As the end of another school year rolls around, you may be planning the transition of your preteens from the children’s ministry to the youth ministry. The transition from children’s ministry to youth ministry should be a collaboration between the leaders of those two ministries, not just a hand-off. So here are 5 ways to work together with your ministry counterpart (the youth pastor) to ensure the transition goes smoothly…
- Think about what elements of youth ministry can you pull into kids ministry. Consider creating a “hybrid” ministry that pulls in elements of both the children’s and youth ministry for your preteens. This can be as elaborate as a separately-named-and-run ministry or as simple as adjusting small group time. Learn how the small group format works in the youth ministry, and start including similar questions with the preteens. For example, our youth ministry starts off small group time with a couple of “would you rather” questions. Adding a few “would you rather” questions to the preteen’s small group discussion helps give them a little taste of youth ministry. Whether big or small, doing something for your preteens to change up the normal routine of children’s ministry helps prepare them for the transition AND makes them feel special. It lets them know you recognize that they are growing up and possibly “growing out” of the children’s ministry (which is what we want, by the way!).
- Cross-Attend Events. What children’s ministry events can you invite the youth pastor to? What youth events can you attend/volunteer with? This not only gives you both the chance to see how the other ministry runs, but it allows you to connect/continue connecting with kids. If preteens can see and interact with the youth pastor or other youth volunteers, it gives them the chance to see a familiar face when they walk into youth group for the first time. At our church, the youth pastor plays a large role in VBS with the 5th-grade crews, giving him a whole week of getting to know the preteens before they move up into the youth group.
- Celebrate the transition. How can the children’s and youth pastor work together to make the transition something exciting and something for the preteens to look forward to? I’ve seen some churches who host a special “youth day” in the children’s area or a “5th-grade graduation” that honors the preteens and welcomes them into the youth group. Make this transition a big deal with some lead-up to the actual event. That way, preteens get excited about the move. Consider the timing of the transition too. We transition the 5th graders into the youth group at the beginning of the summer, even though every other class doesn’t move up until Promotion Sunday at the end of the summer. This way, the 5th graders are able to participate in all of the relationally-focused youth summer events that happen. Sometimes it’s easier for preteens to build relationships and get comfortable with the youth group during a Messy Game Night rather than a typical youth group night.
- Help each other out with the logistics and personalities. Consider meeting together as a children’s ministry leader/youth ministry leader team before the transition happens. Share a list of names + parent contact info for all of the students moving up. Share any fun tidbits or personality traits you know about the students that might be helpful. Are there any severe allergies, behavior quirks, or learning disabilities the youth pastor should be aware of? Sharing “insider knowledge” can help set up the youth pastor for success as he/she welcomes the new preteens to the youth ministry.
- Pray for the preteens and families. Spend time praying over the students who will be transitioning. Commit to praying for the preteens (either alone or with your ministry counterpart) at least once a week during the month of the transition.
These ideas come from our Making the Jump online training session that shares 3 ways to ensure kids transition successfully from children’s to youth ministry. This blog post includes some of the ideas and notes from section 1. Want more info and details about how to help preteens transition successfully from children’s to youth ministry? Check out our online training Making the Jump here.