One of the most significant things leaders need to be mindful of is how often we lose kids during transitional moments. It can be a hard leap for children when they are facing significant change in any area of their life; this includes walking into a new room with a new set of leaders. It is a tragic thing when we see the losses, but we can be more than concerned observers. We can pay attention and be proactive in an effort to see kids make healthy transitions. Below are four reasons I believe contribute to the loss of kids in transitional times in their lives and what the church can do to combat them:
- Lack of partnership between the children’s and youth ministries and also a disconnect of style or format between the two ministries.
I am talking about cooperative relationship. An effective transition is enabled when there is overlap and partnership between ministries. There needs to be some shared vision and shared adventure. Exposing leaders’ faces to kids, having shared services or opportunities to serve together makes transition easier because they are already aware of the leader they will sit under in the next season. Also, if there is a significant difference between the two programs it will make the transition much harder. If there are elements of similarities between the programs then there will be elements of familiarity to the students. For example, if there is no worship component to a kids program and it is a high value to the youth program, nothing is preparing the child for that atmosphere. What an opportunity kids pastors and youth pastors have to work together to prepare each age group to succeed in the next season. To groom them in worship, the word, service, lasting relationships built through small group settings, all these things can only set them up to continue to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. If this is not happening in your church, start the conversation. Be part of the solution not part of the problem.
- Lack of opportunities for kids and teens to serve and be part of the whole church body.
Kids need a sense of purpose and belonging, they need that relationship piece where they are connected not only to their same-age peers but older students and adults. It is the intergenerational model and it is biblical. Serving is a faith building exercise where students realize they are made for more than just sitting and listening. It gives them an opportunity to:
- Plan and learn a lesson from the Bible or give a testimony
- Relationally care for a younger child
- Practice their musical skills and use them in a worship service
- Meet and welcome many different generations as an usher or at the serve at the church café
- See what God can do in their community and globally when they get involved in a service project
- Go on a missions trip with a parent or a youth pastor
Serving makes them feel alive and connected to the church, those they serve with and to the heart of God.
- We just assume transition instead of actually celebrating it and drawing attention to it.
Sometimes we just let transition happen without any fanfare. I remember when I was a child we had Promotion Sunday in September and the children were brought up to the front and given a certificate of promotion and we were celebrated. We may not need to bring back Promotion Sunday, however, transitional moments need to be saturated with high levels of communication, connection and celebration with parents, leaders and students. In our kids ministry, the junior high pastor comes over in June and speaks to the Grade 5’s and gets them excited about going to junior highs and then they go and check out the program. The children’s pastor gives them all a little gift and a note on their last Sunday. As a youth pastor my husband used to do a boys fishing trip for all the boys who were coming into senior high youth. There are so many things that can be done to celebrate each milestone. We do such a great job of it in school with a kindergarten, Gr. 8 and Gr. 12 graduation ceremony, so why not in the church. As church leaders take time to factor these celebrations in your year. Everyone loves a party!
- Shifting Parental Values
The church can be intentional and proactive during transition, but there is one more significant trend that we need to be aware of. As kids age and become increasingly involved in activities outside the church, parents often elevate those priorities above spiritual moments. They take on the “pattern of the world”. Some parents also sense their pre-teens need for autonomy as a signal for them to back off from investing spiritually. They often give in to their demands for autonomy instead of continuing to lead them towards spiritual moments. Then when transition comes or during that process, kids drop out and parents feel helpless to do anything about it. Maybe it is because they never had moments where they invested in them spiritually at home, so it becomes increasingly awkward for them to start. As church leaders we need to constantly communicate to parents that they are the primary spiritual influence in their child’s life. They need to model a life of service and devotion to Christ. We need to resource them, pray for them and cheer them on. We need to equip the saints! That is what Paul defines our role as…equippers!
[Submitted by Jenni Colwell, Family Life Pastor, Glad Tidings, Burlington, Ontario]
KEEP KIDS CLOSE IN THE TRANSITIONAL YEARS:
The summer camp season is soon approaching. As children transition from their elementary years to those Jr. High years, and become “too old” to attend summer camp, make a place for them to be involved in a leadership level in your camp setting. Many times those very kids have experienced camps from the camper/participant level. Now incorporate them into a place where they can serve with other leadership in place who can mentor them.
Here are a few camp stories recently featured in our Missions And Kids Spring Resource. Every strong camp leadership team always has kids who have just transitioned out of the camp registrant age group, but who can relate well to those kids coming in to your program. This younger generation of leader desires to serve. Create a place where they can shine, and where they can serve, and use their talents and abilities. Let them now see what it’s like to share Jesus with younger kids!
PRAYER POINT:Lord, we ask you today to lead us to be intentional and deeply passionate about the children and families that we serve. Beyond the week-to-week programs, give us strategy to help lead them into a deeper relationship with You. Lord, our deep hope is to honour You and to honour them in such a way that they grow to be fully formed disciples of Jesus and they in turn lead many to You. Help us to not grow weary in well doing and may the investment we make in the formative years of their lives reap a mighty harvest and be the hope for the next generation.
In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.