by Will Peycke

I’ve been thinking recently about “milestones”: the markers of significant events or moments in our lives that deserve to be remembered and celebrated. For example, we are getting ready to celebrate the 75th anniversary of our church this spring—quite a milestone! (See the details here.)

This theme of “milestones” has also been showing up in multiple Scripture passages. In our sermon series through Genesis, for instance, we've recently seen Jacob erect a pillar to mark the spot where he dreamed of a ladder to heaven (Genesis 28:18), a pillar and a pile of stones to mark his peace treaty with Laban (Genesis 31:44-46), and an altar to commemorate the new name he had been given by God (Genesis 33:20).

Looking ahead to The Gospel Project passage for our children’s and youth classes this Sunday, Joshua erects two piles of stones to commemorate the crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4:1-9, 20-24). God told Joshua the stones would be a “sign” and a “memorial” to remind the people of God’s work on their behalf and to prompt questions from future generations, ensuring this story would continue to be told over and over again (4:6-7, 21-22). Why? “So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever” (Joshua 4:24, ESV).

This biblical theme of “milestones” has reminded me to consider the significant work God is doing in our young people as they grow and develop. While they don't have to be commemorated with a literal stone monument, the significant “milestones” in a person's journey are still worthy of celebration and commemoration.

In just a few weeks, seven of our young people will mark a significant milestone in their journey as they graduate from high school. Erika Briggs, Alison Carlisle, Ellen Davis, Josiah Gottfried, Ethan Gutwein, Miguel Ortiz, and Sam Overly are all about to embark on the next chapter of the story God is writing in their lives. Some will be continuing at Kossuth as they pursue studies at Purdue or Ivy Tech, while others will be setting out for new opportunities in new places. But all are about to cross a significant threshold—a marker in each one’s journey of manhood or womanhood.

As these students approach graduation, can I encourage you, their church family, to recognize the significance of this milestone in their life? Here are two specific suggestions of how you might do that:

1.    Ask about and affirm God’s work in their life. Every graduate gets asked a zillion times what’s next. While there’s nothing wrong with that question, you might consider this milestone a reminder to look back instead of forward. For example, consider asking about how they have learned and grown, what have been their most meaningful experiences during high school, how God has grown and shaped them during this stage of their journey, or how God has guided their choice of a college or career path. In other words, seek to celebrate what God has done in their life before getting too wrapped up in what they will do next. 

2.    Attend the Family Gathering on June 2. Yes, I realize that seems like a long time from now—but it will be here before you know it! The June Family Gathering will be our opportunity as a church family to corporately hear from and affirm many of these graduates. We will also have journaling Bibles (one for each graduate) available for you to write a prayer or a note of encouragement next to a passage of Scripture. My hope is that these gift Bibles will serve as a “memorial” of sorts for these graduates to mark this milestone in their journey. 

As you encourage and pray for these students, also reflect on what milestones you ought to recall and commemorate in your own life. How has God shown his faithfulness to you? How are you celebrating and recounting his work?

One more thought: I’ve highlighted our soon-to-be high school graduates in this post, but we also have students about to graduate from college, graduate school, and seminary. Please affirm, encourage, and pray for them as well!