How well does your children’s ministry recognize the importance of kids’ milestones and rites?
In many cultures around the world, children are officially connected to their culture, ancestry, and belief system through a variety of rituals or rites performed at significant milestones in their lives. These rites of passage may commemorate the birth of a child, naming of a baby, the beginning of adolescence, marriage, and even death. At each passage, the community or family is bound together anew as it commemorates the next step in the individual’s life in relation to his or her community.
Rites help children know they’re making progress, growing up, and continually reconnecting to their people. In the church, this was accomplished in earlier days through a series of religious rites of passage, some still in use today in more traditional or formal churches. Baby dedications, first communion, and graduation ceremonies with gift Bibles all represent rites of passage for young people in the church.
Unfortunately, today many of our churches have lost the heart of these rituals, if not the rites themselves. Is it any wonder, then, why the church seems to lose so many young people at the key transition points — between elementary and junior high school, and between high school and college? We need to reinvest in meaningful milestones such as the following to continually reconnect kids to their church family.
RITES OF PASSAGE
New parents need to know that your church shares in their joy. Use the opportunity of a new birth to celebrate with the family and to connect parents and baby to your congregation. As with any transition point, the act doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive. However, it must be timely and consistent.
Don’t neglect even a peripheral family. Regularly advertise in your congregation that you want to hear about new births. In smaller communities, have a volunteer check the birth announcements in the newspaper against your church rolls to see if someone on the periphery of your congregation has had a baby.
Home Visits Visit the new mom and dad as soon as possible after the birth. Take along a simple gift, perhaps a handmade bib or a diaper bag, and a brochure about your church nursery. Even though many parents won’t bring the baby to the nursery for a few weeks or even months, make this rite official by taking along the registration forms required for “enrolling” the baby in your church nursery.
Showering Love Consider having a baby shower at your church and invite all the new parents from the last few months to attend. Include refreshments, a tour of your church nursery, and an introduction of your nursery staff.
Have the nursery leader explain to parents the safety and health standards you enforce and your church’s desire to partner with parents in bringing up their young ones. Take family pictures, have your senior pastor deliver a brief message, and allow time for all the new parents to meet each other. A simple book on parenting or a family devotional makes a wonderful gift from your church.