Every fall each of our ministries see a change where new students transition into Junior High within our churches. Many of us prepare for weeks, or the summer, for the new class of students that will walk into our doors at the end of August or early September. Within our ministry here in Orlando, Florida we look forward and prepare for the “Great Transition.” We must see the need for planning and having a game plan for moving students into our ministry. Below I have included the four areas I see as pivotal for transition students into our Junior High Ministry and Discipleship relationships.
In my context for doing ministry, we have Life-groups (think Sunday School, Small Group, or table-groups). We use Life-groups as a way to teach students and help them grow in a small group setting of their fellow peers. Having a small group relationship for Junior High students is pivotal for them to have a place to be fed spiritually, have accountability relationships, and have a consistent place for them to hear God’s word.
The second way that I recommend helping with the “Great Transition” is to leave your office and ministry building and head out to spend time with the students in your ministry. The greatest tool I have found in ministry has been going out to watch our students play sports or in some extracurricular activities. It may seem like an easy win, but in reality, showing up to their activities shows the students you care about them. The “Great Transition” brings nervousness to students, but when they see you on the sidelines, it helps break down barriers and open doors to students trusting you.
Another great way to help with the transition of students is connecting with families. I am a massive believer in Download Youth Ministry. If you do not use it, then you need to go and check it out right away. Yes, they have great resources and tools, but I love the newsletter application that helps me put together newsletters for our parents. I have found that connecting with parents through our newsletter helps parents stay in the loop. Parents see the “Great Transition,” as something that can be scary, makes them feel like their child is growing up to fast, and is the last stop in the church before their child heads off to High School then college. We must make the transition smooth and help parents stay connected to our ministry.
Lastly, just like you, I love hanging out with students in my ministry. I want students to get connected to Christ and grow in Christ. However, what Student Pastor does not want that same thing? I have formed a culture within our Student Ministry where our Youth Workers and those who volunteer are expected to commit to discipling at least one student within our ministry. I know that may seem like a lot, but Student Ministry is time consuming, and discipleship has become a key to spiritual growth in ministry. Build a culture of discipleship and watch your students begin to grow in Christ and take ownership of your ministry.
No matter where you are in ministry, the key for transitioning is found right where you are currently. There is no need to buy high tech or the next best thing for teenagers. Instead, love on students and their families.
-Dr. Scott Talley