This week we’re giving you a look at the conversations Kenny and I had recently with 7 of the most creative and incredible Middle School Pastors in the country. Why?

Well, because those conversations were encouraged us, challenged us, and gave us a ton of new ideas and inspiration to implement in our ministry. And I think they’ll have a similar effect on you.

Yesterday I shared my notes from our group’s conversation about ministering to, and with, parents. And today, we’ll explore a related topic by sharing the highlights of our group’s conversation about milestones.

What the heck do I mean by milestones, you ask? Good question. Two things. Part of it had to do with transitioning students from one ministry to the next (Children’s Ministry to Middle School Ministry, or Middle School Ministry to High School Ministry). But most of our conversation centered around rites of passage experiences. And by that we mean spiritual, developmental, or age-specific moments that could generate conversations between parents and their children.

So with all that in mind, here’s how our group tried to sort out how our ministries can best approach…


Be sure you check out the line-up of people participating in this conversation – so you can have some context for these notes, of course, but also because these are youth pastors you definitely want to be following.

  • ALAN | He’s checking out the book Shift about rites of passage, which are a big component of Fellowship Knox is trying to find a way to do things for the family that aren’t programs or events created by the church. Instead, they’re looking for ways to aid parents in walking their kids through significant conversations and moments on their own (like adolescence, sex, purity, driving, graduation, etc.).
  • MARK | Their church is not doing anything formal with rites of passage, but he’s familiar with it. He knows of a family that hosted a meal for their son and used a sword to knight him at a significant moment in his life. He personally never experienced any rites of passage “ceremonies” as a kid, so he’s not sure of their value or importance. The ceremonial aspect feels a little weird to him.
  • NATE | Familiar with the book Raising a Modern Day Knight. Knows someone who had everyone important in his son’s life write him a letter and then turned it into a book, which was read aloud at a rite of passage event for him. Rites of passage are often seen to be significant in history, in Jewish culture, and in mainline churches.
  • ALAN | How do we encourage these kinds of rites of passage conversations with parents? Do we have to program it?
  • SEAN | Rites of passage are bigger than just age-specific events. They have a community aspect. For him, joining a fraternity was a very meaningful rite of passage. It communicates that you are now a part of a community. A tight-knit community is attractive to students, especially when the group has an air of mystery and exclusivity to it. We don’t need to be a slave to it, but we should embrace the power of tradition and heritage. They have some “traditions,” Braveheart-style, polar plunge, etc. These are often age-specific milestones, which create memories as students move through their ministries.
  • ELLE | Northpoint’s Boot Camp retreat for incoming 6th graders does a super-secret tradition of a surprise 4:00 am mud obstacle course. It’s an “initiation” into the Middle School Ministry that’s all about making memories.
  • ALAN | Rites of passage are about spoken and written words of affirmation at significant seasons in our lives.
  • MARK | Did the rites of passage come from a generation of parents who missed experiencing tradition as children?
  • NATE | He personally started doing rites of passage not because he missed out on them as a kid, but because a friend shared the things he was doing with his kids. He wanted to create his own memories, like family traditions, family crests, and family vision statements. So how can we equip parents to do this?
  • ELLE | Most parents aren’t going to read a book about these rites of passage experiences. They need something more practical and tangible. Connexus Church in Canada does Family Date Nights – it’s not programmed by the church, but is more of a “how to” kit for creating a great night with your family. Comes with checklists, a schedule, instructions, and leaves room for families to personalize it. Maybe we could apply this to rites of passage experiences by creating kits that parents could take home and use when, and how, it makes sense for them – maybe keep these kits in our ministry areas or church bookstores.

What would you add to this conversation? Did you see any thoughts or ideas discussed that you think you’ll use for your ministry?