SPIRITUAL FORMATION TIMELINE
This discipleship timeline/roadmap covers the progression of intended outcomes for each age group from cradle to grave. This document is global in nature and provides a simple and helpful matrix from which regional and local church leaders can evaluate and build their discipleship ministries.
Also, see the Spiritual Formation Timeline document.
Infancy – Toddler
Parents, siblings, and caregivers.
Age 0 – 2
What to know: That one belongs to a family of faith. Learn basic words and language related to Christian faith and practice. How to know it: Parents, family, and caregivers use “faith words” as they speak and interact with child.
What to feel: Trust and love as foundational emotional experience. How to feel it: Surrounded by love, nurture, consistent care that provides security and safety.
What to do: Be baptized or dedicated. Experience the world as a safe and secure place. Parents take child to church and practice faith at home. Why do it: To establish one’s identity as one of God’s people. To be able to have faith in others and God at later stages of life. To become accustomed to Christian practices from early on.
Celebrate with the congregation through infant baptism or baby dedication. Begin attending Sunday School or other children’s discipleship groups.
Parents, siblings, caregivers, teachers
Age 3 – Age 5
What to know: Stories of God and God’s people. Basic sense of right and wrong, loving and unloving ways of treating others.
How to know it: Having Bible stories read to them; re-telling and acting out Bible stories; Read the Bible for oneself. Careful parent instruction and modeling of Christlike treatment of others.
What to feel: Positive view of God and God’s relationship with people. Love/appreciation for the Bible. How to feel it: Play and imagination; playacting worship and other church activities. Observe parents and others treasure and enjoy Bible reading and study.
What to do: Give thanks to God through prayers and attending worship. Show kindness and hospitality to others. Why do it: To acknowledge God as Creator and giver of good things. To practice thankfulness, gratitude, humility
Be given a Story Bible as they enter this time of life. Meet with the student and their primary faith influencers to discuss the importance of family and personal devotions. Receive Communion.
Parents, teachers, children’s ministers, congregational members, pastors.
Age 6 – 11
What to know: Basics of God’s will for God’s people; identify as Christian. Begin to relate the Bible to everyday life. How to know it: Formal instruction; modeling and faithful examples.
What to feel: Loyalty and love toward God and God’s people. How to feel it: Obey and honor God; identify with people from the congregation.
What to do: Participate in worship; pray; read Scripture. Participate in local service projects through family and congregation. Begin practicing financial stewardship/tithing. Why do it: To demonstrate love for God and other people; to practice obedience to God.
As they enter this time of life: Celebrate with the congregation in the receiving of an age-appropriate Bible. Baptism for those who were not baptized as infants. For those who have been baptized, some sort of ceremony of affirmation / re-affirmation / confirmation. Psalm 139: 13-18/ Luke 2:52
Church family, peers, adult mentors, parents.
Age 12 – 15
What to know: Christian theology; grasp abstract ideas and conceptions of faith. How to know it: Study foundational Christian beliefs, doctrines, & history; modeling by faithful Christians
What to feel: Devoted to God and desire to love and serve God at a personal level. Begin to “own” the faith handed down as one’s personal faith. How to feel it: Commit to follow God in personal relationship.
What to do: Commit to taking “ownership” of the faith that has been handed down to oneself. Take active leadership in ministry and worship. Why do it: To give visible expression to God’s gracious work in one’s life and one’s faithful response to God’s grace.
As they enter this time of life: Celebration of one’s unique person and welcome to entering into adolescence (similar to Bar- or Bat- Mitzvah). Baptism for those who were not baptized as infants. For those who have been baptized, some sort of ceremony of affirmation / re-affirmation / confirmation. Church membership.
Peer groups, faith mentors, parents, congregation
Age 16 – 21
What to know: Explore and question details of Christian doctrine and ethics. How to know it: Continued study of Bible and theology in interactive and open discussion with adults and especially with peers.
What to feel: Experience the person of the Holy Spirit in real life. Desire to share God’s love with others. How to feel it: Become attuned to hearing/sensing God speak to one’s inner spirit through the Holy Spirit. Begin to view the world and others from God’s perspective.
What to do: Identify with a specific faith tradition and contribute to its life and ministry. Serve in local church ministries; participate in local and international mission trips & compassionate ministries. Share one’s faith intentionally through word and deed. Why do it: Experience and put into action one’s beliefs.
As they graduate from high school: Celebrate with the congregation by blessing them into the next time of life. Church membership if not already a member
Peer groups, faith mentors, congregation
Age 22 – 35
What to know: Distinctives of Christian faith in relation to other faiths and worldviews. How to know it: Think critically about faith; ask hard questions. Reflect, analyze, and discuss these questions and possible answers in context of supportive and challenging groups of peers and mentors.
What to feel: Experience holiness of heart: a sense of full acceptance and forgiveness by God and a corresponding love and devotion for God. Feel confidence in God’s love and concern. Empathy with, and generosity toward, other people and traditions. How to feel it: Seek guidance and power of the Holy Spirit in all aspects of life. Reflect on and open oneself to God’s love
What to do: Practice holiness of life: authentic acceptance and love for others, expressed through wholehearted hospitality and service. Christian vocation: Clarify how to utilize one’s gifts and talents in their profession, family life, church and civic commitments for the sake of others and the world. Establish family rituals and traditions that are distinctly Christian. Practice good stewardship of God’s resources and gifts. Why do it: To respond to God’s offer to make one holy. To respond to God’s call to act as God’s people in the world. To build family solidarity and identity that provides comfort by reminding each other who they are. To sanctify ordinary time by pointing to the sacred that underlies everyday experiences. To remember that all gifts come originally from God and humans are to use and manage those resources well.
Parents Christian Parenting Celebrating previous milestones with their children, Single College and professional achievements, Married No Children College and professional achievements Family Devotions, All Daily and Seasonal Rituals
Family, peer groups, congregation
Age 36 – 60
What to know: How faith impacts one’s vocation, work, family life. How to know it: Reflect on previous knowledge and learn other perspectives. Learn advanced skills and knowledge.
What to feel: Awareness of, and humility for one’s limitations. Sense of responsibility for the spiritual welfare of others, within and outside of one’s family and congregation. How to feel it: Become more comfortable with paradox and conflicting views and faiths. Learn to empathize with others by seeing them through the eyes of Jesus.
What to do: Tell stories of family history and experiences, as well as those of the congregation. Create and/or participate in experiences and events that express one’s faith, within and outside one’s family and church. Become involved in generating and sharing lifeenhancing activities for one’s family, community, church, and the world. Why do it: To remind each other of shared history, and one’s place as an important member of the family and church. To contribute to God’s reign and God’s purposes in the world.
Parents Christian Parenting Celebrating previous milestones with their children Single Continued studies and professional achievements Church responsibilities, Married No Children Continued studies and professional achievements Church responsibilities, All Daily and Seasonal Rituals
Family, peer groups, congregation.
Age 61 – 100
What to know: Christian views of time, death, life after death, and Christian hope. How to know it: Continued theological and biblical study and reflection. Support groups and spiritual friendships.
What to feel: Peace amidst increasing degrees of grief and loss. Satisfaction with one’s place in, and contributions to, God’s Kingdom. How to feel it: Seek deeper sense of union/ oneness with Christ.
What to do: Pass on faith. Volunteer. Mentor. Live simply. Prepare for final years and death. Why do it: To leave a legacy of Christian faith. To stay engaged in Christian life and service. To enter into final rest with faith and hope in the final resurrection.
Grandparent Grandparenthood Celebarting previous milestones with children and grandchildren
Single, Married, Married No Children?, All
This discipleship timeline/roadmap covers the progression of intended outcomes for each age group from cradle to grave. This document will be global in nature and will provide a simple and helpful matrix from which regional and local church leaders can evaluate and build their discipleship ministries. An intended outcome of this project is to increase the integration and intergenerational connectedness of the discipleship process in the minds of those responsible for discipleship in the local church. This discipleship tool will be helpful to churches of all sizes and ages; allowing them to link to appropriate resources, networks, websites.