Growing Family Faith: How to Use Spiritual Benchmarking

We all want life-long faith for children. But ministry is not one-size-fits-all. Each community, congregation, and family is unique. What’s more, every child is unique. That means each map that guides the spiritual formation of a child will also be perfectly unique, even within each family.

As a children’s ministry leader, I appreciate organizations that have set specific age-based outcomes for the spiritual development of children. It helps me to set a median goal for a group of kids.

As a parent, looking at each child in my home, these goals have been less helpful. My firstborn not only met every “suggested outcome,” he surpassed them! My second child is a free spirit. She had her own plan about how things were going to go. I constantly worried because I was using the same map of outcomes that I had used for my son. My daughter needed a completely different map that took her in a different course at a different pace.

Today both of these kids are rocks when it comes to faith. But we learned early on as parents that our family discipleship plan needed to be less rigid and more Spirit inspired.

In the issue #32 of Entre Niños magazine, I introduced you to a tool called spiritual benchmarking. It is the practice of setting marks or goals that serve as achievable targets. It focuses on passing on faith in everyday living. It integrates activities, interactions, and conversations based on a benchmark for a specific amount of time in a child’s life. We’ve seen parents of older children use this plan for one year, focusing on a benchmark each month, then repeating the following year. Other parents have focused on a benchmark every three months or six months at a time.

Benchmarking allows us to identify points on a journey of spiritual formation that everyone can use to aid in planning their own unique map. At GrowFamily Faith, we use the GrowthRings® model to help parents with home discipleship. We created this model after many years as parents and even more years as children’s and family pastors. We wanted a plan that would help moms, dads, grandparents, and families embrace their role as disciple-makers that wasn’t overwhelming in content or practicality. We also wanted to leave all the room necessary for the Holy Spirit to work in each individual child and parent.

Here are five steps to use spiritual benchmarks in forming faith.

1. Commit to one benchmark each year or season. We use a 20-year plan you can find at If you have an infant, start at the beginning and take a full year to practice that benchmark and integrate it into his life. If your child is older, focus on one benchmark over one month, three months, or six months. The commitment is about making time to spend with your children for the specific purpose of that benchmark. Some benchmarks, such as love, are easier to live into. Others, such as mercy, don’t come naturally and take more effort.
2. Pray! Ask for God’s help and guidance through this journey of disciple-making and living out faith together.
3. Be intentional about finding opportunities to nurture that benchmark. For example, set a routine for speaking a blessing over your child. Words can be spoken at bedtime or before the school bus arrives. In addition, written blessings can be posted on a bathroom mirror or in a lunch box.
4. Debrief faith nurturing experiences as a family. After participating in an act of serving together, continue the work with honest conversations. Talk about how it went, what feelings you had, and where you felt God working. Brainstorm what God may be leading you to next and make plans to carry out this next idea over the following week. It doesn’t have to be a new idea—God may be returning you back to the same place! Be open and listen to His Spirit and remember that your child has an equal portion of that same Spirit. Give consideration and affirmation to their thoughts and ideas.
5. Repeat. Week after week, repeat work that nurtures the benchmark you’re investing in. New habits take time to become natural practices! There is no formula for creating a faith lifestyle, but it does take a lot of practice to live it out every day. Faith practices such as mercy, stewardship, serving, and trust are hard, even for adults.

Using spiritual benchmarking, you’ll build a solid foundation in each practice. As you move on to each new benchmark, you’ll see how you’re building layer upon layer, a faith that lasts. The most important message in spiritual benchmarking is that you are learning and following Jesus together. This process not only helps to form faith in your child, but without a doubt, it will strengthen your own discipleship muscles.

You can access this entire magazine for free here: Edition 34

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