Special Events: Celebrating Rites of Passage
One of the most satisfying things in working with teenagers is watching them grow from kids into young men and women.
The period of time in which you interact with them is a crucial period for their mental, spiritual, and physical development. But are you capitalizing on these passageways from one stage of life (childhood) into another (adulthood)? By celebrating different milestones along the way, you can put an exclamation mark on their development and help them transition more smoothly.
Rites of passage are an ancient practice. In some cultures, young men and women are taken into the wilderness, given vastly more responsibilities, or even sent off on their own to mark this time. In Jewish culture, this is when bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs occur. The standard age for those celebrations in particular and other rites of passage celebrations in general is thirteen.
For Americans, this is “becoming a teenager.” Try some creative ways of celebrating this with groups or individuals in your ministry. Take the guys camping with a group of men from the church. It would be great if their dads were among those grown men present. Spend time talking about what it means to be masculine. Study Jesus and how He was the perfect example of a man. Pray for each young man on the excursion that they might grow to be a man of God. Give each student a gift to mark the occasion.
Take young women on a relaxing day at a spa. Talk to them about what it means to be a godly woman. Study Proverbs 31 together or the lives of admirable women in the Scripture. Talk to them about modesty, integrity, and guarding their hearts. Give them a gift to celebrate their passageway from being a girl to becoming a young woman. Challenge them to follow Jesus and not fashion magazines.
There are a ton of other ways to celebrate rites of passage. Allow the following to get your own imagination going for different transitions students go through:
Try These Ideas:
Give incoming students (6th graders, 9th graders) a special welcome on their first day with your group. Throw a party in their honor. Play get to know you games. Say a prayer for them as they join you in community.
Attend Graduation Parties:
Take time to celebrate with high school graduates and their families. This is also a great time to meet family members who are not believers.
Hold a Special Event for Graduates:
Allow your church family to celebrate together the sending off of a high school graduate. Have a special graduation honors service on a Sunday morning, issuing a direct challenge to those graduates to go out and live for Jesus.
Work with a College-Age Ministry:
Help high school graduates transition smoothly by bridging the gap between your ministry and what's next for them (and if they don't have a “what's next” make sure you help them stay plugged in somehow!)
Visit Elementary Ministries in Your Church:
Be present with the younger students in your midst so they feel like they know you once they reach your age group. Guest teach in their Sunday school class or go on a special trip or event with them. Learn as many names as you can in advance.
Do you have other ideas? Go on! Give it a try. Helping students transition into and out of your ministry not only makes your ministry stronger—it helps them grow in their faith no matter what age they are!