It is May and everyone is thinking about graduation. Most of us have gotten an invitation or announcement and some are preparing to graduate a child from high school or college. How did that happen? The little child we held on our knee, watched as they danced or played tee-ball, is now walking down the aisle in cap and gown. There is a flood of emotions as we rejoice in their accomplishment of finishing school and yet we ask ourselves if we could have prepared them better for life, for making decisions, for following their Lord.
At our church we have a Baccalaureate dinner and then a service the following Sunday to recognize high school seniors. The families and clergy celebrate the graduates and pray over them…launching them on their way to college or career. Five years ago, my friend Corrie participated in this event and I want to share what she wrote to the parents of young children at our church. She had a graduate leaving home and she had recently welcomed a new baby into her home. Please read what she wrote from her heart and think how you might prepare your child for his or her Baccalaureate.
Make This Your Baccalaureate
By Corrie M.
This Sunday, 20 high school seniors, including my son, Willliam, will process down the nave of our church for their Baccalaureate service. Thinking about it now makes me teary-eyed, but it also makes me think of you—my new friends in the Early Years Ministry. Your baccalaureate Sunday probably seems eons away, but trust me, it will be here before you know it and whether you plan for it or not.
Many of you have heard me talk about how God has given me a second chance to be a better parent. Don’t get me wrong. By the grace of God, William has turned out to be more fun and finer than I could have ever imagined. But as I think about where our family was just three years ago, I know that without some crazy intensive work by God, we wouldn’t be participating in any church’s baccalaureate and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to share some thoughts with you. I have the unique opportunity to experience the end of one childhood in time to make changes for another. I won’t bore you with my whole story, but I have some thoughts I’d like you to consider.
This Sunday, I want you to think of the baccalaureate service as yours. Start preparing now… Like right now…
First, pick out five to seven photos of your child, including one baby photo (that’s the easy one) to be part of the slide show for the whole church. What memories do you want to share with your church family? Do they know your children or will the photos be only slightly familiar? The clergy might request photos of your child participating in church activities. Do you have any? I’m sure you’ll have t-ball, piano recital and travel soccer photos. But what about photos from first communion, VBS, fifth grade “fly up” to the youth program, Guatemala or Cuba mission trips, Dynamos, acolyting, reading as a youth lector, Real Life, serving dinner to the homeless as a family mission, summer trips to Universal Studios and middle school lock-ins? Do you have of these?
Second, you need to provide your child’s favorite Bible verse. Does she have one? Does she know the Bible at all? These kids are about to embark on a part of their life where they will probably need the Bible and its teachings the most. Wouldn’t you feel better if you knew your child knew the Bible in his or her heart?
Next, the clergy will say a few words about your child at the baccalaureate dinner. Do the priests know your child? Do they have stories and memories to share? The only way they will know your children is if you make a point to be a part of the church.
Finally, at the baccalaureate dinner you’ll be asked to stand, lay hands on, and say a prayer for your child. I am not sure how I will make it through this part without completely breaking out in tears. Is it right to ask for guidance on a prayer? I wish I could share our special prayer with you, one that we prayed together for years that he would recognize. There’s not one for William, but Phillip will have one!
It all started hitting home for me at the end of his junior year in high school. Where did the time go? In less than a year, he would be moving away from home. He would be making decisions on his own from what time to get up in the morning to choosing a career to how he’ll spend his free time. No one will be there to remind him of whose he is, what is right or how he should behave. My work is done. Or was it? I wish I had thought of all of these things when I made the decision years ago to not put the effort into church.
If you want church and God to be a priority to your child, then you have to start now. I know it’s difficult to get the baby ready for church. It’s much more difficult, however, to get that middle schooler or high schooler to go when you haven’t set the precedent. It is so cliché, but it all goes by so incredibly fast. Before you know it, you’ve committed to travel ball and you miss more church than you attend. Or perhaps you forgot about Wednesday nights activities and classes, and you’ve signed your little one up for ballet that prevents you from bringing the family to church on Wednesdays. I can’t urge you enough to make those decisions with next week’s Baccalaureate service in mind.
In one month, William will be heading off to college. So here’s something else to consider. What do you want for your child as you send them off to college? Through the years you will prepare them academically, physically and socially. What are your plans to prepare them spiritually? Do you put the same thought, time and money into their spiritual development? I bet that most of you already have a college fund. You probably read to them every night because heaven forbid they start kindergarten without knowing how. You teach them to cheer on your favorite sports team. But are you also making time to teach them to pray? Do you read the Bible together? Do you find time throughout your day to talk about your Christian life and the little things that set you and your family apart because of your faith?
Are you preparing them with the end in mind?
One of our clergy spoke at our brunch last September. His message was loud and clear. Be involved in the church. Studies show that children have formed their spiritual beliefs by the time they are NINE YEARS OLD, and 95 percent of Christians were baptized by the time they were 18! Fortunately, my church understands this importance, hence the Early Years Ministry and the Children’s Ministry. Be active! Have your children be active. Surround them with older kids who make Christianity seem “cool.” Help them develop relationships with adults throughout church that can guide them whenever they won’t listen to you. Teach them the Bible—and if you don’t feel like you know it well enough to teach it, then take classes yourself. There are many adult education opportunities at our church.
The moment I found out that I was pregnant with Phillip (now 1), I prayed to God and committed to bringing this baby up in the church. All along, I have felt that he belongs not just to me, but to my church family. We are all here for each other. We need to encourage each other and help each other keep strong in the faith. We will all experience trials at different times—financial difficulties, family drama, strained marriages… but with God’s power and His gift of each other’s support, we can and will make a difference in the lives of our children.
So this week, as you are changing diapers and Oxy-cleaning onesies, don’t be so hard on yourself about getting everything you need to do done, or worrying about how you’re going to pay for ballet or soccer or piano. Instead, focus on the things that really matter—one baby step at a time. And remember to say a little prayer for the seniors—for this year’s graduates, but also those in your very near future.