It's the time of year where lots of graduations take place. I was reminded of this last week when I was at my niece's graduation at Samford University in Birmingham.
On of the most critical graduations that happens in children's ministry is the transition from children's ministry into student ministry.
One reason it is so critical is because you can lose kids during this transition if you are not intentional in your approach.
Whether you transition at the beginning or ending of summer, I want to give you some tips on how to make the transition smooth and meaningful.
Start early. By this, I mean start blending children's ministry and student ministry 3-4 months before the graduation day. Here are some ideas for this.
Have some open houses for student ministry so parents can come and see where their children will be taught, mentored, serve, ask questions, etc.
Partner with parents. The transition into student ministry is one of the hardest on parents. Their baby is growing up. What parenting skills do they need for this new phase? What can you do to show them everything will be just fine? How can you come alongside parents during this transition?
Involve student ministry. Often children's ministry and student ministry operate in silos. This cannot be one of those times. As mentioned above, be very intentional about bringing student ministry leaders into the mix. Blend the two into a seamless passageway from children's ministry into student ministry.
Have a graduation ceremony. Part of having a strategic plan for the transition is having a graduation ceremony for the kids. This should be a big, big deal. The ceremony should be for the kids and their parents. Some ideas for this that can make it extremely successful are...
I have developed a kit for graduation transition that includes...
You can get this kit now as an instant download. And you can see more about the Graduation Celebration at this link.
Be ready for some tears during the celebration. There are some key moments when parents bless and pray over their children. Here are some real examples of this happening. Kids and parents will never forget these.
I can't emphasize enough how important this time is. It is one of the few times when parents come to you and ask for help. What a great opportunity you have to speak into their lives. Don't miss this incredible opportunity to impact kids and their parents.
Have a student ministry reception. Have an open house where you invite parents and kids to come and meet key student ministry leaders (student leaders and adult leaders). Provide snacks and drinks for this. Many churches will have this as part of the graduation celebration.
Be patient with parents who are freaking out. This is one of the times parents who are hanging onto their child's elementary years will come to you with concerns, questions, etc. Listen to them. Hand them a tissue to wipe the tears away. Assure them there are amazing leaders in your student ministry that are going to welcome and invest in their child. Have some student leaders at the graduation celebration to meet the parents and spend some time talking with them and their children.
Keep them connected to children's ministry. You will have graduating kids who want to stay connected to children's ministry in some way. Have age-appropriate service opportunities for them. This can be things like helping run sound and screen for kids' services. It might be serving as an assistant in a classroom with an adult leader. It might be greeting kids and families as they enter the children's areas.
Three key things about this.
#1 - They must be connected to student ministry before they can serve in children's ministry. You will usually have a few kids who are having a hard time connecting to student ministry. They will want to serve in children's ministry so they don't have to attend student ministry. Don't allow this to happen. Make it a requirement that students who serve in children's ministry must be connected to student ministry. They must attend student ministry services, Bible studies, events, etc.
#2 - Match responsibility with maturity. Students, especially middle school students, can still be immature and can cause more drama than they do serving help. Students have different levels of maturity. Let that guide how much responsibility you give them.
#3 - Provide them with clear expectations and specifics about what they will be doing. Have this in writing and go over with them. You can even take it to the next level by going over the guidelines and then have the student sign it. And you can invite their parents to be present with you as well when you meet for this discussion. This allows you to have more accountability with the student.
What a privilege we have to invest in the lives of kids and their families during this time. I pray God will use you and your team to help kids and families stay connected during this critical time in their life.