Transitioning in life is never easy, no matter what the transition. While it may be exciting, it doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. Think of all the transitions you go through in life: starting school, changing schools, going to college, starting new jobs, getting married, having kids, changing jobs, changing positions in jobs.
Some of the many transitions in life happens in the teenage years. Not only do new 6th graders change schools, but they change ministries in the church as well. And sometimes, going from Children’s Ministry to Middle School Ministry might be scarier than actually changing schools!
Here are 4 key things to do when preparing for a healthy & exciting transition. This can also apply transitioning 8th graders to the High School Ministry if your Middle School & High School ministries are separate. Or if you don’t transition until 7th grade, just substitute 6th grade for 7th.
1. Work with Children’s Ministry Team.
- Too often on church staffs, each ministry is a silo, keeping their head down and doing their own thing. While it’s true we have been hired to lead a specific ministry, it’s crucial to keep the big picture in mind. We are part of an entire team. Just like on a baseball team, you may play shortstop, but you are practicing, meeting with, and encouraging the entire team in order to win. You may have played a flawless game at shortstop, but if your team loses, what’s the point? Sometimes, we’re so laser-focused on our ministry, that we lose sight of everything else. I believe each ministry should be contributing to the overall health of the church. Student Ministry staff should meet regularly with Children’s Ministry staff in order to ensure a healthy transition plan for incoming 6th graders. This is a big reason Orange is such a great tool for cohesive curriculum. Children’s Pastors should portray excitement about 6th graders moving up and talk up and about Student Ministry often.
It’s about receiving students well, and handing them off well.
And Student Pastors should…
2. Make yourself available to Children’s Ministry.
- Serve in Children’s Ministry! I’m not saying you need to be in there weekly, but make yourself known to the kids. When it’s time for them to transition, at least they will know who will be leading them next, and you’re a familiar face. Offer to teach a lesson everyone once-in-while, go to a pre-teen event, like SuperStart, help out at VBS, or heck, just set up chairs and high-five kids as they come in! Like I said, you don’t need to be at everything, but
having a presence in Children’s Ministry breaks down ministry barriers and starts the relationship-building early.
3. Treat the incoming 6th graders special.
- It’s a big deal going from 5th grade to 6th grade. Make it one! This may mean: 1) moving them up at the beginning of the summer, so they can actually be and feel like a 6th grader before school starts. 2) Pull them out of Children’s Ministry a couple of times in the spring to “orientate” them by bringing them into a student service or class. 3) Throw a party! Do some kind of welcome party for them, where you can focus your time on them and get to know them while having fun.
It’s a big deal going from 5th grade to 6th grade. Make it one!
4. Meet with the parents.
- This is a big one! Establishing relationships with parents needs to start early, or the next thing you know, they’re juniors and you’ve never met mom or dad. This also emphasizes your desire to partner with them to help spiritually lead their teenagers, because that’s what it’s all about. Send a letter to parents in the Spring preparing them for the transition. Invite them to a Student Ministry Orientation or a Student Ministry Open House so they can get to know you, your leaders, and your programming. Maybe stand at the entrance to your Children’s Ministry on Sunday mornings, and meet them as they drop of their kids. Have information to give them. There are so many questions when it comes to transitioning to a new ministry, and having answers on paper helps parents put the pieces together. Whatever you do, you can never do too much to connect with parents.
If we truly want to partner with parents, we must create many connections with them.
Transitions in life can be scary, let’s do everything we can to make them more exciting in Student Ministry