It’s really hard to believe, but school (here in Metro Nashville) starts TODAY, August 1. Some systems started on Monday, July 30! WOW! Every year I talk with churches who struggle knowing when is the best time to promote and start the new year at church. Should it be at the end of the school year? Should it be at the beginning of the new school year? Should it be when the new curriculum quarter starts? Below are three ways I’ve approached promotion in the past. Each worked; each had its issues:
- Promote your kids when they are promoted at school: This seems simple enough: the kids get out of school, and we promote at church too. But does it really work? Most of our school systems are ending their school year in mid-May, which is followed by the summer break and summer vacations. Is that really the best time to recruit new workers and begin new classes? We enjoyed the early promotion but struggled with regular attendance (both kids and teachers) for three months! Additionally, we had some issues with our promoted 6th graders not really fitting in with the student/youth group. It worked, the kids were okay, but it really did pose some unexpected difficulties.
- Promote your kids when the new school year starts: That makes sense, right? Or does it? So much going on and so many changes in a child’s life… wouldn’t it be best to keep the stability of church for a few weeks while other transitions settle? AND many of our schools are starting in the middle of the month (which for us means the middle of a unit of study).
- Promote your kids when the new curriculum starts: Lifeway begins the fall curriculum on the first Sunday of September. That’s a great, fresh time for new beginnings… isn’t it? But what about the Labor Day weekend? Many times the first Sunday of September is followed by the first Monday of September, which is a holiday. Do we really need to start our new SS year on a holiday? And the kids… they really don’t like being in a 3rd grade class when they’re in the 4th grade at school.
Wow… lots of solutions, and lots of problems. Listed below are some things I’ve used to help bridge the problems and to create an environment of structure, sanity, and sensibility:
- Rename the classes: That’s simple. When the kids finish the school year place new signage (sometimes I’ve even used colorful large signs with exaggerated writing) to indicate that this class is now for "X"-year-olds or "X"-graders. (Example: When the 3rd graders complete 3rd grade at school, we put up a new sign on the door that says "4th Grade").
- Promote your sixth graders early: For the most part, the only kids who are really affected by promotion are those kids who are moving to a new division. So why not promote your 6th graders (or 5th graders, depending on your setting) up with the beginning of the school year. This practice, along with renaming classes, can make sense to the kids and their parents.
- Move the whole class, teachers and kids: Once you’ve moved your oldest group, that leaves their department/class empty. Why not move everyone up to their new classrooms for the final weeks of the quarter? Teachers will finish the year with the kids, but, the kids are now in their "correct" classrooms. Probably not my favorite solution, but it had its benefits and some of the teachers really enjoyed moving.
- Looping with the Kids: We used the looping method in Kids Sunday School at one point. Looping required recruiting some really great teachers who made the commitment to teach a group of kids for two years. It’s a little complicated, but this is how it worked: 1st grade teachers taught kids for both their 1st and 2nd grade years and stayed in the same classroom for both years. After 2nd graders were promoted to 3rd, teachers looped back down to pick up another group of 1st graders for two years. So, only 1st, 3rd, and 5th graders were "promoted" to a new classroom and new teachers.
I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong time or way to promote… I think it’s whatever works for your church and ministry. I’d love to hear what you’re doing and why you’ve chosen that plan. When do you promote? Why?