It's the season for graduations, confirmations, and first communions. In many congregations, these important benchmarks are highlighted with special prayers and rituals during worship.
Whatever the traditions are in your family of faith, it is likely there are specific ways of honoring children and young adults as they go through important life transitions.
I recently had the chance to lead worship for two congregations. The services included the Order of Confirmation (also called the Order of Affirmation of Baptism). The churches are currently without a pastor, and it was a gift to be able to fill in for Confirmation Sunday. As I watched the teenagers stand before the congregation that morning, I was reminded of the very important role all church members play in the lives of young people.
Here are a few ways you can support the children and young adults of your congregation on the special days of their faith journeys:
Introduce yourself.The impact of positive adults in the lives of children and teens is immense. Take a moment after worship and introduce yourself to the young people being celebrated. It doesn't matter if they remember your name. It matters that they know you care enough to pause and connect.
Be intentional with your words.If you do have a chance to speak to the children or teens before or after the worship service, pause and consider what the Holy Spirit might be nudging you to say. Be thoughtful with your words. I encourage you to stretch beyond complimenting them on how pretty or cute or handsome they appear in their church clothes. Teens and pre-teens are bombarded with messages about what they look like. Church is a space where we can encourage other facets of their worth. Speak words of encouragement. Consider something like, "I want you to know that as a member of this congregation, I will continue to support you in any way that I can. You have special gifts, and I am thankful for the way the Spirit of God is at work through you."
Follow-up.Graduation, confirmation, and first communion are all very special days. But the journey of faith is lifelong. Consider sending a note to the young person a month or two after the special event. Collaborate with your small group or Bible study group to put together care packages for the graduates to be sent in the fall or winter.
Connect with the family members.The benchmarks of life are a big deal for the young people being celebrated. They're also a big deal for the family members. On special days in your congregation, consider taking an extra moment to connect with the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and godparents in attendance. Ensure the family members feel comfortable, at ease, and valued! For some relatives it has likely been many years since they attended a church service. They might feel nervous or self-conscious. Your accepting, welcoming presence can play a special role in bringing peace to the hearts of all those at the worship service.
During this special season of the year, we are offered chances to extend hospitality, grace, and love to children, young adults, and their families. May the Holy Spirit equip us to make the best of every opportunity.