Jewish girls celebrate their bat mitzvah at twelve or thirteen. It shows a commitment to their faith and begins an accountability for following Jewish law.
Amish young ladies observe Rumspringa at age 16. For the first time in their lives, they enjoy unsupervised weekends away from their communities before becoming baptized, committed members.
In earlier times, Apache girls would participate in a sunrise ceremony (Na'il'ees) the summer prior to their first period. In this four-day ceremony the girls adhered to certain rules and reenacted the Apache Origin Myth, connecting to the first woman, Esdzanadehe.
In my tradition, midwest low-church protestant, we do, well, not much. By the time I was twelve, I'd already been baptized and a member of my Baptist church for five years. We didn't know about ceremonies or rites of passage. Even at sixteen, eighteen, there wasn't an emphasis on one's spiritual growth.
That's why I was thankful for Beth Bruno's book, A Voice Becoming: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living. It took me from hearing about an occasional ceremony among the women of various churches to following along with one mother who intentionally planned an entire year of activities for her daughter. The book was full of options. Some of them worked for my own family and others were creative ideas that helped feed customized ideas for my own daughter. I spent a lot of time thinking through her unique talents and passions.
Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. I Timothy 4:12
A whole year of intentional spiritual development. The days of children's Sunday school are behind us. Our twelve-year old girl is stepping into spiritual maturity. Not in one ceremony but in twelve varieties of events and books and discussions (stay tuned for posts about the other things we have planned). Our kickoff event was an Empower Ceremony last Friday. In case you're wondering, YES, you can host your own!
Here are eight tips:
- Find a location. I wanted to focus on my daughter for this evening, so when a friend offered to host our group, making my daughter's favorite meal, I accepted. She served up chicken tikka over rice, paratha bread and fresh fruit. We all helped in the kitchen ahead of time and ate dinner together first.
- Consider including a friend. We have another girl in our church that we've known since she was born. The girls are a month apart. I spoke with her mom and we decided it would be special and more fun to have our daughters do the evening together.
- Invite family (biological ones & church ones). Think through a list of who has influenced your daughter spiritually up to now. I lead a women's Bible study so my list was easy to create. I invited about ten women who have already been praying for my daughter for years. My mom lives out of town and we also made arrangements for her to attend.
- Mail invitations. This evening should feel formal. We found an invite with a cross on it and my daughter addressed the envelopes. Include specific instructions about the evening as this idea may be new to your guests.
- Since the evening was close to the girls' 12th birthdays I made note that small gifts were optional. We opened the gifts prior to the ceremony.
- For the ceremony, I asked each guest to prepare some spiritual wisdom to share with the young ladies. It could be taken from a person in the Bible, a Bible verse or part of their own testimony. They wrote out a statement or verse on an index card so the girls could keep them. We went around the room with each woman sharing. No two stories or pieces of advice were the same. But we know that, don't we?!
One woman shared "I grew up in church but through counseling I am just now realizing God doesn't just love me, he likes me. He wants to hang out with me."
- I asked one of the women ahead of time to prepare a prayer for the girls. End the evening thanking God for making each women unique yet in his image. Pray they would continue to grow up in the Lord. We were extra blessed to have a woman from Indonesia attend the ceremony as well, and she prayed over the girls in her native tongue.