"In two weeks I'm taking you to lunch." That was one of the first things I said to the Junior High pastor when I arrived in Frisco as children's pastor at Hope Fellowship. His response, "Umm, we can go today if you want!" I laughed and told him that I was happy to go to lunch any time but wanted to give him a chance to think on a few questions. What did he want new 6th grade students to know when they entered youth ministry, and how were we going to insure that no students "fell through the cracks" of our ministry?
Though it rarely happens, this conversation is one that every kid's and youth pastor should have. Children's leaders feel pressure to get a child "saved, filled with the Holy Spirit and called into ministry" before he goes into youth ministry. These things are important, but I would argue that their thinking is often flawed. Their assumption is this: once a child enters the youth ministry, she must be ready to take on the world. I've also found many youth pastors who feel they are starting from scratch with each new group of 6th graders. They assume, "now that you are done with the puppets, candy and games, the real ministry can begin." The fact is both of these assumptions are wrong and can damage a student's spiritual development.
We are on the same team and we must work together. That day as we sat and talked, we learned we shared the goal of developing students who had a strong faith that could stand the test of time. We established goals that began to shape our lessons with the kids and served as the foundation the youth ministry was built on. We began to work together on key events for 4th and 5th grade students because we understood the students need to build trust with the youth department prior to the 6th grade, and we looked for ways to help parents establish this trust as well.
If we hope to successfully transition students from children's ministry to youth ministry, we must be willing to start a discussion and work together!
Scott Berkey - follow Scott on Twitter: @scottberkey
Assemblies of God Children's Ministry