Milestones at Ascension
"Just as the ancient roadways used stones to mark the miles traveled, so homes can use faith milestones to mark our journey.”
Milestone ministries are designed to help parents and families become comfortable with faith talk. Milestones ministry is about opportunities for education, support, recognition, and affirmation. Milestones ministry helps build a child’s relationship with Jesus and with faith-bearing adults.
Purposes of Milestone Ministries:
· to recognize and affirm moments that are right for a child’s next step in his/her faith journey and to celebrate it in the life of the congregation;
· to equip the Christian home as the primary place where faith formation occurs;
· to empower the Christian home for its ministry of passing on the faith to children by modeling the importance of nurturing faith in a worship experience;
· to involve the members of the congregation in supporting parents in their ministry of nurturing their children’s faith;
MILESTONES AT ASCENSION
Baptism ~ The whole congregation celebrates this event in worship. A faith chest is made and finished by members of Ascension. A baptismal certificate, suitable for framing, is presented to the family along with the baptismal candle, candle holder, and napkin. These things and pictures, video and other items from the service can be placed inside the faith chest and brought out on the anniversary of the child’s baptism. Parents are given a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism and a child’s first Bible to assist them in passing on the faith. Sponsors are also given a book to guide them in their role.
Baptismal Birthday Celebration ~ Jesus certainly did not see baptism as a one day event. He saw it as an entrance to a way of life. One thing we encourage you to do is to celebrate the baptismal birthdays of everyone in your household. If you don’t know the dates, research them! Try and find out the story of your day and tell it – each year, over and over again. Write it down in your bibles and the bibles of your children. It’s that important!
Prayer ~ At about two years of age, children are beginning to learn how to pray simple prayers like table prayers and bedtime prayers. This milestone event for two-year-olds and their parents seeks to nurture the habit of praying with and for our children. Two-year-olds are paired with other members of the congregation as prayer partners, who encourage and pray for each other. This milestone is celebrated the first weekend in December. Combining this celebration with a celebration of the coming of the Christ child provides the children with an opportunity to hear the Christmas story, pray together and sing songs. They are given a prayer pillow, made by members of the congregation, which contains a pocket in which to keep prayers—Luther’s morning and evening prayers, Twelve Days of Christmas prayers, and monthly prayers.
Sunday School ~ In baptism, parents promise to provide for their children’s instruction in the Christian faith. This milestone is when that promise begins. Children who are three years old by September 1st are invited to begin Sunday School. To celebrate this new beginning, three-year-olds and their parents are invited to a Noah’s Ark Party. They experience what a Sunday School session is like through a lesson about Noah’s Ark, songs, and snack. They also receive their very own Bible. This milestone is celebrated the weekend of Rally Day, which is the weekend following Labor Day.
Worship ~ In baptism, parents promise to bring their children to the services of God’s house. Children are needed and welcome in worship. We strongly encourage pre-schoolers to come to worship with their congregational family. So, this is an appropriate time in their faith journey to introduce them to the basics of worship. They, along with their parents and a “praise partner,” are invited to meet in the sanctuary and learn about Lutheran liturgy. They walk through a worship service by putting a worship puzzle together. They also are given a coloring book of the elements of worship. This “Created to Praise” party is a milestone that is celebrated in February or March.
Blessing of the Backpack ~ This milestone blessing is celebrated the weekend prior to school starting in the Fall. Although the primary reach is to children and youth, people of all ages are going back to school. All who wish to come forward, with or without their backpack, will receive a blessing and a key tag to remind them they are part of God’s family.
Schooled in Generosity ~ This milestone event is for kindergartners and explores ways we can share God’s love with one another. We discuss God’s generosity use the book, The Quiltmaker’s Gift, which tells of the unhappiness of greed and the joy of generosity. This milestone marks your child’s completion of kindergarten and preparation for elementary school. Kindergartners will receive a lap quilt just as the graduating seniors receive a full-size quilt.
Blessing Assistants at Sacrament Services ~ This milestone for 1st graders and their parents teaches the importance of blessing one another as God has blessed us to be blessings. Parents and children learn about various blessings used in worship and those which can be used at home. The 1st graders are commissioned as BASS [Blessing Assistants at Sacrament Services] and are given training to do that job: During the distribution of Holy Communion, the blessing assistant follows the pastor and distributes goldfish crackers to those who do not yet commune, blessing them with the words, “Jesus loves you.” This milestone event takes place in October.
Prayer ~ This milestone is for 2nd graders and their parents. It focuses on the various kinds of prayer. They are invited to write prayers for 2-year-olds to be placed in their prayer pillows. They receive prayer resources and a prayer block to remind them of prayers to use at home. This takes place in February.
Bible ~ In baptism, parents promise to place the word of God into their child’s hands, and this milestone is designed to support that. This milestone is celebrated in January and is for 3rd graders and their parents. In November, children are given a Bible and instructed to have their parents highlight favorite Bible passages, write prayers and words of encouragement in the margins, and then to pass it on to their child’s baptismal sponsors, grandparents, other relatives, and friends to do the same. A “used” Bible is far more intriguing than a new one. Children and their parents review the various books of the Bible and are given a devotional to use as they read it together at home.
The Church Year ~ This milestone is designed to assist parents in helping their child grow in his/her ability to participate actively in corporate worship and in family devotions. At this milestone event, fourth graders and parents are introduced to the seasons of the church year and the significance of each. Each 4th grader is assigned weekends in the church year to illustrate one of the lectionary texts. These illustrations are used as bulletin art. Using the texts for a given weekend’s worship as family devotions helps the child visualize and draw a picture that illustrates one of those texts. At the event, fruit pizza is also made representing the colors of the seasons of the church year. Participants receive an “artist’s toolkit” filled with note cards, pencils, a sharpener and an eraser to help them in their artistic endeavors.
First Communion ~ Through this milestone, children learn that Holy Communion is a family meal for the family of God. It is called “eucharist” because we eat and drink in a spirit of thanksgiving. We are thankful that we have become part of God’s family through baptism. We are thankful that God loves us. We are thankful that Christ is really present to us in the bread and wine. We are thankful that this meal draws us closer to our community of fellow believers of every place and time. This milestone is for fifth graders and their parents and is celebrated at a overnight retreat the third weekend in October at camp NeSoDak.
Baptism/Middle school ~ This milestone is for sixth graders and their parents and is celebrated toward the end of summer, before life as a middle schooler begins. This milestone examines what it means to be a baptized child of God, created in God’s own image, and how that helps when facing the trials and tribulations of middle school. The sixth graders decorate baptismal candle holders for upcoming baptisms while their parents decorate locker mirrors to remind their children of God’s love for them. Imago Dei!
Communion Steward ~ This milestone is for seventh graders and their parents and is celebrated at the end of August. It includes a tour of a working vineyard and a discussion of John 15. The workshop concludes with a big finale - climbing into a barrel of grapes and stomping away! Seventh graders are mentored by those who regularly prepare communion for worship. The youth will learn the significance of the elements and develop a deeper appreciation for the sacrament and its benefits. Then in worship, the youth will be commissioned to be a “Communion Steward.” Stewards provide additional bread and wine to the Communion servers.
Journey into Confirmation ~ In October of their 8th grade year, youth begin their journey into confirmation. They don’t travel alone, though. Parents and other caring, faith-bearing adults will be with them. At this milestone event, confirmation youth and parents will get their road map of expectations for the upcoming years. The workshop takes place in September before the start of Confirmation.
“Freedom Bakers” ~ At this milestone workshop for HS freshmen and their parents, they study the Passover and learn about the bread we serve during Holy Communion. Throughout the season of Lent, we use wafers which are basically unleavened bread. This was the bread of the Passover and reminds us of God giving the Hebrews freedom from slavery in Egypt. God told the Israelites to have a special meal that night the angel of death passed over and every year afterward on that date. The bread of this special meal needed to be made in a hurry – there was no time to allow it to rise so it was made without leavening. For us, the wafers we use at Lent serve as a reminder of God’s immediate presence to those in danger and in need. It also reminds us of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God – who is Jesus the Christ. Through HIS death and resurrection we have ALL been given freedom! Participants of this milestone prepare unleavened bread which is used at the Ash Wednesday worship service.
Confirmation ~ Confirmation begins in 8th grade and concludes with the service of affirmation of baptism in the fall of their 10th grade year. Luther’s Small Catechism is the main curriculum as well as lessons about Luther himself. Parents serve as confirmation guides and story tellers. Classes meet most Wednesdays during the school year for workshop events, fellowship events and service events. The first class typically begins the first Wednesday in October. On Rally Day of their 10th grade year, students participate in a Faith Walk & Talk to culminate their confirmation experience. They are confirmed in late September or October.
Called & Gifted ~ This milestone is for HS Juniors and is based on Isaiah 43:1: “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” No matter where we go or what we do, we are created, redeemed, and called by God - and nothing we do can change that. So, how does that calling and our unique gifts, talents, and interests determine our vocation? We end with a quote by Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
High School Graduation ~ This milestone is celebrated in May of a youth’s senior year in high school. As these graduates prepare to enter the world of work or further education, the congregation wraps them in love and prayer with the gift of a quilt made by our quilters. During worship, the youth and their family are called forward to receive a blessing as well. A reception between services is held in their honor as the congregation sends them forth with God’s blessing.
New Driver’s License ~ This milestone is celebrated in early August. Everyone who has gotten a new driver’s license, whether it be the first driver’s license, a renewal license, or their first SD license. The license is blessed during a ceremony in worship. A police officer is often present to remind the licensees of the privilege of having a driver’s license. Each new licensee is given a visor clip or key ring.