By Alli Brown
Since they can remember, all kids know is the kids ministry at their church. They’ve grown up there, made friends there, and before they know it, it’s time for them to head to the youth group. Thinking about the kids in your ministry that will be transitioning to the student ministry soon may give you a wave of fear or uncertainty. They probably had that same fear about coming into the kids ministry from preschool!
I’m sure you’ve learned one of the best ways kids get involved is through those milestone experiences—camp, lock-ins, VBS, and so forth. They may look different, but these events are still happening while kids are in youth! The best way to start making this transition is to, first, partner with your Student Pastor. You don’t want “Graduation Sunday” to just be a hand off. Let the kids see the Student Pastor’s face, know things about him, and see him get involved. I remember when I was in elementary school, the Student Pastor would come to some of our events and hang out with us. He wanted to get to know us and know what to expect when we came to the youth. This gave us buy-in with him! We got to know him on a personal level, and didn’t feel like the youth group was looming over us when we were in 5th grade!
Talk with your Student Pastor about events they have coming up, and consider letting those 5th graders join in! Show them what they have to look forward to, but also how things are similar/different from the kids ministry. This is a great time for those 5th graders to get to know the middle schoolers, and even older youth that they’ll soon be included with at church. Juniors and seniors in high school may seem super intimidating to a 5th grader, but once they get to see them being silly and get to hang out with them at church events, they’ll see they’re not so scary and like to have fun just as much as they do!
The biggest worry—losing these kids in church. The kids ministry has been a place of spiritual learning, growth, and formation for them. One of the most critical things about this time is making that transition to the youth meaningful and worth it for them, or else we can see kids start fading away from the church. This is a great time to partner with the parents. Prep them for what’s coming, be patient with them, and maybe even provide resources for them as their kiddo is growing up! The parents will need to know it’s worth it for their kids to still be involved in the student ministry.
Just remember, this can be a crazy time in your life and the life of these kids, but they love you! Don’t become a stranger to them just because they’ve moved up to the student ministry. Always be sure to say hey and still give them a high five when you see them in the halls at church! Keep taking the time to invest in their lives. A few of these kiddos may even be the ones that come back and want to volunteer in the kids ministry later in life. Who knows, they may be the next Kids Minister to fill your shoes!