If my 12-year old were given a choice, he’d never grow up. (That’s been his confession since he was four.) When it came time to “move up” at church, he didn’t embrace the idea at all, at least not at first. Our senior children’s church runs from the ages of 6 to 11. Now that he was 12 he got to worship with the preteens.
No matter how positive a spin I put on it, he was less than enthused. He felt like he’d be leaving his friends behind and over the years, had forged a loving relationships with individuals on our children’s ministry staff including Coach Joey. Fortunately, my church team was proficient at helping kids adjust to graduating up. Even though I work every week in the ministry, I was amazed at how smoothly the transition went. Here are some of the things they did to make it easier.
Prepared for graduation: The church sent a reminder three months before the scheduled graduation. This gave kids the chance to adjust to the idea of changing worship groups.
Welcome parties: Kids were welcomed to the new groups with special parties, high energy worship and a fun icebreaker games.
Made new friends: Each preteen was paired with a “buddy.” The buddies were selected from the teens who regularly attend and have a desire to work in ministry. My son’s buddy told him what to expect and took the time to introduce him to other teens.
Cards and gifts: Children from his former class gave him congratulation cards. I loved this idea! His former classmates wrote things like, “Geesh, you’re getting old,” and “I want to be like you one day.” He looked over those cards for days before placing them in his treasure chest/scrapbook box. My husband and I presented our son with a teen Bible and some other goodies to mark the occasion.
Teachers and tone: The teachers set the tone of this transition. Although Coach Joey was going to miss him, he didn’t add to the stress. He showed his support and excitement by personally introducing my son to his new teacher and bragging on him a few minutes. Coach Joey let Ryan’s new mentor know a few special things about him like which worship songs were his favorite and what games he liked the most.
It’s only been a short time but I can tell that the transition was a good one. As a preteen worshiper, I know he’s just a few steps away from an independent walk with the Lord. I’m grateful to a church that cares about celebrating my child in such a sweet, profound way.