It was “1980 something” and I was at my grandma's house celebrating my seventh birthday. Of course, I got the common seven-year-old gifts, A LOT of GI Joes, Nerf stuff, and oh-so-popular clothes. Before singing and birthday cake, my dad pulled me aside and asked me to follow him into the other room. Once I got there, my dad told me that he had one more gift and wanted to give it to me privately. I walked into the room and saw him dig into his pocket. “What could it be?” I wondered. Was it money? Maybe an action figure? No, it was a small black leather case.
He handed it to me and told me to open it. I unbuckled the flap and out came a small pocket knife. It was amazing; it had brass ends and a smooth dark wood center. I looked at my dad and saw a huge smile on his face. I wanted to open it and see the blade, so I handed it back to my dad. He told me that if I wanted the knife then I had to open it myself. I carefully opened the blade and immediately felt empowered and strong. After a very short time admiring the blade, my dad told me that he had one at my age and that he wanted to give one to his son. At that moment my mom started to call for us for cake time. With fear in my dad's eyes, he quickly took the knife from my hand and put it back in his pocket, and said we would show mom the knife later. I found out years later that my mom didn’t know my dad was going to give me a knife that night.
Now I don’t condone the idea of hiding stuff from your spouse, but my dad knew that my mom would not approve and that she would be afraid I might cut myself; which I did a lot. But to my dad, it was a rite of passage for the Joneses. It was an invitation to responsibility, and not to be taken lightly. Of course, as the years went on there were other rites of passage, like being left home alone for the first time, getting my own dirt-bike and the ultimate rite of passage for a young man...the handing over of the car keys. Looking back at those times it was much more than me getting stuff as I aged, but more of a blessing from parent to son. My parents were blessing me with the opportunity to become responsible, maybe sooner than they should have...but that's a different story.
This memory got me thinking. What kind of legacy and blessings are we leaving for our children? Now as for my dad, he wanted me to have sweet knife skills hence the gift of the knife, but what about my kids? I have always said that if my children grow up to love God and love people, then I will feel I’ve won at being a dad. The question is how do we get there? I feel rites of passage are the answer. In regard to your kid's relationship with God, rites of passage can help the family take each milestone in your child's faith to celebrate and highlight it’s importance as well as look forward to the future. So what does a rite of passage look like in the church? Well, it starts in our Sunday Preschool.
With our preschoolers, we model and encourage Living in God’s Love with lessons, games, crafts and music. We want children at this age to know that church is a safe place in which to have fun, and be a kid. As our kids finish Sunday Preschool at Granite Creek, we want every child to know that God created them and loves them.
After Preschool, our students Kindergarten age through 1st Grade move up to the Granite Creek Club House, our teaching focus moves to Service and Responsibility. This is the time we want to introduce serving others and the importance of the Church being a blessing to others. This is a great time to look for service projects where the family can serve together. This is also a time to talk to students about the discipline of tithing, and given the opportunity, to give back to God.
When our students enter the 2nd and 3rd grade we introduce an Invitation to the Bible. This is an age of development where students feel more confident in their reading skills and are likely to want a Bible of their own. They begin to learn how to use a Bible, and are encouraged to read scripture out loud in their Sunday school classroom, as well as around the dinner table!
In Fourth and Fifth grade the focus becomes A Call to Prayer. This is a time when we teach our students the power of prayer. Students begin practicing praying out loud for their peers as well as understanding the value of asking for prayer.
As students enter junior high school this is a perfect time for an invitation to Enter Community. This is the age where finding your “people/tribe” is important. Students will learn the importance of choosing godly friends, as well as how to be a godly friend. Transitioning from Elementary to junior high school is a big step, and the church wants to recognize that. Junior high students enjoy Sunday morning worship with adults in the main sanctuary before heading up to the youth room for their lesson. This is an opportunity for the students to view the church as a whole, and to know they are a part of the church community.
As high school students, the last rite of passage is A Call to Share and Serve: During high school years, students will learn of the importance of serving the church. Opportunities for serving the church such as serving in the worship band and teaching kids in children's ministry will be presented. Students will see the importance of sharing their faith, and be given opportunities to do so. By the time our students graduate from school, we hope that these rites of passage will help build a lasting foundation for their personal growth in the Word of God, and creates a legacy that will carry on from generation to generation in their own families.
Granite Creek sees this as a guideline on how the church can come alongside families to help pass on the legacy and blessings of faith to their children. Every family is different and rites of passages are going to look different for each, but the important thing is to set the course. Show your kids that these spiritual blessings are some of the most important things one can learn, and pass down. Memorable gifts are great, but passing on the ability to serve others is priceless.
- Pastor Michael Jones