If you’ve ever taken a road trip, then you understand the importance of mile markers. They clue you in to where you are. How much farther you have until you cross the state line. How long until you arrive at that much needed gas station or rest area.
In life, we have mile markers. We have milestones. We have those significant events in life that cause us to reflect on where we stand, celebrate what we have accomplished, or mark the start of a new chapter.
As churches minister to children and families, there are often milestones that are acknowledged by the church: The birth or adoption of a child. Child dedication. Baptism. Confirmation.
How do churches mark these important milestones? Here are some great stories from the community of children’s ministry.
Kristina Rinderspacher, Children’s Ministry Director
Pathfinder Church, Portage, Michigan
When Kristina was sharing how her church celebrates milestones in the lives of children and families, she was quick to explain that much of it is not original to her church. “Much has been compiled from Bryan Hayne’s books and the think-tank of our ministry team. And then added and tweaked all the time.”
The church celebrates birth and/or adoption with a visit by a ministry team member and a gift including a board book, a handmade hat knit by a church member, and a letter from the church. They also set up meals if the family requests it.
When an infant or child is then ready to be baptized, the family meets with ministry staff first. After the baptism, the family is presented with meaningful gifts. Infants that have been baptized are given quilts handmade by a group of quilters that meet at the church. The women add the name and baptism date to the quilt.
While Kristina’s church regularly does “sprinkle” baptisms, they annually do immersion baptisms. Instead of a quilt, the people baptized are given a towel with their name and baptism date embroidered on it. When the quilts or towels are presented, the pastor talks about wrapping God’s love around the individual.
When children are baptized, the parents are also given penny jars. The pennies in the jars represent how many weeks the parents have until their child turns 18. Kristina will add a scripture verse and the child’s name and baptism date to the jar. The parents are given the suggestion to take out one penny per week. The jar will serve as a constant reminder of the importance of instilling faith in their children. (Kristina got the idea for the penny jar from this article.)
Royal Palm Beach, Florida
“We do a family baptism celebration!” Shelby’s church throws a big party after their worship services. The celebration includes cupcakes and a party with families. After the party, all the families head into the sanctuary for the baptism. The pastor prayers over the kids and begins.
One awesome aspect to this celebration-style baptism format? “Sometimes we also have parents get baptized with the kids! Our last family baptism celebration, we had a grandma, mom, and child all get baptized together! Grandma helped baptize mom, grandma and mom helped baptize child! Beautiful thing!”
Lynn Magee, Children’s Pastor
Light the Way Church, Cottage Grove, Minnesota
Lynn’s church sets aside time at the close of the service for infant baptisms. Parents may choose to do it publicly with the congregation or privately with their family and friends. The pastor baptizes with water, oil, and a blessing. The parents are asked to write a blessing and speak it over their child(ren). Lynn shares that some parents and grandparents have been so creative, writing poems or music for this.
Also, in the certificate given to the family, the meaning of both the first and middle names of the child is written. Those meanings are incorporated into the pastoral blessing spoken over the child.
Bryan Tribble, Children’s Pastor
Crossway Church, Vicksburg, Mississippi
Bryan’s church celebrates an infant or child dedication with a Family Dedication. This is for any child of any age. The family dedication is not included in the worship service. “We do a separate event in order to make it a bigger deal. A few minutes in a service were not what we were wanting to do.” Bryan finds that having the family dedication as an event outside of the worship service makes for a more personal and meaningful experience.
Prior to the dedication, the parents have homework to complete. The families are also encouraged to invite those who will have influence on their child to participate and join in praying over their child. The event includes a meal and photo mementos. The church usually does the family dedications in the fall and spring.
With these churches and many others, there was one word that was often used.
The churches wanted to celebrate. Celebrate families. Celebrate babies. Celebrate parents. Celebrate salvation. Celebrate Christ.
And why shouldn’t we? In Scripture, we never read about a sinner repenting and the angels quietly preparing a certificate for the occasion. Instead, we read about rejoicing. Celebrating.
In our ministries and churches, may we be inspired by these stories and strive to mark important milestones in the style of heaven’s angelic force.
With great rejoicing and celebration!
The cupcakes are optional but definitely encouraged.