Creative Ideas for the “Tweenager:” Tips for Talking to Adolescents

The early adolescent years, which we call being a “tweenager” (roughly from age 11 to 14), can be a challenging but also delightful time to create a stronger connection with a young person.

As always, connecting with them on things that matter for them is a great place to start. Here’s a few tips to consider for parents and baptismal sponsors:

1. Create fun rituals – while tweenagers are beginning to grow away from the home, they often also have a strong, inner security-driven desire to maintain a connection to rituals. One good ritual for families is rotating different table prayers. There are lots of them…encourage the kids to make up their own.

2. Be a role model of faith – baptismal sponsors can be especially important at this age as youth seek role models in addition to their parents. If you live near enough to a godchild, sponsors can plan a service project with their youth once a quarter.

Service projects can range from helping to deliver meals with a “Meals on Wheels” project or serve meals at a homeless food kitchen to building a house at a “Habitat for Humanity” project (NOTE: Habitat has minimum age requirements for its projects, so check with them first).

3. Tweenager boys and girls have especially quick minds that are great for puzzles, trivia, and other problem solving. In a long distance relationship, you can e-mail or mail them word games that they can solve. You can make your own cross word and word search puzzles at the Discovery magazine web site:

Another word puzzle could be to send a message in a foreign language and have the youth try to translate it. If you are like us and not fluent in another language, you can create your message by using a web-based translator like Altavista’s Babelfish web site:

Es una idea muy buena!

For the Little Ones: Decorating Your Faithkeepers Box

The Faithkeepers treasure box is more than a place to put things once a year and let them collect dust the rest of the year.  The treasure box is meant to be displayed where youth can be constantly reminded of their baptism and their connection to their faith.

One thing you can do to encourage your youth to make their Faithkeepers set special is to have them personalize the box. Think of it as a “canvas” to be decorated by the child, in his or her own way.  The photo shows an example that has been decorated with string, cloth, and other decorations.

While the result may not be what others consider a “work of art,” to your child it is a masterpiece that will get used over and over again.

Ideas for Teens: Connecting with Your Kids through Music

Did you know that there is something of a Christian renaissance going on in popular music of all kinds? Whether it’s Country, Pop, or Rock, there is likely a mainstream star that your teen knows or listens to that is actually singing about the Gospel in their own way.

For example, take rock music. Often, if your child listens to this style, it’s easy to tune her or his music out. After all, who wants to listen to all of those screaming lyrics and whining guitars? But, the most popular act on the planet, U2 has a very deep Christian vein running through much if its music.

For teens that like a harder edge, there are bands like King’s X, who have been around for 15 years. Considered by the music channel VH-1’s artists poll as one of the Top 100 Rock bands of all time (right up there with the Aerosmiths and Led Zeppelins), Kings X is a mainstream band with a Gospel heart that would not typically be considered part of the “Christian” music scene.

For teens that like the softer edge, there are bands like dcTalk that started in the Christian genre but have broken into mainstream music with hits in recent years. It’s important to remember that the music of these artists can “speak” to your teens in powerful ways.

What better way to be a “part of the conversation” than to take an interest in their music? It’s a great way to re-connect with your teenager.

Making Baptism Part of Everyday Life

Originally published by the Rev. Glen Berg-Moberg

The pastor visits a Sunday school classroom and asks each child in turn, “When is your birthday?” Each child answers with no hesitation. Brightly, proudly, they shout out their dates.

“November 11!” “Mine is March 10!” Another says “January 7.” Then the pastor asks a different question. “What is your baptismal date?”

The answers are not as quick. They have to stop and think. But their excitement is even greater when they realize they can answer. They surprise themselves. They DO know their baptismal dates. This isn’t a dream. It can really happen, through some very simple lessons and habits at home and in church.

Consider how easy it is for children to rattle off their birthdays. How do they learn this so well? It’s simple. They learn their birthdays because daily rituals make so much of each birthday. Children can’t miss knowing. They get brightly wrapped birthday gifts and perhaps a party with their friends. There is a cake with the child’s name on it and everyone in the room sings a special song.

At what other time does your family sing to you or light candles in your honor? The child may have the privilege of deciding on the menu for family dinner. No wonder kids know their birth dates! The family teaches them and does the job well.

Families are great teachers. Families who teach children about their baptisms will be able to do so more effectively than any workbook ever could. Parents do not need special training or a seminary degree to be good teachers. They just need encouragement and a little direction.

Baptism is our birth into God’s family. The order for Holy Baptism in the Lutheran Book of Worship states that in baptism, “we are reborn children of God and inheritors of eternal life.” Think of a baptismal anniversary as a Christian birthday party and everyone understands.

Parents do the best job of impressing the importance of baptism on their children when they make baptism anniversaries stand out on the calendar as much as birthdays do. Here are just a few ideas to help make baptism as important a ritual as a birthday.

Celebrate with a cake and candle. As on a birthday, let the child choose the menu for the family dinner. Have a cake with the child’s name on it and decorate it with a dove, a cross, or a baptismal shell. Sing a song together. Many congregations give a candle to those who are newly baptized. For an anniversary, why not bring out this candle and have it burning during a family meal and celebration? Gifts will add both to the meaning and excitement. A recording of Christian songs, a story Bible for the young, or a Bible camp T-shirt are a few gift ideas.

Give a baptism birthday gift. Gifts will remind the child that belonging to God’s family is something to cherish and celebrate. The goal is to make children aware of their baptismal anniversary. When the pastor asks, “What’s your baptism birthday?” the child will know the answer as well as they know their own birthday. No one can teach this more effectively than parents, who need to realize they are valuable teachers in their children’s Christian education.

Keep a baptism birthday file. Parents need to know they are not alone. Sunday school teachers and pastors can help, too. Your church can keep a card file organized by calendar year. (A PC database is another way to do the same thing.)

Each day’s card can list the name of children who were baptized on that date. Each year, each child can receive a greeting card from the church that bears the date of his or her baptism, and words or congratulations and blessing from the church. Have the card signed by the pastor, the child’s Sunday school teacher, and any youth workers.

The card itself can be designed by a confirmation student from the congregation, whose name appears on the back of each card. This can be a wonderful affirmation of that particular student’s talent.

Create a worship baptism banner. Baptism education also occurs in worship. At your church, consider creating a banner, for example one with a large baptismal shell. Leave plenty of blank space below the shell. Then, every year on the Sunday of the Baptism of our Lord, fill the blank space with blue “water drops” cut from fabric.

Make each drop with the name and baptismal date of a person baptized at your church in the past year. During worship, read a list of these names and invite families invited forward to take their water drop home with them. You can mail any water drops not picked up a few days later, before the baptismal anniversary.

None of these projects or programs are difficult or expensive. Each child receives many reminders of baptism as these programs carry on through the years.

Why do it? Our ceremonial baptism service is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even for those who fall away from the faith and then return, we do not re-baptize, but instead reaffirm the original baptism. Since baptism happens only once, children easily forget.

The repetition of reminders will help children grasp the deeper truth – that baptism is the foundation, the fountain where we can return again and again for the water of life. To be able to recite date and time of baptism will not save our souls, but knowing that date and time, unchanging through the years, can illustrate for all Christians the absolute nature of God’s love for each person.

Birthday parties are fun, but knowing and celebrating a birthday gives a sense of roots. Just as birth is the beginning of a growing, changing life, so baptism is the beginning of a growing, maturing faith in God. Baptism provides our faith with roots, and we need to know the roots of our faith as well as we know our family tree.

What’s a Sponsor to Do?

(Adapted from an article in Parish Teacher, copyright Augsburg Fortress)

As a sponsor, also referred to as godparent, you have a central role in the baptism experience of your godchild, the child you are sponsoring. This role includes not only actions by you during the baptism itself, but a commitment of involvement and action throughout the lifetime of your godchild.

During the Baptism

During the baptism ritual, sponsors bring the child to the font or pool with his or her parents during a worship service of the congregation. After the minister reads a brief statement about baptism, the sponsors present the child for the sacrament of baptism.

Then, the sponsors and the parents promise to raise the child in the Christian faith and the Christian community. Your promise will be a response to a promise read from the Gospel. (God’s promise always precedes our promises.)

In the Lutheran Book of Worship, your promises are to:
– Bring your godchild to the services of God’s house
– Teach your godchild the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments
– Place in your godchild’s hands the Holy Scriptures
– Provide for your godchild’s instruction in the Christian faith

Having the courage and love for your godchild to make these promises before the congregation is an important public commitment during the baptism ceremony. Keeping these promises after the initial joyfulness and celebration of the baptism day, is in many ways the even more important commitment. Faith doesn’t just happen; it needs to be nurtured.

After the Baptism

The on-going teaching that a child receives from godparents and other people outside of his or her immediate family can play a major role in forming the child’s Christian faith as they develop.

Romans 10:17 says “so faith comes from hearing the message and the message comes from through preaching Christ.” It is your job to assist the parents in keeping the message in front of the child – through talk, actions, and deeds.

This teaching role of a godparent can and should evolve, as the child grows through several stages of development in their faith.

The first stages involve development of their early childhood faith and a sense of belonging in the Christian church. Later, there is a searching stage, during which they test the beliefs of their parents and themselves. The final stage is the development of a mature personal faith.

There are many places for sponsors to be involved through these stages. At each stage, show how God intervenes in their lives. From the simple experiences of God in nature to the more complicated experiences of forgiveness.

Often, the most difficult problems arise for parents in the third stage, when they don’t recognize the developmental changes with their child.

Inevitably, the child rebels against their parent’s faith system, either quietly or loudly. Thus, one of a sponsor’s most important roles can be staying close to the child and mentoring them as they go through this period of questioning and testing.

The sponsor can be of huge assistance to the parent as well as the child, helping the child – who is usually a teen or young adult at this stage — move to a more mature stage of faith.

Most importantly, revel in this wonderful opportunity as a sponsor to help another human being grow in their understanding and embrace of God, and at the same time experience growth in your own faith.