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.
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