I’ve received a few questions this summer about how we do promotion (students moving up from children’s ministry into youth group) in our student ministry and thought I would share a few things we’ve done in the past and a few things I’ve seen or would like to try soon:
Everyone moves up the same weekend every year
Promotion in our church is the same weekend for everyone across the board – there are a lot of changes in the family so we try to consolidate them into one weekend. The transition usually takes a few weeks since people may be gone on vacation or miss church that weekend, but we stack hands that throughout the life development years (birth-college) we all move up at the same time. It has been incredibly effective to be aligned from top to bottom – it may be hard to convince (or concede) to a Sunday School Superintendent or Small Group Director that this is wise, but it is well worth the effort.
We choose to move up at the end of the school year
There are pros and cons to which ever time of year you promote students – we choose the weekend immediately following the end of school or right at the beginning of summer. This makes a clean break fo seniors as well as gives freshman an easy entry point into high school ministry. You may want to make a handout or promotion video for the date you’re choosing – because clear warning of big changes ahead is always a good idea.
Promotion Weekend is a big deal
Each department has a BIG to do that weekend welcoming new students. In our High School Ministry we plan a freshman weekend which has a “get to know us” sort of vibe – lots of relational time, a parent orientation meeting, stories, history, food, giveaways, and fun. We do our best to avoid hazing, but definitely try to have some fun at our own expense – like showing pictures of ourselves when we were freshman which is incredibly embarrassing, too.
Hand over the info!
Passing along family information is critical at this stage – if you have small group information, parent emails and text numbers, get it now. In our specific case we get incoming 7th graders info and we give the contact information of our graduating seniors to our college ministry so they can work to integrate them immediately as well. If your church is tech-savvy, this will be a dream. In some cases where data integrity isn’t a value, be prepared to get handwritten attendance sheets or worse yet, nothing at all!
Plan a big welcome event
If you’ve got a bunch of new students moving up – plan something relational for them where they can get to know some volunteers and upperclassmen. Creating a sense of community and friendship is the key to helping with transitions. Could be as simple as a Scavenger Hunt (with a freshman require in each car, for example) or a giant overnighter to kickoff the summer and welcome the newbies.
Some age groups get a Preview Weekend
In some cases, your church may decide to do a preview weekend – for example letting 6th graders come see a junior high service. Usually it is planned to acknowledge the next level of students and to give them a painless taste of what is to come. If someone is hesitant to transition usually it isn’t a big deal through the summer – but heading into this time of year (fall) the transition should be complete.
Would love any questions you have about the process in the comments – or if you do it a different way please share!