“Let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus…” Hebrews 12:1-2
Back in 2013, the highly-respected late Jerry Vogel wrote about a few of the spiritual mile markers to be celebrated in families’ lives (post). As many of us are planning for a new ministry year with kids transitioning to new classes, this seems like a good time to review these mile markers or checkpoints as I like to call them and consider how our ministries can partner with parents in anticipating and celebrating these spiritual mile markers.
In long-distance races, checkpoints are short stops along the path for runners to regain their strength for the next part of the race. It’s also a place where runners can be encouraged to continue on, nurse any injuries, reevaluate their strategy, and plan for adjustments as the race resumes. Checkpoints are places to revitalize runners and then send them back to the race. These life checkpoints provide natural opportunities to partner with parents to recoup, reevaluate, and realign strategies for moving forward.
Checkpoint #1 – Welcome to the Family
- Birth/Adoption – Whether it’s a family’s first child, second, or fifth, each new child adds new rhythms to a family’s life, celebrations and joys along with potential anxiety and challenges.
- “New Addition” Gift Bag – Consider creating a small gift bag to give to new families when a new baby is born or a child is adopted.
- Parenting classes/conference – A great idea for expectant parents is to offer them dedicated training on children’s spiritual growth. Such training should include theology of biblical parenting, trust development, and looking ahead toward future checkpoints.
- Baby/Parent/Family Dedication – This is a great checkpoint to provide additional training, like a class mentioned above, to young parents on God’s expectations for Christian parents, showing them how you desire to partner with them in their parenting journey.
Checkpoint #2 – First Steps
- Moving up to “Big Church” – Consider preparing “welcome to worship” bags for preschoolers who are transitioning into big church. Offering specific training to help parents/caregivers prepare for this change can help to soothe their nerves and remind them that children will learn how to worship best by watching adults worship.
- Learning to Read – Consider celebrating this checkpoint with a meaningful Bible presentation. If your budget allows, your church may purchase an age-appropriate Bible for each kindergartner or first grader. If your budget doesn’t allow or if you prefer to help parents choose their own Bible to give, be sure to guide parents in knowing what kind of Bible would be best for their child. LifeWay offers several options of age-appropriate Bibles at lifeway.com.
Checkpoint #3 – Growing in Faith
- “What Is a Christian?” class – Often times kids who regularly attend church will start asking questions about salvation and/or baptism, and parents will immediately jump to trying to schedule a child’s baptism. Having a checkpoint in your ministry to equip parents to ask good questions of their child will give them greater confidence in talking with their children about salvation and baptism.
- New Christian Class – An effective New Christian class can give children an opportunity to validate their response to Jesus, as well as give each child and parent confidence they are on a path that is firmly rooted in Scripture. LifeWay Kids’ “I’m a Christian Now” resources can lend structure this checkpoint.
- Baptism – Here are a few ideas for developing a strategy to partner with parents in celebrating this checkpoint:
- Provide parents with a one-sheet overview of your church’s theology of believer’s baptism.
- Create a “baptism checklist” to help guide families. Include items like meeting with you or your pastor (according to the practices of your church), mail/email invitations, plan a family meal, provide a “next steps” devotional to each child to guide them in developing healthy spiritual habits.\
- First Lord’s Supper – A child who is a new Christian will likely be very excited to finally participate in this church ordinance.
- Help parents anticipate this moment with a dedicated family conversation. Provide a one-sheet overview of your church’s beliefs about the Lord’s Supper, including who is allowed to participate and why, how often it is observed, etc.
Checkpoint #4 – Next Steps
- Discipleship – Many parents feel uncertain how to help children grow in their newfound faith by developing healthy spiritual habits (spiritual disciplines). LifeWay Kids’ Growing in My Faith 90-day Devotional can be a helpful resource for families.
- Moving into the next age group in your ministry – A final checkpoint that would fall under your ministry would likely be to guide kids and families as they transition into student ministry. Many parents and preteens feel inadequately prepared to move through this checkpoint. Some options here might be: host a parent panel Q&A session with more seasoned parents, connect seasoned parents with parents of preteens in an informal mentor-type setting to allow for more intimate questions, training classes and resources for equipping parents to talk with their kids about all that is changing in their lives, and preteen weekend retreat.
There are other checkpoints that you may choose to include, but hopefully, this has helped you start or continue thinking about ways you can partner and celebrate with parents as the kids in your ministry cross each of life’s checkpoints. I encourage you to “run with endurance the race that lies before [you], keeping [your] eyes on Jesus… ” as you “pursue as [your] goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:1-2; Philippians 3:13-14)
Jeremy Carroll is the team leader for LifeWay Kids Discipleship Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he has been active in local church ministry for nearly 20 years in TN, TX, and AL. Jeremy earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A Middle Tennessee native, he and his family live in Murfreesboro, TN.