One of my favorite parts of Middle School Ministry is watching 5th graders transition into our program each Spring. We realized several years ago that after spending 11 years in our awesome Children’s Ministry, students may be a little shy about making the transition to Middle School Ministry if they have never seen it in action. So, we started inviting students to a 5th Grade Welcome Night each May to build anticipation for the following year.
After several years of doing this event, we’ve realized that if we want 5th graders to come and feel welcome we need to make the experience comfortable, familiar, and fun.
Make it Comfy.
Comfort is something we all value in new situations, but this is especially important when transitioning a student into Middle School. We go to great lengths to make sure that a student knows two things when they enter our environment for the first time. First, from the time they enter the door, until they get back in their parents’ car, we want to make sure they know where to be, and that someone is guiding them every step of the way. Secondly, we want to make sure they don’t ever feel singled out. Primarily we accomplish this through making every activity optional to participate in or just observe.
Keep it familiar.
While we want our Middle Schoolers to have a different experience than they did in Children’s Ministry, we also want this night to have a sense of familiarity. Fortunately we have an awesome Children’s Ministry staff who is as dedicated to this event as our youth team is. In fact, they show up to help greet, check in, and make sure 5th graders are connecting well. We also invite the 5th grade Small Group Leaders and Parents to join us at this event to make sure there are a lot of familiar faces and adults they trust. While we try to give them a genuine representation of what our program is like, we think through our games, announcements, worship and teaching and pull in ideas they are used to.
We also strive to “Wow” our 5th graders every step of the way. We want this event to be incredibly fun for them. From the moment they exit the car, we have leaders clapping and cheering for them. Once they are in the door, we direct them to their own special check in booth with people they know. As they walk into our hang out space, there are leaders directing them and handing them candy bars. Before we head into our worship space, we group them and their leaders together, so they don’t risk feeling lost. We work hard to make sure our programming is familiar, but also high energy and brings an exciting element of newness that they can relate to. We also end the evening by directing them to meet with some of our best volunteers who spend 25 minutes getting to know them.
Don’t forget the parents.
I mentioned earlier that we invite 5th grade parents to this event as well. We love that they get to experience first hand what their student is experiencing. However, we also use this opportunity to talk to parents about the transition. When students head off to Small Group time, we invite all the 5th grade parents in for coffee and conversation about where their student has been in Children’s Ministry, and how we will build on that foundation over the next three years. This also gives us the chance to begin building relationship with them, to share our vision, and answer questions about all the exciting new opportunities their student will have.
Do you have a transition day or event?