I’m glad to be busy this time of year or I’d be sitting in the corner crying over the loss of the kids I just trained up in children’s ministry who are moving on. Yep….they keep insisting on growing up. Sigh…sniff! I don’t profess to know the answer to a smooth transition, but will share a few of the intentionals I’ve tried to offer to make the move.
Our Children’s Ministry includes bed babies through 5th grade. At 3rd grade, they get to be a part of CLUB345 where we go deeper in the Word, introduce greater use of our bibles, and partner with other churches for special events (Splash Night, Messy Night, Winter Ball, etc.) We also go on our first overnight retreat with our local denominational leaders.
With Ministry Milestones, we can set some special events that are ‘rites of passage’ like moving up to large group Sunday School, accolyting, starting in CLUB345, getting new bibles (1st graders get Early Reader Bibles, 3rd graders get red-letter NIVs), Deep & Wide Retreat, running the Bake Sale fundraiser for camp, etc. By the time the kids reach the next milestone, they are so excited they about can’t stand themselves.
At 4th grade, our kids attend a day long Deep & Wide Retreat at my home to practice developmentally appropriate spiritual disciplines to begin using as they begin to live out their faith as a follower of Jesus. Our 5th graders also attend for the first time or as a refresher and a chance for building closer relationships with the 4th graders who are coming up behind them. Our CLUB345 piggy backs with the youth’s missions lunches and Souper Bowl For Caring with a bake sale to fundraise for the fall overnight camp. At our end of school year CLUB345 the youth have come out to cheer on the CLUB345 talent show so my oldest kids begin to ‘feel the love’ of their new youth peeps, and those completing 5th grade receive their names in framed scripture.
Our students who complete 5th grade get to have their feet in both camps during the summer of transition. Most of our youth go on local and international mission trips, so the rising 6th graders can’t go on mission trips, but are invited to a couple of youth activities. Summer is where they totally get to serve in VBS as travel guides (partnered with a seasoned youth) or section minions in an area of leadership (partnered with a Titus 2 adult). After the VBS decorating party, we gather for a Safe Sanctuary training specific to them and the rising 6th graders join the youth for Youth Training. On the Wednesday of VBS, we gather at a local Mexican restaurant for lunch to bring all the youth volunteers and my rising 6th graders together to share table life. Rising 6th graders pray over bandanas and prepare treat bags for the youth attending the missions trips. At the ‘Slide Into Fall’ dual water slide they graduate to the right side of the slide which is much faster and slicker.
It’s these students who know where all the supplies are. These students who now offer to run and load up the Bible Bucks store when we get donations. These students who come for a few hours to transition the children’s hallway from season to season. These students set up the Winter Ball. These students are invited to write articles for the newsletter. These students offer to help me and our kids in so many ways. Every opportunity is a training and sharing opportunity which makes their faith even stickier as they experience belonging and service. A 3rd grader joined us for last year’s VBS decorating party with her parents. She shared afterwards that she had no idea so much went into preparing for VBS. “I thought y’all just pulled stuff out of a closet and poof it was there.”
Oh, and when they age out of youth, children’s ministry sends gift boxes, cards, and notes to continue in relationship. So when they come home from college or stick around after high school, their connection is still clear as we arrange for them to serve on Fantastic Friday (parent’s night out), late night, and CLUB345. I invite them to share testimony of what’s going on in their lives with my kids and lead a Sunday school class so they get to inspire my current kids to stay strong in their faith. For it’s in ministry with children where we can continue the relationship that clearly communicates: this is MY church! They will always age out….but only for a season.
What do you do to intentionally transition your kids to youth/student ministry….and beyond? What can you do to invite kids when they’re no longer kids to answer God’s call on their lives to be walkers (servers) and talkers (teachers) for the cause of Christ?
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.” 1 Corinthians 1:26