At this time of year, one of the big issues I spend a lot of time thinking about is transition. In my present job at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church we run five mid-week groups that youngsters transfer from and to. I also work in a local primary school – Willowbrook Primary School, and I am helping to lead some of the work with year 6 pupils moving up to secondary school.
So it was great to read Kurt’s recent article on youthministry.com about helping students make the transition from junior to senior high. Here’s a clip:
If you’ve read much, talked much or listened much about youth ministry lately, you are certainly aware of the growing concern over the vast number of students who walk away from church during, or shortly after, their high school years. I’ll let people way smarter than me try to figure out the myriad of factors contributing to that particular dilemma. Because I work with younger teens, an equally troubling trend is one that I think about at the close of every school year: The number of junior high students who don’t transition well into the high school ministry or shortly after, their high school years.
Without a strategic transition plan, youth groups set themselves up to loose students before they even enter the high school program. And, in my opinion, a rough transition may contribute to students never feeling truly connected to the high school group which makes it easier to walk away later on (I have absolutely no hard data to back that up….it’s just a ‘gut feeling’. Like I said, people way smarter than me can try to figure it out!). So, with your 8th graders only a few weeks away from moving into high school, I’d like to offer a two-step strategy to help the transition go as smoothly as possible. My strategy: Reach down and Push up.
Sometimes as churches we are guilty of trying to play down transitions but actually they can be a scary as moving from primary to secondary school. Especially if the young people have been in ‘their’ group for a long time, and are moving up to a big group.
One of the things we have done in our church is to make a year 6-8 group that goes over the boundary of transition to secondary school. It certainly provides consistency for the young people when everything else is changing for them. We still ‘lose’ one or two youngsters, mainly due to two factors: increased activities after school that we have to compete with, for example a wider range of sports teams and music groups; and secondly, friendship groups altering as young people move from primary school to a variety of secondary schools, but it makes a difference for most of our young people, and I am convinced that if we didn’t run a group across this transition we would lose a lot more.
Again concentrating on this transition of primary to secondary we ensure that we are heavily involved in the preparations for pupils from our local primary school, both with informal visits to the secondary schools and running lessons based around the It’s Your Move book from Scripture Union.
I will come back and touch on the transition from secondary school to university/college/gap year/work etc. at another time.
What do you do to help with the transitions?