I can think of very few moments in a child’s life that are more tragic than moving to middle school. It’s been almost 25 years since I made the transition, yet I remember it like it was yesterday. Everything seems to change all at once: a new school, a new social group, a new body, going from the top of the school pecking order to the very lowest and worst of all… NO MORE RECESS! Then, to top it all off, most kids are going to transition in their church environments, too.

It’s important that we take this transition into consideration. A significant number of kids drop out of student/kids ministry during this transition. Some are old enough to stay home while others prefer getting lost on their phones while sitting in service with mom and dad. We’ve invested far too much in these kids to let this transition eat their lunch. So here are some things to consider to help make the transition easier and ensure your few survive Middle School.

Middle School Sneak Peaks
One thing we’ve been pretty successful with in the past few years is giving 5th graders several sneak peaks into the middle school environments. Three or four times in the summer, 5th grade groups travel over to the middle school environment and experience middle school large group. The small group leaders lead their group with the same conversations as the other middle school leaders. Most 5th graders really don’t know what to expect when they move into student ministry, but this gives them an opportunity to see what’s coming within the safety of their existing group and leader. If middle school is on a different day of the week, consider rallying your group for a special outing to test the waters of the middle school world together.

Transition Conversations
There’s never enough time to cover everything during small group. However, making sure to have meaningful conversations around the transition each week is significant. The conversation should probably begin 2-3 months before your few make the big move.
▪ What are you going to miss about being in elementary school?
▪ What are you not going to miss?
▪ What are you most excited about when you think of going to middle school?
▪ What are you the most nervous about when you think of going to middle school?

Try to have one or two questions to discuss every week for a couple of months leading up to the transition, remembering that many of your few do not attend each and every week so the conversations may seem repetitive to you but will include everyone over time.

Consider Following Your Few
This may seem like a radical concept. You’ve seen yourself more as an elementary person and middle school scares you a little. Truth: Middle School scares everyone. Maybe the absolute best thing you could do for your few is to make the transition with them. Even if it’s just for one year, walking them through the transition can significantly impact their long-term success. Last year, we had the largest group to ever transition into our 6th grade ministry and the reason for this success was because we had several of our key small group leaders make the move as well. The absolute best words you could say to your few on their last weekend as a 5th grader is: “What a great year! I’ll see you next week, same time… just in that room over there!”

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Kenny Conley

Kenny Conley, a 15-year veteran of Children’s Ministry, currently serves as the NextGen pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, Texas. His passion to see the next generation come to know and follow Christ propels him to constantly rethink how the church approaches ministry to kids and their families. Kenny loves to network and collaborate with ministry leaders around the world to push ministry to new levels. He lives in Texas with is wife Sara and children, Titus and Genevieve.

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