Here’s why it matters that we make the most out of kids’ big faith milestone moments — and 20 ideas for every stage of your children’s ministry.
As a children’s minister, can you ever forget the adoring look parents have as their newborn is dedicated to God? Or the excitement on kids’ faces as they receive their first Bible? And how about the preteens who melt your heart as they thank you for helping them learn about God at their elementary school graduation?
Big moments in life — rites of passage — are important to all of us. Yet we often commemorate such occasions with a passing “congratulations” or a greeting card, and miss out on the high-impact ministry that’s possible during these significant moments. Capitalize on faith-development opportunities by playing an active role in kids’ rites of passage with these creative ideas.
Faith Milestone: New Arrivals
The birth of a baby is a significant event in every family. Use these ideas to minister to new parents as they embark on their parenting adventure.
Expectant Parents Dinner
Several times a year our preschool department hosts a dinner for expectant parents. We mail invitations worthy of being saved as baby book keepsakes, and we also post an announcement in our bulletin for newcomers who may not be in our church database.
We serve a complete dinner with a few humorous menu items such as pickles, ice cream, and fruit-flavored chewable antacids. During dinner, expectant parents meet other new parents and our nursery staff. We provide information about our nursery, a calendar of events for new parents, and a magnet with our ministry’s contact information. We give parents a box of baby wipes with our preschool logo on it and a gift certificate for a free night at Parent’s Night Out, an evening of childcare we provide to parents.
After dinner, our nursery staff prays for all of the unborn babies in the room. We give parents certificates signed by the staff that say, “You were prayed for before you were born!” We end the evening with tours of our nursery and preschool areas, and our staff can answer any questions our expectant parents have.
Welcome to the Family
We publicly welcome new babies during our church service. We take a photo of each family and display it on the big screen as the family comes up to the front. Our pastor introduces the baby as the newest member of our church family. We give parents a certificate that says, “Gold Coast Christian Family would like to welcome the newest member of our church family, (baby’s name), who was born on (birth date).” We attach a rose to the certificate and give the family a subscription to a Christian parenting magazine.
Our church had a group of professional nurses who made home visits to new parents. Nurse volunteers set up two visits, one within two weeks and one within two months of a baby’s birth. Parents could ask questions about newborn care such as bathing or nursing. They loved this gift from our ministry, and it’s a great way for nurses to use their professional expertise to minister.
Faith Milestone: Baby Dedications
When parents make a commitment to teach and demonstrate their Christian faith to their newborns, partner with them as they embark on a family faith journey.
Devoted to Family
Our baby dedication services devote the entire weekend to celebrating family. We ask participating parents to complete a class explaining our church’s position on child dedication a week prior to the service. Our pastor teaches about dedication, including the parent’s role and the church’s responsibility of teaching and modeling faith.
A volunteer creates boutonnieres for parents made of fabric and buttons. Beforehand, we ask parents to choose a Life Verse for their child. We print it on the certificate and encourage parents to share it with family to help them be accountable as faith mentors.
White Bear Lake, Minnesota
Pray for Me
We ask parents to write a prayer for their child prior to our dedication service. We have samples and encourage parents to think about what they’d like God to do in the child’s life. A parent or a family representative reads the prayer as the child is dedicated. We frame the prayers for parents to keep. Many of our parents save these prayers and give them to their children as high school graduation gifts.
Hazel Park, Michigan
The Right Start
Our church serves breakfast for families prior to dedication service. As families arrive, a photographer takes a family photo with the pastor, which we frame with the child’s name and dedication date. Parents learn the morning’s schedule, and then our pastor talks about this significant parenting decision. We conclude with a prayer for each child and family.
Then, before we open the doors to allow people into the dedication service, we usher families in for a group photo and allow them to choose seats close to the front for their family and friends.
Faith Milestone: Remember Me
Death is one of life’s most difficult passages. Whether it’s the passing of a child or an adult family member, these ideas can assist you as you plan funerals and walk alongside families during a difficult time.
When an infant or child dies, we give the parents an engraved silver ornament with the child’s name and birth date.
We’ve also made keepsake quilts for families. If you have someone in your congregation who quilts, create a blanket that has fabric from a child’s favorite blanket or T-shirt. You can also use fabric blocks created by children in the child’s Sunday school class with pictures or words depicting their favorite memory of the child.
Still Praising His Name
When assisting families with funeral preparation for a child, I always ask which songs their child liked best from Sunday school or vacation Bible school. With the family’s permission, I incorporate those songs into the service. We’ve invited our children’s choir or worship team to lead these kid favorites. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the child’s faith and for children in attendance to understand that death is also a celebration of life.
At the end of the service, I have helium balloons available for kids to attach notes of remembrance to. We gather everyone outdoors before leaving for the cemetery to pray and then symbolically send the balloons to heaven. (You may need to check with your local airport before launching balloons.)
I attended a funeral for a woman who was very close to her grandchildren. To honor their special bond, the oldest grandchild invited all kids in attendance up to the front to hear her read her grandma’s favorite storybook. It was touching to watch a teenager read the very book her grandmother had read to her when she was young.
Faith Milestone: Life-Changing Water
Publicly proclaiming a faith commitment through baptism is a significant point in many people’s faith walk. Help make the experience memorable for children and families who observe this rite with these baptism ideas.
In Their Own Words
Many kids feel intimidated when asked to speak in front of a large group. But listening to how kids made their decision to follow Jesus can be life-changing for others. So prior to your baptism service, conduct video interviews with the kids to capture on camera their path to faith and what it means to them.
Before each child is baptized, show an edited video clip that captures the essence of the child’s faith. Make copies of the videos for families as a keepsake.
If your church allows it, encourage parents to actively participate in their child’s baptism. It’s meaningful and memorable for parents to assist in immersing their child in the waters of baptism. If your denomination calls for an ordained pastor to conduct baptisms, consider having parents share with children the joy and celebration of witnessing them profess their personal faith. Do this by videotaping the parents’ statement to their children or having them come up front to offer a brief statement.
Tell the World
Celebrate kids’ baptisms with everyone in your ministry by creating a baptism poster to hang in your area. Purchase a poster-sized frame and insert pictures of kids in your upcoming service along with their ages and details about them, such as their favorite Bible verse or how they decided to follow Jesus.
Then take lots of photos at your baptism service of the same kids and insert them into the frame for families to see.
Remember the Day
In my database, I input the date kids are baptized. On the anniversary of their baptism, I send them a card to remind them of their special day. I include a Bible verse to encourage them in their faith walk for the upcoming year, and I commit to pray for children and their relationship with Jesus on their anniversary dates. Kids are often surprised that I remember when they were baptized and are grateful to be reminded that their decision was significant enough to be remembered yearly.
Faith Milestone: Movin’ Up
Promotion to the next grade is a big deal for kids-it gives them a sense of accomplishment and anticipation. Mark this yearly tradition with these fresh ideas.
Pray for Me
As kids leave our nursery, we ask volunteers to commit to praying for individual children for one year as they move up to the preschool ministry. If they say yes, we give them a card with the child’s photo, birth date, address, phone number, and family members’ names. We get written permission from parents before pairing preschoolers with a prayer partner and also ask for specific prayer requests for the child and family. We write those on the back of the child’s card.
This idea can be used for any age or grade at promotion time. Parents appreciate knowing someone is praying for their children, and kids enjoy the special notes and reminders their prayer partners send them throughout the year letting them know their church family loves them.
New Providence, New Jersey
Many kids in our community struggle academically, and each school year there are several kids who don’t progress to the next grade. So to encourage all kids, we hold a special BEAR (Behavior, Enthusiasm, Attitude, Respect) awards night. Kids get a special family invitation to the awards night dinner, and we serve a kid-friendly meal such as pizza or spaghetti and ice cream.
After dinner, we have a ceremony where each child receives an award not for their achievements but for one of the four BEAR qualities. Kids get awards such as “Always thinking of others first,” and “Wears a big smile each week.” Each child receives a certificate along with a small teddy bear, and we feature all of their photos on the big screen. We finish with a movie and popcorn.
On promotion Sunday, we have parents drop off kids in their regular classrooms. Toward the end of the service, our pastor dismisses parents early so they can attend our promotion ceremony. We call kids up to the front by their current grade and ask their new leader to stand at the back of the room. We introduce the leader for kids’ upcoming grade and then ask parents to form a tunnel for their kids to run through to their new leader. Parents cheer as kids pass through the tunnel; then the new leader escorts kids and their families to the new classroom for a tour and treats.
Faith Milestone: The Gift of the Word
Many churches present Bibles to children as gifts at various ages. This rite of passage signifies the importance of the Bible to our faith. Use these ideas to help make your Bible presentations memorable.
Ready to Read
We present Bibles to first graders to celebrate their graduation to elementary-age ministry. They are given age-appropriate Bibles during our worship service and invite families to lunch where we photograph each child with the pastor. We also give parents a book that helps them guide kids in their faith journey.
People in our congregation sponsor a Bible for kids at our Bible presentation service. We order Bibles by the case for a discount and ask donors to write a special note on a self-adhesive bookplate prior to the service. We give each sponsor a bookmark of gratitude that includes the age-level characteristics of children receiving Bibles and ideas on how they can pray for these kids in the upcoming year.
After your Bible presentation, serve refreshments that include fortune cookies baked by your youth ministries. Instead of slipping a fortune inside, have teenagers insert an uplifting Bible verse in each cookie.
Maple Valley, Washington
Light the Way
We give accompaniment gifts to children during our Bible presentations. For nonreaders, we present Bibles with good pictures and include a small teddy bear. We emphasize that just as the teddy bear is our comfort and friend, Jesus also comforts us and is always a friend who’s with us wherever we go. For our young readers, we include a small flashlight along with a Bible. We explain that the flashlight is for times they can’t sleep-they can pull out their Bible and read about heroes or find comforting words to help them fall asleep peacefully. We also emphasize that God is always with us-day and night-and God’s Word is the best guide to light the way in any situation.
North Branch, Minnesota
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