We have successfully navigated the graduation season, and now our “6th graders” are officially “7th graders.” For us, this means that these preteens are introduced into student ministry programming on Sundays. As quickly as this transition happened (Sunday night for us), it really was not done without some planning and intention. I have to say that we have not perfected the method, nor have we done everything we actually want to do. But here some things that we are doing this year to transition 6th graders into student ministry:
In the Sunday Celebrations post, I talked about our 6th grade graduation. This event was held to honor the students’ completion of children’s ministry and to encourage them for the next phase of life. Marking the rite of passage with a special event helps these students to know that it is time to turn the page. It prepares them mentally for the coming weeks of a new staff, new environment, and new opportunities.
These “7th graders” entering student ministry will most likely spend the majority of their time with fellow “7th” graders or the grade just above them. Our student ministry recognizes this and plans a trip for incoming 7th & 8th graders. These students head out of town and spend the weekend bonding with a dinner theater and amusement park. The event is a great opportunity for bonding between these students and the student ministry staff.
Everything is changing for a preteen. It’s nice to have something consistent from time to time. As Preteen Pastor, this is where I really appreciate our student ministry team. They have invited me to remain in the lives of these students. I will be attending the fun trip with these students as well as speaking in the student ministry services a few times over the summer. Our hope is that a familiar face will help to acclimate these students into the new ministry and allow them to worship in this new environment without fear or anxiety.
4. Cross Contamination
For the past two months, these students have had dose after dose of the student ministry staff in some form. We have invited them into the 6th grade environment to begin getting face time with the students. We think it’s important for the students to develop trust in the student ministry leaders prior to their graduation. This is equally, if not more, important for their parents. At each parent meeting this past semester, we would speak to the parents about the transition. We took every opportunity possible to let a student leader speak to the parents about what to expect and how to stay involved. It was a huge help to have student ministry come into our world and begin speaking to students and parents.
5. Follow the Leader
In this case, we’re actually talking about follow the students. We encourage our small group leaders to move into student ministry with the students. It makes our job tougher because we have to refill those positions for the coming year, but we think the influence outweighs anything else. The leader has earned the trust of the student and the parent, opened lines of communication with both, and learned so much about the spiritual condition of the student. It just makes sense for them to continue walking through life with their students. We’re not to 100% in this area, but we are celebrating that we do have several leaders moving up with their group.