A Plan for Spiritual Benchmarking

Whether you call them tree rings, annual rings, or growth rings, chances are you learned about these formational markers as a child.

The growth rings of a tree tell its story.

Each of these “growth rings” represents a season of a tree’s growth and development. Within a single ring, we’re provided a snapshot of experiences and events during a particular time of a tree’s life.

Trees develop in response to their environment. In years of higher precipitation, they grow more, resulting in thicker rings. Thinner rings show years with minimal precipitation. Rings with dents, knots, or dark scars tell what life was like in that tree’s year, from lightning strikes, to pruning, to wind damage.

What you may not know is people have these rings, too. And they have a lot to do with the formation of faith.

The GrowthRings of our lives tell OUR stories.

Just like trees, people respond to their environment. With each passing year, we experience a new season of growth based on what goes on in and around us. We grow more in seasons when we are “poured” into, resulting in strong, vibrant rings. Other rings may be narrow or damaged as we undergo times of challenge and stress. We can see the scars of our own sin and the effect of the brokenness that surrounds us.

Through GrowthRings, we’re provided a snapshot of experiences and events within a particular time in a person’s life. The compilation of these rings tells the story of each individual’s faith and reveals a tool we call spiritual benchmarking.

Spiritual benchmarking is not a curriculum or a program. Don’t confuse it for milestone ministry. Milestone ministry focuses on events throughout life such as baptism, first Bible, or confirmation. Spiritual benchmarking focuses on passing on faith in everyday living. It integrates activities, interactions, and conversations into life based on a benchmark for that season. As Deuteronomy 6:7b tells us, “…when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (NIV). Each ring grows upon the last, adding ring after ring of faith development.

It’s critical to acknowledge what we all know: there is no plan, formula, curriculum, program, or checklist that guarantees spiritual formation and forever faith in our children. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

We recognize some parents can feel unequipped for their role as primary spiritual influencers. Spiritual benchmarking is a tool for ministry leaders to use to help parents embrace growing family faith at home.

At GrowFamily, we wanted a simple and sustainable spiritual benchmarking process that wasn’t intimidating for parents, yet was intentional, experiential, relational, and generational. With all that considered, we developed GrowthRings®.

GrowthRings® began rooted in the gospel with God’s Word at the core. Through research of the theories of cognitive, psychosocial, and faith development, we identified 20 spiritual benchmarks. This process of GrowthRings® benchmarking was further developed on the frontlines of family ministry in churches. Here’s a small peak at the overview:

Whether you use this model or create your own, spiritual benchmarking is a way of ministry that grows family faith foundations for generations.

You can access this entire magazine for free here: Edition 32

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