Graduating kids up to the teen ministry of the church is always a bittersweet experience, isn’t it? Actually, moving children along their set spiritual path has been the goal all along, but sometimes the finish line blurs under the weight of crayons, crafts and object lessons. Like parents and pastors, kids often feel a bit unsettled about “moving up.” Transitioning kids may experience fear and uncertainty. Obviously some things will change, like how they worship, how they express their faith and how they fit in. There’s no avoiding stress completely but there are four things you can do to help kids achieve a smooth transition.
Involve parents. Before a child moves into the youth group, you should talk with parents. I find introducing a child and parents to the youth pastor helps. If possible, let the families see you and the youth pastor working together. A simple graduation service is a good way to achieve that. Help the youth pastor host a parents’ night where families can visit the facility and get to know everyone. It helps to keep parents involved beyond kids’ church.
Follow transition guidelines. Granted there always exceptions to guidelines, that shouldn’t be the norm. If kids graduating 6th grade always move up, move them up. Hold transitions at the same time every year. That way, Mom and Dad can prepare kids for the changes.
Present teen ambassadors. What a joy to see teens in ministry! That’s what the teen ambassadors at our church do; they minister by taking transitioning kids under their wings. A teen ambassador is basically a ministry buddy who tells the “new kid” what comes next, what to expect and how to participate. It only takes a few ambassadors to bridge the gap. Sometimes it takes a few weeks for newer teen members to become acclimated to their new environment; others a little longer.
Overlap the pastoral leadership. Once a child graduates don’t be a stranger. For the next few weeks, make it a point to visit the teens to say, “Hi.” As long as the youth pastor is okay, overlapping leadership briefly is fine. However, you should take the child off your mailing list and don’t inadvertently enable him to stay behind.