By Youth Specialties on April 01 2014
A well thought-out transition plan for students from children’s or junior high ministry into junior high or high school ministry is crucial for your program’s health. The time for that transition can sneak up on us and sometimes we miss a key opportunity to get those students plugged in from the very beginning. Below are some key initiatives that have helped me get promotion week right—and I think they can help you too.
I’ve experienced both years where I have done this right and years where I have let this slide. This year, I’m trying to get an earlier start than usual to make sure that the students coming into my junior high and high school ministries know who and what they’re walking into before they ever set foot in our building.
Take 10 minutes on a Sunday or Wednesday and walk over to your children’s or junior high ministry to meet some of the students who will be transitioning into your program. I try to do this once or twice in the months leading up to “Promotion Sunday.” It helps me to start to get to know the students and allows my face to become familiar to them. Sometimes I even invite a current student or two of mine to come with me.
Our children’s director and I are planning a bowling night next month for fifth graders. I’m going to bring some of our core students and volunteers along with me to get to know the students. We hope to do this at least two times before Promotion Sunday.
Obviously, there are a lot of different models of ministries around the country so this may look different at your church, but see if you can get some “stage” time in the ministry your students transition from to let the students see you in action. Do a guest talk, host a panel of your students talking about what the next program is like, or run an ice-breaking game.
Hosting an informational parent meeting a few weeks before the transition can ease a parent’s worries and answer a lot of questions they may have about you and your ministry. Tell them what you do, how you do it, and why you do it the way you do it. Leave time for questions and make sure you stick around to shake hands afterwards. Heck, maybe even throw in a summer camp promotion somewhere in there!
For years now, I’ve set a photo booth up for new students who come into the ministries I work in (a trick I learned from the great Scott Rubin). We make it look like a mug shot because it’s silly and ironic, but the idea behind it all is so that I can make flash cards for my staff and I to remember students’ names. I set up a booth so that it feels less creepy for new students walking in. Sometimes I even let volunteer students take the pictures so there’s not some weird adult that they barely know taking pictures of them. It works really well because it helps me connect with students immediately and gives me the resource I need to build relationships later.
Getting this transition right is so important for our ministries. We all remember what it felt like to walk into something new when we were that age, so let’s try to ease that awkwardness the best we can. Then our students will feel like they belong before they even walk in our doors.
Do you have any tried and true tips for making such a big transition easier for students? Share them with us!