The church year is filled with special days and milestones which add depth and meaning to our Christian experiences. Milestones for children are significant seasons in life celebrated by the church in order to highlight identified stages of Christian development. The church recognizes these milestones to encourage children and lift them up to the Lord. Here are some special, fun, and meaningful milestones and ideas you may use or adapt for the families of your church. Involve the children with active participation so that they are not only taught the faith but become part of the faith story.
Baby Recognition - Select a day of worship during the month of January to present small pink and blue Bibles to babies born into the church family the previous year. This is commonly celebrated during Sunday morning worship with a brief practice directly beforehand. The children and their parents are called forward and each family is presented with a Bible, followed by a blessing. “Jesus Loves Me” is a sweet hymn for the congregation to sing together to close out the ceremony. A wonderful addition to this special day is to monogram each Bible and/or write the children’s names inside.
Worship Bags - Preschoolers often need a little something extra to lessen the wiggles when they participate in corporate worship. Small tote bags filled with quiet activities are the perfect way to enhance the worship experience for little ones. Ideas for items to include in the totes: pipe cleaners, coloring pages, crayons, bendables, stickers, puzzles, notepads that read “Scribble Pad for Little Methodists.” Celebrate preschoolers by presenting tote bags to them on a selected day of worship. Encourage families thereafter to bring the bags to worship. You will be pleasantly surprised to see how many actually remember!
Kindergarten Story Bibles - Kindergarten is a perfect time to celebrate children as they take the giant step of starting big school. Story Bibles make a wonderful gift and can be presented during Sunday School or during a children’s activity as a way to recognize this special milestone.
Blessing of the Backpacks - The beginning of the school year provides a wonderful opportunity for churches to celebrate this important and exciting time. Blessing of the Backpacks recognizes the significance of fresh starts and new beginnings by using liturgy and prayer to bless and honor students, teachers, and school administrators. This is a simple ceremony with a huge impact. It is also one of the greatest evangelism opportunities of the year because children and youth can easily invite friends to participate. Please visit these two websites for ideas:
Third Grade Bibles - Presenting Bibles to third grade children during worship is a long standing tradition for many United Methodist Churches. Try this idea to add something new to this special day. Invite parents/grandparents/caregivers to come to church early on the day of the Bible presentation to wrap the Bibles of their own children in layers of paper explained below. Place a card on top explaining the significance of the wrapping paper so that the children may read the meanings as they unwrap their Bibles following worship or with their families later at home.
Gold paper - because the Bible is a treasure
Paper bag - symbolizing the historical value of the Bible
Comic strip paper - representing the Bible is fun to read
White paper - signifying the holiness and purity of the Bible
Confirmation - Confirmation marks the first time one publicly takes the vows of baptism and membership. Visit https://www.umc.org/ to learn more about this milestone for children.
Note: Some of the thoughts and ideas above are inspired from the book Celebrating Special Days in the Church School Year by Judy Gattis Smith and the website buildfaith.org noted above.