Every congregation does milestones ministry. Baptism, confirmation, weddings, and funerals are all prime examples of life-changing and faith-forming milestones. However, even congregations that acknowledge that they do milestones ministry often miss how to take full advantage of what this vital, twenty-first century ministry has to offer congregations, homes, individuals, and the larger church and society. Here are four helpful strategies embedded in milestones ministry that will maximize your congregation’s effective faith formation and outreach. Paying attention to the following four steps will enrich your milestones ministry in home and congregation.
- Make it fully cross+generational. Most congregations do some form of milestones ministry like giving Bibles to children, celebrating Holy Communion, or beginning confirmation. Yes, it is a wonderful gift to families to have children and parents or guardians together to learn about and experience God’s love in Christ. However, the best use of these and other milestones is to invite the larger congregation and community of care. Elders in the congregation have much to offer both parents and children. Grandparents and other family and friends can benefit from and be a gift to the milestones ministry event. The multitude of generations gathered together have much to gain by reviewing and learning about their own faith formation in a cross+generational context.
- Follow up contact is essential to meaningful faith formation. For too long the church’s ministry has been a mile wide and an inch deep. What shapes lives of faith is contact over time to support and care for people in the lifelong journey of faith (what we call “shepherding”). It may be a follow up gathering a month later to learn how the initial milestone event blessed peoples lives and what questions and concerns need to be addressed. It may be a team of shepherds from the congregation (shut-in people can do this well) who make a simple phone call to see how things are going, what faith practices are working well, and what issues need assistance. A simple phone call does much to encourage people in their life of faith. More than one person has responded, “Oh, thank you. This call was an answer to prayer.” Gaining feedback from milestone ministry participants not only blesses the participants, it blesses the leaders with information on what worked well and what can be improved for future events.
- It’s all about outreach. Yes, faith formation is critical. Our lives of faith are challenged all the time by competing influences, values, and priorities (various forms of another “faith”). But at the heart of Christian faith formation is outreach. Growing in one’s faith is not a private affair. It is about the kingdom of God and reaching the larger world with the grace, mercy, and peace of God that only Christ brings. Every Milestone Module produced by Milestones Ministry, LLC includes ways to reach out through the particular milestone to others. Inviting others to participate from the community of family, friends and neighbors can easily be incorporated into these events. Milestone participants will learn simple faith practices like a table grace, greetings, blessings, and prayer that will touch the lives of others with the word of God and the love of God. Outreach is about the ability and comfort to speak the faith out loud.
- Make milestones ministry a way of life. By offering a variety of milestone events (both Milestone Modules and Milestone Moments) over time teaches people how to experience the faith with others through the Four Key Faith Practices. Soon people will realize how simple it is to take any meaningful moment in life and make it into an opportunity to be nurtured in the Christian faith through caring conversations, a devotional word, service to others, and Christian rituals and traditions that root lives in the rich soil of God’s word and sacraments. Milestone Moments like a birthday, reviewing a report card, or caring for an injury become the routine in life, not the exception. They all become sacred, holy moments. Yes, public worship is important to the life of faith. So is the community of faith that gathers in homes and coffee shops to address mountain top highs and valley lows that we all face day in and day out. Making milestones ministry a way of life is making the Christian faith the ground and center of one’s hope, faith, and love now and always. So what is the glue that holds together the occasional Milestone Moment in one’s life: Taking Faith Home. We may celebrate or recall a Milestone Moment several times a year, but it is Taking Faith Home that grounds us in the same faith practices day in and day out. Milestones Ministry resources like Modules and Moments are bridged by daily opportunities to be enriched by the word of God in word and action.