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KurtJohnston

Kurt Johnston has been a youth pastor since 1988 and currently leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted voices in youth ministry, Kurt loves to encourage other youth workers and has written and created over 50 books and resources with that goal in mind. In his free time, Kurt enjoys surfing and riding dirt bikes in the desert with his wife and two children.

It’s that time of year. In a couple short months, churches everywhere will move elementary-aged kids up into junior high ministry and 8th graders up into the big, bad world of high school youth group.

For years at Saddleback, we’ve been fairly intentional in our promotion strategy. Specifically, we employ what I like to call a “push up/reach down” approach to helping students move from one department to the next. Let me explain, but first one thought: “Promotion Sunday” (or whatever you call it) is not a one-time event, it is a mindset that you should enter into a couple of months before the actual date.

The department below “Pushes Up” to the department above.

Our children’s ministry does an AMAZING job at “pushing up” toward our junior high ministry; they spend significant time and effort preparing the 6th graders for their new home in junior high. Here are some things they do:

  • They ALWAYS speak highly of our junior high ministry to students and parents.
  • They purposely neglect doing some things in 6th grade that they easily could in order for junior high to be the first time these things are experienced. In other words, they don’t try to be a miniature junior high ministry.
  • They host a special event for 6th graders and their parents to prepare them for junior high ministry and invite the junior high team to play a significant role.
  • As a graduation gift, they give every 6th grader a hat, t-shirt or backpack with the junior high ministry logo on it!

Our junior high ministry tries to mirror this mindset with the 8th graders, and has a very similar strategy of “pushing up”….helping the 8th graders get excited about high school and familiar with the high school ministry long before promotion Sunday actually arrives.

The department above “Reaches Down” to the department below.

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Our high school ministry works hard to “reach down” to the 8th graders every year. Here are some things they do:

  • Beginning in April, high school staff and volunteers begin showing up to junior high events to get to know the 8th graders.
  • Around the same time, they begin showing up at the junior high church services to give announcements, run games etc. They’ve learned that a lack of familiarity with the leaders is one of the biggest roadblocks to a smooth transition from JH to HS.
  • The high school ministry hosts an 8th grade orientation night for parents a few weeks before promotion Sunday.
  • Each year, one week before promotion Sunday, the high school ministry hosts and event called Freshmen Frenzy which is a night for 8th graders only.

Our junior high ministry tries to mirror this mindset with the 6th graders and has a very similar strategy of “reaching down ”….helping the 6th graders get excited about junior high and familiar with the junior high ministry long before promotion Sunday actually arrives.

Promotion Sunday is right around the corner…..it might be a great time to start reaching down and pushing up!

– Kurt8th Grade

 

P.S. – Check the brand new student devotional by Lars Rood, 8th Grade. It’s a perfect gift for your 7th graders moving into the next year or for current 8th graders.

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