description: there are many spiritual markers that dot the timeline during the 18 years a child is in the family’s immediate care. let’s discover how to be intentional about applying a Gospel-centered approach during special times from birth to high school graduation.
in a Bible study, i am taking it describes john as a man that had Jesus as the very core of his existence. this really got me thinking about all we do in ministry. let’s not look at these spiritual marker celebration times as programs or events, but a chance to make the Gospel the core of their existence.
Gospel-centered spiritual markers – the whys:
– the goal is the Gospel. without it we have just another event.
– celebrations don’t change lives, the Gospel does.
– these spiritual markers bring many non-believers and/or family members together.
Gospel-centered filter – five question to ask when planning/evaluating spiritual marker events/celebrations.
– is the Gospel at the core of this spiritual marker celebration?
– does it create an opportunity for life-change?
– how is it different than worldly celebration? (is Jesus the takeaway?)
– is the Word of God the backbone of the celebration?
– how will you help families apply these truths beyond the walls of the church?
– intentionally share Gospel with expecting parents – because so many coming to the church or back to the church in this
season.as this time
– expecting parents have an assigned prayer partner and encourager.
– testimony from Christ-centered, seasoned parents
– challenge families to look ahead with an eternal perspective -in the end, what matters most?
– hospital visits include intentional conversation and prayer.
– gifts for new parents: prayer book, Bible with babies name, magazines, books
– family mission statement (what kind of 18 year old you want)
– life verse
– letter from pastor sharing the Gospel for kids to open when they are older (8, 13, etc.)
– church challenged to pray and support the family
– challenge to families to share Gospel with family through this celebration
– God’s Words is how kids learn the Gospel
– highlight verses that outline the Gospel (roman road – Gospel God’s plan for me)
– teacher and staff scriptures to get kids into God’s Word
– involve family in this – Gospel class with parents
– share the God’s truth based on scripture
– allow families to experience truth
– kids discuss truth with parents
new believer & baptism – build on foundation of the Gospel
– new Christian’s class
– how to grow – what’s next (devotional)
– how to study God’s Word family class – help them own their faith.
– Gospel testimony during baptism (whether written or on video).
– lesson plan of basic Bible truths taught by church leaders.
– secret prayer partner (a vetted adult in the church that they write letters back and forth with each month. adults are given a topic to write about.) this means there is another adult praying for and investing in that child.
– parents write and read aloud a letter to their child as they transition to student ministry. (important for a child to hear the words said not just read.)
– 3 year discipleship plan
apologetics, spiritual gifts, spiritual disciplines
– mentors patiently pouring the Gospel into middle school
– free standing coffee gift card to talk
– purity commitment service (purity not just to wait, but purity for kingdom purposes)
– coupons to pass or ask to talk
high school graduation
– lead in worship – share testimony of life-change
– special Sunday commissioning them from pulpit
– assign church prayer partner for first year in college
– college Bible and devotion
during this breakout at #etch16, we had participants share ideas they had about celebrating spiritual markers. they were a wealth of great stuff. here are some things they shared:
prebirth: new parent resources, a tour of nursery and prayer time, baby day, new mother classes, read, pray and sing out loud.
birth: we do meal sign-ups for families.
baby dedication: certificate for parents with commitments, a Bible storybook fo parents to read with their baby, a picture frame with a verse the parent’s picked to pray over their child’s life, a Bibel with their name and a tag blanket with Jesus loves you, part of our special services for them as we commit to these families, a jar with 18 large fancy marbles to take out each year, a first Bible, we have fmailies write a blessing and we put them togtherin a book and give it to the parents/baby.
new Bible: “moving up”ceremony we give a new Bible and the pastor’s wife writes a blessing inside, promotion sunday 3rd graders get Bible and farewell gift to tween is a teen study Bible, a few weeks after giving new Bibles we have a Bible blast. the kids and parents start with Bible 101 classes. kids do fun activities to learn how to use their Bible. we end the night with a Bible bash., we highlight our favorite verses and sign the Bible, after we make it a big deal for 3rd graders to get their Bible, we start a Bible boot camp with the kids and parents, any community or churched kid that doesn’t have a Bible gets one.
seeking Jesus: parents/child classes on baptism and communion. often times parents make decisions to follow Christ after these classes, we run alpha for adult, teens, and we have kids alpha, testimony – parents act some at school and home, make sure the same truths flow from the youngest in nursery to the once a year visitor. there has to be continuity.
new believer/baptism, confirmation: we rent a pool and have a big church picnic and baptism celebration, send 90-day devotion book to kids after they are baptized, meet with cm director, pastor and kids to chat, gice a take home resource for parents to continue the conversation, we make a video that is given later, once they come out of the water we all stand and rejoice, baptism is at the lake at our campground, t-shirts, picnic for extended fmailies and testimonies, baptism with hankerchief that is embroidered with their name, date, of baptism for a keepsake, at our baptism class we mark the kids hands with black and have them walk across a cross and when they reach the other side we remove the mark to show they are forgiven, make a vide of the person saying why they are getting baptized and thanking thos einstrumental in this step. we have a special confirmation worship service in front of the congregation and celebrate what these youth are doing, send cards to each confirmed celebrating their commitment.
tween transition: parents and 5th graders attend middle school programming together and stay after for a q&a with the youth pastor, lock-in (fun games, devo, prayer and blessing), teens kidnap 6th graders for a fun day of bonding with the youth group, give them their own space and let them make some decisions for themselves, graduation sunday, grade 5 graduation – parents and kids come and we do a video, cake and they get a Bible, we do a 4th-6th grade retreat. (it is a weekend long and our youth minister comes and helps teach so they get familiar with him.
other: send onesies in the mail to new babies, plan family fun night at our church with games that involve everyone ending with a short takeaway, faith notes (simple guide to continue faith conversation outside of the church doors, our preschool rotate classroom (we have one room for crafts, one for game, and one for lesson. it helps them focus and keeps toys out.)
here are other ideas from participants in my breakout at lifeway’s etch conference a couple years ago:
- home dedications – this helps include families that start coming to church when children are older, or for adopted children.
- pink and blue party – invite expecting parents and baby room workers and tour the preschool area
- testimonies from seasoned parents – structured and Gospel-centered
- make a new mom devotional book complete with devotions written by season parents in the church.
- parents write letter to child including verses.
- senior adults make wooden treasure boxes for baby’s dedication. these boxes hold memories form their spiritual journey.
- mentors for new parents
- a parent “commissioning” service
- home visit after birth and a two week meal schedule
- required classes for parents along with milestones (i.e. baby dedication)
- personalize baby dedication (fewer vs bunches)
- bring new parents to staff or seasoned parents house to partake in a family devotional.
- online classes & orientation of the Gospel before dedication
- weekend trip with teen – share testimony, Biblical man/womanhood, rite of passage
- mother/daughter and father/son events
- spiritual gifts assessment to help them feel a part of the body of Christ and begin to serve
- take classes of kids to church to observe and take communion after a class on the Lord’s Supper
- transition retreat with kidmin and student ministry leaders
- parents present Bible to child in new Bible class/sunday
- intergenerational service on sunday mornings
- high schoolers serving in middle school small groups
- high school graduation dinner with staff
- for seniors – get a 4×6 photo album. adults write notes and verses on cards. cards and pictures are added to each students album.
you are welcome to use these ideas in your local church setting, i just ask you do not teach my content at other conferences.
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