In June, we will be saying goodbye to our current group of 8th graders and saying hello to a new batch of 6th graders. When students move from kids ministry to middle school or student ministry, there’s typically some anxiety involved— for both the students and their parents. Here is the plan that we (middle school) and our kids ministry have come up with to help make the transition a great one.
- Teaching in Kids Ministry – Since February, I’ve started teaching in kids ministry one weekend per month. The goal is to familiarize the soon-to-be 6th graders with me and for me to meet several of them, too. This month, I’m going to start taking a couple of our key middle school volunteers with me.
- Special 5th Grader-Only Event – Toward the end of May, some members of our volunteer team and I are going to throw an event exclusively for the incoming 6th graders. Staff and volunteers from the kids ministry will be invited, as well. I’m not sure what the event is going to look like yet… maybe a Nerf Gun War in the worship center (just don’t tell our facilities director)
- 6th Grade Connection Night – This will be an event at the beginning of June for incoming 6th graders and their parents. It will take place in the kids auditorium and will give our leadership team a chance to introduce ourselves to students and parents. We’ll also play a game, have the Kids Pastor give a brief message, and wrap up with some kind of dessert (last year we did an ice cream sundae bar). As parents check in, we’ll make sure to get their contact info and put our summer events calendar in their hands.
- “Kidnapping” the 6th Graders – The weekend before the students promote, we’re going to send a few of our middle school leaders, armed with water guns and bandanas, to the kids area to “kidnap” the incoming 6th graders and take them to the middle school service. Once they get there, we’ll have a special VIP section set up for them and they’ll get to hang out in our service for about 30 minutes. We’ll play “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” and probably rig it to make sure the 5th grade contestant wins. This is a fun, memorable way to get the incoming 6th graders excited for middle school.
- Serving at Vacation Bible School – Our church does Vacation Bible School the Monday through Friday leading up to promotion weekend. One of the members of our middle school team and I will be the leaders of the 5th grade group that week. This was huge for us last year, as we had 15 solid hours with our incoming students days before they joined our ministry.
- Summer KickOff BBQ and Pool Party – For the past several years, one of our key volunteers has graciously opened his spacious backyard and pool for the first official event of the middle school summer calendar. It takes place on the Thursday of Vacation Bible School and is for both our current students and our soon-to-be-6th graders. Because the new 6th graders haven’t officially promoted by this point, we welcome them as special guests to get a taste of our middle school community.
- 6th Grade Party – On promotion Sunday, we are going to dedicate the final 15 minutes of our service to the new 6th graders. We’ll take them into a different room where they’ll get some kind of treat (last year we did Root Beer floats) and a special welcome by a few members of our leadership team. Afterward, they’ll take turns writing their names down on dry erase boards and then getting their pictures taken, which gives our leaders the ability to study and memorize their names.
What is your transition strategy? I’d love to hear what some of you are doing to welcome your new class of students this year.
Taylor Bird is the Middle School Pastor at Southwest Church in Indian Wells, CA. He has been serving in youth ministry for about five years.