by Trey Brooks
Children’s Pastor, Grace Point Church of the Nazarene, Fort Wayne, IN
Transitioning students from Children’s Ministry to Youth Ministry has long been a tricky and often awkward time in the life of the student and the Church. In our local ministry, we have been working and striving to improve this time of transition. Many in our pastoral team worked to create a special service along with a transition period that encompasses much more than just “Promotion Sunday.” We have chosen to officially promote the students the first Sunday of June following their 6th grade year of school. However, the transition starts much earlier.
First, beginning in mid-April a youth staff member teaches the 6th grade Sunday school class to help them connect with the leadership of the youth ministry. Students still attending Kids’ Worship and will do so through the end of May.
Second, during the month of May, students transition into Junior High Ministry on Wednesday evenings. Since many of the students are on vacation throughout the summer, this allows them to experience what a “normal” Wednesday ministry is like during the school year before the summer begins.
Third, the 6th grade students attend to their Last Kids’ Ministry special event. The youth pastor and I both attend to continue to help and encourage the students to connect with the youth pastor.
Fourth, the first Sunday of June, we have a Rite of Passage during the worship service. Students, parents and congregation look forward to participating in this event which takes the majority of the service. We have all the 6th grade students and their parents meet and sit together. At the appropriate time in the service, I ask the parents and students to stand, and I say a prayer of thanksgiving for where they have come to this point in their lives and how God has and is working in them. Then, they are seated and I announce each student and their parents one at a time to come to the platform. Our Senior Pastor meets them in the center and says the Aaronic Blessing over them. Following the blessing, they make their way to the youth pastor who places a necklace inscribed with the blessing around their neck. The student and his/her parents then make their way off the platform and we repeat those steps for each student. When all of the students have had the blessing pronounced over them, we do two different things depending on whether they are in 1st or 2nd Service. During 1st service, the students are escorted to Sunday school and their parents escorted to a Parent Meeting with the youth pastor. During 2nd service, there are reserved seats for them to sit with the youth group, if they choose.
This year will be our third year using this process. We have adjusted aspects of the process every year. This year, we are adding a new component of allowing the 6th grade students to participate in the regional activities at our Nazarene university. Our desire is to help students transition through what can be an awkward time of their lives.