Transitions are a regular part of life for children. Kids live in a constant state of growth and change. As parents and adults connected to children in our congregations, we help them to meet each milestone of development with support, care, and nurturing. As in all of life, changes also happen at church. Pastors retire or take a new call. It can be hard for children to understand when one of their spiritual guides leaves. Here are a few ways to mark that transition.
Make a card or a drawing for the person leaving. Art is a great way to express feelings of gratitude and love. Having the kids draw one of their favorite events with the departing person helps them remember all the great times. Making thank you cards and writing down the things that have been most appreciated is also a wonderful way to mark the end of the relationship on a positive note.
Create a mural or timeline for your pastor. Writing down some important milestones that included children in the life of the church and of the pastor’s tenure can bring closure to the shared joy in those moments. Add drawings or photographs of events for the poster or banner. This project could be a lot of fun with a group putting it together. Letting kids share their memories and writing down some of their quotes would personalize this in a special way.
Put together a scrapbook. Like the timeline poster, making a scrapbook with pages created by families and members of the church community is a personal way to remember times together at church. Encourage families to share specific events or times that the spiritual leader made a special connection with them. It is always fun to add older photos where the children see themselves in their younger ages and reminds them of how much they have grown through the years.
Most importantly, when you tell a child that their pastor or Sunday school teacher is leaving, spend time to remind them that God is always with them. Their time with their pastor or teacher may be ending, but God’s love will continue to be with them every day, and there will be more people who come into their lives to share that love with them. It may be a time of goodbye, but the memories and shared time together are part of their lives forever.