Turning a Child’s Developmental Transitions into Faith Milestones

By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

It wasn’t long ago that my first child was born. My overwhelming joy and excitement upon meeting her were quickly overcome by a sudden realization that I’m a parent and we (my wife and I) were responsible for raising this little one to adulthood. It seems like each stage of a child’s development brings about an amazing amount of on-the-job training. Just when you think either you can’t take it anymore or you’ve got the kinks worked out, bam – suddenly, your child enters the next stage. Think about it: you start to wonder if you can take another night of interrupted sleep, then suddenly she is sleeping through the night, but now she has learned to crawl. From there we have a walker, then terrible twos, potty training, impulsive preschooler, kindergarten, a grade school student, homework, tests, more homework, sports, and it keeps going on and on. When she was a baby, her teen years seemed so far away and now she is 13. Another stage of development that I’m not feeling equipped to navigate as a parent.

Yet, I’ve been blessed with a great community of friends that have provided wise counsel, prayer (a lot of prayer), encouragement, constructive criticism, and directed me to great resources. One thing that seems to come up at each stage of a child’s development, besides my blood pressure, is another opportunity to help my child grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve squandered a good number of these opportunities, but one I’ve been preparing for a long time was my daughter’s 13th birthday. My wife and I decided that we wanted to equip, train, and empower her towards being an adult during adolescence. So, we decided to begin this new stage of development with a ceremony. We called it a Rite of Passage celebration. Our goals were simple: reveal the community of support and wisdom that is available to her and help her to see herself the way God (and her parents) see her.

This entailed a series of outings with various women that are involved in her life – aunts, family friends, grandmas, journey group leader from youth group, and mom. Each of these women spent quality time with my daughter and shared a specific component of wisdom related to being a woman of God. Grandpa wanted to be involved, so he took her on a date and showed her how a gentlemen should treat a young lady. We culminated these adventures with a celebration ceremony with these same women, family, and a few of her close friends. Each person described how her personality, giftings, and character shine in her life, work, and relationships. My wife and I shared how we see God’s heart working in her, and I had the opportunity to share a special blessing. We ended by worshipping together and praying for her faith and future to remain intimately connected to her Heavenly Father.

The transition to a teenager is still a challenging time for her and for us as parents, but we were able to create a milestone, a marker to remind us that God has been and will always be with our daughter. This takes some of the pressure off our shoulders and helps us to know that we aren’t parenting alone. God has surrounded our daughter with people from an early age and has been guiding her development all along.

We still are caught off guard by our kids and know that we will continue to struggle with our role as parents. Yet, this transition provided us with an incentive to mark other milestones with our younger children and to continue engaging God’s guidance and our community of friends, family, and church leaders in this journey.

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