If you take the time to do a Google search for the word, “milestones” you will be inundated with a list of developmental checkoffs for children. From their first “coo” at two months old. To a high school student that should be capable of sorting fact from fiction.
And while all of these milestones have significance, as leaders and pastors we know the most important milestones to mark are those that have an eternal reward. The milestones that mark spiritual formation.
It is our privilege to partner with parents. Especially as they encourage their children to take these steps in their faith journeys.
Spiritual milestones are those acts where children take a step in the process of spiritual formation. Steps children take as they are being transformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
As children grow spiritually, they will begin learning to discern God’s voice. They will desire to obey, wanting to follow the voice of the Holy Spirit.
It’s important to understand that spiritual formation in children is a process. Our role is to come alongside parents as they nurture their children’s faith. As children learn to allow the Holy Spirit to be their teacher, they will experience a deeper relationship with God and a life that overflows with God’s love and grace toward others.
What might faith development and spiritual milestones look like for children from birth and beyond?
Spiritual milestones can include but are not limited to:
- Baby dedications or infant baptism
- Making a personal decision to commit your life to Jesus Christ as your Savior
- Learning how to share your faith
- Memorizing Scripture
Milestone markers celebrating these spiritual milestones in the life of a child becomes a perfect opportunity for ministry leaders to model the importance of spiritual growth to parents. But why markers? Why commemorate?
Throughout history, when the people of God had an encounter with God, they would build an altar to honor God’s presence in their lives.
Take Jacob for example. When he had a life-altering experience with God and God gave him a new name, Jacob—now Israel—built an altar to remember what God did in his life. “There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother” (Genesis 35:7).
In 1 Samuel 7, we read about the prophet Samuel. He set up stones after Israel won a great victory against the Philistines. The stone, which he named Ebenezer, commemorated that victory, for “Thus far the LORD has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).
Whenever the Israelites would pass by the stone, they would remember how the LORD acted on their behalf.
When children look back at their markers, it becomes an opportunity to stop and remember all that God has done for them. It brings them back to a time they felt close to God. And also reminds them of how important these faith steps were to their parents.
Recently, I was unpacking some boxes and came across a simple certificate from the day I was dedicated to the Lord. It was so special to me. It was awesome to know my parents went to the effort of presenting me before their faith community and made a commitment to raising me in God’s ways.
I had never heard the story of that day and with both of my parents gone, the certificate was a beautiful reminder of the beginning of my faith journey. Tangible reminders serve as memories of something we might otherwise forget.
Ideas for You
Here is a list of various gifts and ideas for marking milestones:
- Dinner for families expecting a new baby is a great way to introduce the infant/baby rooms to expectant parents
- Framed blessing over the child
- Letter from the parents
- Framed life verse chosen by the parents
- Bibles for different stages – storybook Bibles, picture Bibles, beginners Bibles, The Action Bible, engraved full-text Bibles
- Devotionals and journals that can be for parents and kids to do together, or as they get older they can do independently
- Worship CD’s or playlists
- Photographs from events – dedications, baptisms, etc.
- An engraved frame with the date
- Journals with records of what took place and when
- Share your story with children and encourage parents to do the same – for example, when you gave your life to Christ, when you were baptized, etc.
The Importance of Spiritual Life
In A Theology for Family Ministry by Dr. Leon Blanchette, he explains,
“Spiritual milestones serve the Christian in much the same way a scrapbook serves as a reminder of important moments in one’s life. Pictures and mementos of significant moments of life are recorded for future remembrance … There are key moments in the spiritual life of a child. These moments have the potential to change the trajectory of a child’s journey for a lifetime … As children participate in key biblical milestones, they create mementos that are placed in the spiritual scrapbook of their lives.”
Milestone markers do not need to be expensive, but they do need to be intentional. They should reflect the importance of the process of spiritual formation and encourage spiritual growth.
As we endeavor to partner with parents who desire spiritually healthy families, let us pave the way as we celebrate these milestones and plant seeds of faith that will later grow and flourish.