Opening Doors To Discipleship is a series of four courses in the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition to help teachers and leaders equip themselves to be faithful teachers and leaders.

Congregations usually do well at acknowledging certain times in the lives of their members: birth, graduations, marriage, etc. But what about those not so traditional times: buying/moving into first home, retiring, moving out of a long-time home into assisted living, losing a child or spouse to death, becoming an empty-nester, getting a divorce, having a grandchild, or losing independence. The possibilities are limitless.
 Such occasions, happy or sad, are milestones in our lives. These milestones cause a shift in our outlook and very likely in our spiritual needs. What can and should the church do to minister to people during these varied times of life?

  1. Be aware of and acknowledge those things that are taking place in the lives of your church members. Many times changes bring unexpected struggles, whether it’s too much togetherness when spouses retire or a single parent’s need for time away from a child or a sense of lost purpose when children have moved away. Look for ways of pairing the interests and abilities with the needs.
  2. There are limitless possibilities of ways your congregation can minister to the needs of people who are experiencing milestones. Perhaps some members would commit to calling the man whose wife recently died; before the woman moves into assisted living, the pastor (or others) could walk with her through the rooms of her home, listening as she recalls memories and offering a prayer of thanks for her home; organize a group of volunteers who will visit with the chronically ill person while the caregiver takes a break; intentionally include those who are divorced, single, or empty-nesters in church activities; invite people to share a meal with you; have a “grandparent shower” so that they will have some of the basics when the grandchild visits (toys, books, blanket, wipes, etc.); arrange transportation for those who are no longer able to drive; suggest the retirees in the congregation take on projects in the church or community; or plan a variety of activities so that those whose finances are limited can participate without it impacting their budget. As you look at the possibilities, consider the needs and abilities in your congregation or community.
  3. Since a person’s spiritual needs change along with the occurrence of some of these milestones, it also important that the church be prepared to address those issues. Maybe a group in your church would benefit from a Bible study that focuses on older adults or a grief support group.

 By reaching out to your members in these ways, you may also minister to others in your community who are experiencing similar times in their lives. What milestones are members of your congregation experiencing?


Changes: Prayers and Services Honoring Rites of Passage, by Church Publishing. Included are public rites, together with prayers for individual and family use, for all of the major stages of human development, from early childhood to retirement. In addition, new prayers and a simple rite for remembering the departed provide an important pastoral resource for human grieving in the weeks and months following the death of a loved one. Church Publishing, $10.82.

For Everything a Season: 75 Blessings for Life’s Milestones, by Mary Y. Nilsen. This compilation of 75 Christian ritual blessings helps deepen and make sacred ordinary and out-of-the-ordinary life moments. “To tend the journey of faith from pre-birth to the grave and to pass on the faith from generation to generation, families need tools that will help them look for God in all of life’s milestones—from sending a child off to kindergarten to sending that child off with a new driver’s license, from rejoicing over a birth to caring for the dying, from celebrating national holidays to observing Christian holy days.” CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $12.95.

Milestones Ministry Manuals, developed by David and Gloria Anderson and Debbie and Burton Streicher. A milestone is a meaningful, memorable moment in the lives of individuals and communities. Milestones Ministry provides a faith milestone as a marker along life’s journey that says, “This is something important, and God is here, too.” It is a faith formation practice for both home and congregation that helps all generations recognize God’s presence in everyday life. Manuals are available for youth and children and for adults. For more information, visit

The Joy of Ritual: Spiritual Recipes to Celebrate Milestones, Ease Transitions, and Make Every Day Sacred, by Barbara Biziou. Ritual is a universal language that gives substance and meaning to our lives. People are eager to honor the significant moments in their lives and the author teaches us how to restore ritual to its rightful place as food for the soul through practical, easy-to-use ritual recipes that are inspiring and fun. Rituals can enhance daily routines, enrich milestones, and assist us through difficult transitions. Cosmo Books, $15.99.

Milestones, by Cynthia Major Almaraz. Milestones are the building blocks of our lives. They make us who we are and who we become. A milestone is a great achievement in life that cannot be forgotten. This workbook will help users say good-bye to the past and hello to the future that God has for each person. Xulon Press $18.99

Contact a Presbyterian Reformed Educational Partner (PREP) representative, listed under CONTACT US, for more information about this topic or other articles in the e-newsletter archives.

Article by Cindy Martin, Coordinator of Adult and Third Age Ministries, Cumberland Presbyterian Church.