For kids, parents, and student pastors, the transition from kids ministry to student ministry is a BIG deal! I’ll never forget seeing the 5th graders in our kids ministry march into our student center for the first time. Every year I would make the same comment, that “these must be 3rd graders not 5th graders!” These kids are still used to walking in single file lines wherever they go. They raise their hand before they make even the smallest comment, and their eyes are filled with wonder as they step into the world of the “big kids”!
Their parents are another story, especially if this is their first kid to move into student ministry. Parents of students moving into student ministry can have their own list of hesitations and concerns, and all too often, these concerns won’t be brought to you. For these reasons, it is your job (Student Pastor) to be proactive in meeting the needs and anticipating the concerns of both the students and the parents before, during, and after the transition. Here are some things to consider as you work through this process…
- Reach out to the students and the parents long before they transition. There are many ministries that have a 6th or 7th grade welcome party and then plan to integrate the new students into their ministry that week or the week after. A better approach would be to connect with your new crowd at least 2 months before promotion. Ask the children’s pastor if you can teach the classes of the upcoming students for a couple of weeks in a row and get to know them. This will go a long way in building relationships with these students, but it will also give you an opportunity to mingle with their parents as they drop off and pick up their kids.
- Have a process of events that step students and their parents into the ministry. Have your welcome party a month out from promotion day and in the month leading up to promotion you can host a few events centered around welcoming the new students to the ministry. If you have a midweek service, consider having a “Preview Night”. I used this in three ways, the first goal of a preview night was to introduce 5th graders to our midweek service. The second goal was to give specific challenges to students already in the student ministry to welcome the new 5th graders with open arms. The third purpose was to hold a parent meeting for parents who missed the welcome party, and also to cast vision for the future of student ministry and recruit leaders. This is a great time to snatch up some parents to be leaders in your ministry, and after they have seen a great wednesday night service, they are sure to be hooked!! You can also consider an event for the whole student ministry in this time frame in which you can incorporate the upcoming students. We had an event called Super Summer in which students were broken up into teams and colors for competitions 3 nights in a row. We brought in a speaker and a band, gave away prizes and absolutely blew it out. We intentionally created 5th grade teams that only competed with one another (because I didn’t want them to get run over by a senior) and WE INVITED THEIR PARENTS TO COME WATCH! This was another fantastic way for us to connect with these kids AND the parents.
- Communicate Communicate Communicate. I mentioned earlier that parents, for the most part, will not come to you with concerns. For this reason, you need to be on top of your communication game. You need to communicate dates and times for everything coming up, but this communication is more than that. Make sure that you are creating an atmosphere for vision casting. Tell the parents where you see the ministry going in the next 5 years and how they can be involved! Gush over their kids and make sure that they know you have every intention of partnering with parents in raising disciples. Make sure that they know how and when you will be discussing purity with their students! This is a topic that all parents want to know about, and seeing that you have a plan and are totally transparent throughout the process will gain you some big points with Mom and Dad.
There are so many elements to a successful transition and I won’t pretend to cover them all in this blog, but hopefully these will be some helpful tips for you as you continue to follow the Lord in your call to Student Ministry!
This post was written by John Paul Basham, Student Ministry Specialist