Partnership starts at birth
by Keren Loffler
Churches are recognising the importance of partnering with parents and resourcing faith in the home, as well as the vital role intergenerational relationships and participation in a church community play in growing faith in children. The Lutheran congregation at St Paul’s, Box Hill, in Melbourne is implementing strategies to walk alongside families as they learn about God’s grace and Jesus’ love for them.
The partnership with the child and their family starts at their birth and baptism.
At St Paul’s, new babies are welcomed through our cradle roll with a card and gift. From the time of the child’s baptism we assign congregational sponsors to welcome the family, pray for them, walk with them on their faith journey, make contact on baptismal anniversaries and present a ‘faith chest’ (pictured below).
Faith chests include articles such as bunny rugs and baptismal cloths made and embroidered by members of St Paul’s, a photo book, tracts and other items, and are a place to store reminders of the baptism. They were introduced in 2002 as a way of linking more closely with those who are baptised into God’s family and become part of our local church family. These are another way of encouraging the family and stressing our involvement in this amazing event.
Following the baptism the family is let know about available resources and ministry opportunities they will be invited to over the years. This includes a first baptism anniversary milestone, when the children gather with family, godparents and congregational sponsors to share memories of the baptism day, celebrate and learn about some of the resources for faith at home. Baptism birthdays are celebrated with a card and tract sent each year – one girl was so grateful to receive hers she made a thank you card.
Children and parents/carers are invited annually to take part in our Milestones Ministry (similar to Grow Ministries ‘Faith Trail’). These include steps such as first communion and receiving a Bible, as well as beginning school and prayer.
During worship the child is blessed and presented with a handmade milestone pebble. The pebbles remind the family of the event and encourage further discussion at home – one family has displayed their collection of pebbles on a board at home, and are thrilled when they can add a new one. We then have a teaching session in which families explore the topic with activities and discussion.
Participation in intergenerational worship is valued at St Paul’s, with children welcomed with toy bags and activity sheets related to each week’s Bible readings. We have members present children’s addresses and children can also serve as acolytes. The Creative Worship Team seeks to consider the needs of children and families in worship, especially during church festivals and seasons.
Each Sunday morning we have a time of children’s ministry called FISH. FISH stands for Families Integrating Sundays and Home, implementing the vision of the child, youth and family team linking what happens in worship on a Sunday with supporting families in their faith journey throughout the week.