!

You can access this entire magazine for free here: Edition 36

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