One of the most difficult, yet important, times in a student ministry is the moment you transition students from the middle school ministry to the high school ministry. In a matter of weeks, an 8th grade student goes from being the older, cooler, more mature student to being the young new freshmen. This transition can be scary and is often a difficult one; it’s easy to lose students as we try to transition them from being an active middle school student into being an active high school student. Because a healthy junior high ministry will promote a healthy high school ministry, we do a few things to encourage students as they make their transition from middle school to high school.
High School student leaders. As a part of our middle school ministry, we encourage some of our older high school students to attend some of the middle school retreats as leaders. Whenever we have high school students leading on retreats, the relationships that are built between the two groups is incredible. And because of this, there are healthy relationships built with high schoolers and some natural promotion of high school events and programs.
Dual role volunteers. There are a few volunteers that spend time volunteering for both the middle school and high school ministries. This is great as it provides some familiar faces as students make the jump from one to the other. Because of the comfort of having a leader that you already know, I also try to make a point to join our high school team on a couple of retreats throughout the year.
Encourage 8th graders to make the jump now. With our 8th grade students they are able to start doing high school activities as early as May. I do everything that I can to encourage our students to start trying out the high school stuff and continue to encourage them as they come back and tell me about their experiences. As much as I will miss our 8th grade students, I want them to try out the high school ministry significantly more than have them stick around the middle school ministry.
Allow hesitant students more time. Sometimes students really don’t want to make the switch. While eventually we will have to force them to make the switch, we allow our 8th grade students to do any high school or middle school activity all summer long. It’s a special perk that only 8th grade students get because they can pick and choose the best of both worlds. We do this for the students that need a few extra months to make the jump to the high school group.
Keep the door open. It’s sad to see students leave the middle school ministry. But it’s exciting to know the incredible experiences and faith growth that they will experience in the high school ministry. I make it a point to always welcome our high school students into the room. It’s a great opportunity for me to continue the relationships that I started in middle school and also it makes the high school students appear less scary to the much smaller, less hairy middle school students.
RJ Grunewald is a middle school pastor who also has made a few apps for the iPhone. He blogs his thoughts about youth ministry, technology, and theology at rjgrune.com.