How do you transition kids into youth group? How do you transition youth into young adults ministry?
A new year is beginning. We find ourselves hoping and praying that as term one begins, the new kids will just rock on up to youth group or turn up at our small group. We hope that it will just happen.
Sorry, but it won’t.
Young people don’t just transition themselves into a new group. Why not? Because it’s scary! In fact, no matter how old we are, we all face the same fear… “I’m not sure if this group is going to accept me”.
Our job as leaders is to assure them that they will be accepted and that they are welcome.
The good news is that it’s actually simple to do. We’ve just got to be intentional about doing it.
So whether you’re transitioning kids into youth group, or you’ve got high schoolers going up into young adult ministry, here are five things that we’ve found will make that transition smooth.
- Do it early. Do it now. If you’re planning ahead, the ideal would be to avoid the time when they are in the middle of change (ie starting a new school/university). We have found that the best time to welcome someone to your group is just before they are making their life transition. For young adults, it works to do it around the middle of year 12/13 (well before the stress of final exams hits!). For teenagers, near the end of Year 8. They will already be feeling like they’ve outgrown their current group and will relish the opportunity to be part of something that feels more grown up and relevant to them.
- Hold a transition event. Plan it into your calendar every year without fail – an event or gathering which is geared around welcoming new people. Whether you eat together, go on an adventure, or just play some games, shared experiences will secure their sense of having a place in the group.
- Make it personal. Send them an invitation in the mail. Make a phone call and let them know that are personally invited. Offer to give them a ride to the event – it’s always so much easier when someone says, “I’m going, would you like to come with me?”. Gift them a welcome pack such as a high school or uni survival kit (including things like highlighters, Subway voucher, study tips, devotional, info about upcoming events) to mark their move into the next stage of life.
- Be intentionally intergenerational. As a wider church community, be intentional about building relationships between older and younger people all year round. Facilitate opportunities for ongoing interactions so that they already know the leaders and each other before their transition to the group.
- Share a vision of being welcoming. Let’s be honest. Your existing group is probably not going to be stoked about the idea of hanging out with people who are younger (and so much less mature than they are). Infect them with your passion for reaching out to others and including new people.