Over the years, our ministry has developed a fairly effective strategy for transitioning our 8th graders into the high school group. The overriding philosophy is simple: A healthy transition takes effort from BOTH departments.
We ask the junior high department to joyfully “push up” and we ask the high school department to aggressively “reach down”.
“PUSH UP”: Beginning in early May (we don’t promote until late June) the junior high department starts to consistently brag to 8th graders about how awesome the high school department is. They introduce them to high school leaders, encourage them to sneak into a high school service and start promoting all the amazing plans the high school ministry has for the upcoming summer. Our high school team works hard to make sure 8th graders are familiar with our high school ministry, and its leaders, far before promotion Sunday arrives. If they wait to care about students until they are officially “theirs”, they’ve waited too long and the chance of kids falling through the cracks increases dramatically.
“REACH DOWN”: Around the same time, the high school team begins it’s assault on the 8th graders! They purposely interrupt announcements to promote a summer high school event, they guest speak in our weekend program, and they seek out 8th graders before and after the services.
Because our junior high ministry only has their students for two years, it would be understandable that they would try to hold onto them as long as possible. But because they have a “long view” and believe that their success is largely determined by how many of their former students stay involve in high school it’s shockingly easy to begin to hand them off to the high school team a few months early.
Transitioning from junior high to high school is often an intimidating and awkward time for students. Sadly, many youth groups make it tougher than it needs to be by not having a strategy in place.