In Joshua 4, God leads the Israelites through the Jordan River on their way into the Promised Land. He parts the waters for them just as He had parted the waters of the Red Sea at the exodus. They took 12 stones out of the river and set them up at Gilgal. Joshua 4:21-24 says,
He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”
Those stones served as a tangible reminder of the mighty act of God on Israel’s behalf. In similar fashion, Jesus commanded His disciples to eat a meal in remembrance of Him; baptism in the NT became an outward sign of the grace God gave, a symbol of one’s own death and resurrection, united with Christ.
Our church is beginning to look at the natural and spiritual milestones in the lives of children and teens. In my research, I’ve found that this seems to be big among Lutherans and hasn’t yet become “mainstream” among folks like Wesleyans. We like this as one aspect of family ministry here.
Milestones we like include:
- Baby dedication, emphasizing parents as the primary disciple-makers of their children from the start.
- The transition from preschool to elementary school, including a child’s movement from our preschool environments to elementary environments.
- A child’s first communion.
- The transition from elementary school (6th grade in our environments) to junior high and youth group.
- Preparing for adolescence and purity.
- Getting a driver’s license and the freedom that comes with it.
- High school graduation.
We already intentionally partner with the family during some of these moments. Others we do not. Linda Staats wrote an article for Lifelong Faith Journal that spoke of four components to each milestone.
- Naming. Giving a name to the sacred moment of rite of passage so the family sees how this is a part of their spiritual formation in Christ. This involves tying the milestone to Scripture and the story of God and perhaps a written devotional for the family to do at home.
- Equipping. Giving parents the tools and cues to start a conversation at home. This involves helping them tell their own stories (e.g., how and when and why they were baptized), as well as questions that help parents lead their children to a better grasp of what God is doing in this moment.
- Blessing. Whether corporately or one-on-one with individual families, blessing the child with prayer and words of benediction so they know this is about God’s grace. This may also include celebratory gatherings. Some milestones involve the entire congregation (e.g. communion) while others may be more private (e.g., getting a driver’s license).
- Gifting. Offering a tangible reminder of the event, just as Joshua picked 12 stones. A family may make something together, the church may provide a new Bible, or we may give suggestions for families to purchase a gift.
What do you think? What other milestones has your family celebrated? Does your church participate in something like this?