a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a particular place.
an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.
Historically, we used this term to refer to a literal stone marking the distance along a road. In today's culture, the language of milestones is used in a variety of ways, from personal fitness to workflow to child development. We think of them as goals or markers along the way toward a destination.
We also use markers to help us get somewhere. In my community that includes referencing grain silos, and big red barns. But I also know my favorite coffee shops on my drive from home to St. Louis where my sister lives; specifically, the one in Indiana which marks the halfway point. The point of milestones is to be a reference point for the distance traveled and the remaining journey, but they also create a sense of intentionality and meaning-making.
I've had the privilege of traveling around the world. I've lived in various places in this country and I've learned something: In various cultures, rites of passage, or milestones matter.
Rites of passage include the transition from infancy to preschool. From preschool to school-age. And childhood to adolescence. In Jewish culture, the bar/bat mitzvah happens at the age of 13, the time when boys and girls begin to bear personal responsibility for living out Jewish law and tradition. Another major life milestone is the marriage ceremony, celebrating the moment when two become one.
Milestones also comes with a shift in responsibility and purpose. Rites of passage are often established to help a kid or family navigate the confusing and ambiguous space between one stage of life to another. Having a clear marker of milestones creates intentionality and purpose across the transition.
Why Should Milestone Matter to a Church?
Knowing a milestone is approaching, some communities will gather around young people to help them prepare for life ahead. I think the church should take this cue.
Milestones provide church communities with the unique opportunity to intersect with families and equip them.
Churches can use these life milestones to not only encourage but model how to normalize spiritual conversations within their home life. How? Take the pressure off parents. Encourage them to shift their view away from the notion that “spiritual conversation” requires opening the book of Exodus on the dinner table every night for a family Bible study. Instead, help them move it toward simply integrating spirituality into everyday life and experiences. Our desire is for spiritual conversations in the family taxi to be as normal as the conversations about basketball or the latest movie.