Transition Traditions

Transitioning StudentsA good beginning and a good ending. Transitions are the bookends of ministry and help set the stage for the years ahead!

It’s the time of the year to think about these transitions of students into and out of preteen ministry. Maybe you have a plan in place? If so, we’d really love to hear about it in the comment section.

If you don’t (or if you just want to improve upon the plan you already have), read on. Maybe the ideas from these preteen ministry leaders will help you in your quest for the “perfect” transition plan:


Mike Sheley (5th/6th grade preteen ministry in Indiana)

Mike actually works in subtle ways all year long to prepare for the transition.  (You can read more about it in the upcoming publication “Preteen Ministry”, available from the Youth Cartel this August!) Here are some of the ways Mike shared that he transitions students in:
  • I have a meeting in April with parents to help with the transition.
  • I make intentional time to connect with our 4th graders and their families long before they hit 5th grade and join our ministry on the first weekend of June (all of our students are out of school and so everyone in our church moves to the next grade level at this time).
  • At summer camp, I lead our camp for 5th-6th graders.  Although our children’s pastor leads the camp for 3rd-4th grade, it is going on simultaneously in another part of camp.  So I make sure to bop around and have a visible presence to those campers and their parents who are volunteering with us for the week.
  • I also help out with special events like the all-nighters that our children’s pastor does with the 3rd-4th graders so that they actually have a few experiences with me up to two years before joining our preteen ministry.

Chip Henderson (5th/6th grade preteen ministry in California)

  • We do Surf Preview Days during the month of May to give the incoming 5th graders a taste of non summer Surf. Every Wednesday night during May, the 4th graders get to join the 5th/6th graders, and we select one Sunday for them to go to Surf at both/either services.
  • We have a 4th Grade Parent Ice Cream Social to introduce the ministry, the summer calendar, get to know LifeGuards, talk about camp, 12 x 12 Program, etc. This takes place in early May, and again in late August.
  • 4th Grade parents begin receiving the Surf Report, our weekly preteen email during May.

Sean Sweet (4th/5th grade preteen ministry in California)

  • I’ll visit the kids’ ministry to say “hi” and help co-teach some of the lessons in the younger classroom a few weeks before our transition Sunday, which is typically the first Sunday in June.
  • The Sunday before transition, we have an Ice Cream Social. Click here for all the details on the components of a successful Ice Cream Social.



Jacqui Parker (5th/6th grade ministry in Indiana)

Our student ministry (7th-12th) is called BreakOut, so when we started the preteen ministry we named is Chrysalis with the tagline “preparing to break out”. We transition at the end of the school year. It starts out with the 12th graders bursting into our class and yelling, “We hear there are some kids that are ready to break out!” They blindfold the 6th graders and lead them the “long” way around to our student ministry building while I take the shorter route. As the kids are brought in all the junior/senior high kids are clapping and cheering. We bring the Chrysalis kids up to the front and take off their blindfolds. I then introduce each of the kids and say something about why they are lucky to have this kid join their group. I present them with a gift (we usually do a cool dog tag necklace with a verse that reflects something we had been focused on that year). The student ministry pastor gives them a BreakOut t-shirt to welcome them in. I give them a hug, say goodbye, and go back to my class so we can turn around and “kidnap” the 4th graders.

Chip Henderson (5th/6th grade preteen ministry in California)

  • 6th grade Graduation Luau happens the last Friday of May, where preteens and their parents only come to a Luau. The evening includes Hawaiian style BBQ and ambiance. I speak for about 15 minutes, and then we have the coolest part. I’ve had the parents prepare a “spiritual blessing” to be read and prayed over their 6th grader. I dismiss the parents and their preteen to spread out to a private location and the parents read a blessing that they wrote (I give them a help guide on how to write this) and then they lay hands on their student and pray. The night concludes with a special gift from me, an ESV Student Study Bible to help transition them to middle school. I give the instructions that I’m only giving this to them if they promise to use it (I compare it to giving a knight a brand new sword).
  • 6th graders have a preview week of their own on Wednesday nights, where the middle school staff comes in and kidnaps them for the week complete with silly string!
  • We also have a special 6th grade only – 6 week unit on Sunday mornings where we use a very modified version of Preparing for Adolescence. We spend weeks talking about purity, coming changes to their bodies, what life and friends look like in Jr High. We even bring in a panel of 7th graders (one guy and girl from each school) to allow the 6th graders to ask questions. We’ve found that this helps calm a lot of nerves.

Katie Gerber (4th/5th grade ministry in Maryland)

We transition students out of our preteen ministry at the end of August.  We partner with the middle school ministry for an event called the Crossing.  This is a milestone event where parents come for a special dinner with their preteen to bless them into Middle school.  Parents come prepared with a written blessing to read to their preteen.  Plus we have invited 7th grade students who have showed great leadership over the year to come and help be a part of the event to meet the incoming 6th graders. Here is a sample schedule of our evening:

5:00-5:15: Registration

5:15-6:30: Nice Sit down meal with parents and students

6:30-6:45: Prepare for the crossing:  Middle School pastor talks to the incoming preteens and parents are asked to head out of the room to meet with the preteen pastor whom gives instructions and hands them a special cross necklace to give to their preteen and read their blessing over them.

6:45-7:30:  Send parents and preteens off to do their blessing and crossing

7:30-10:30:  Parents walk their preteen to the bus to send them off to a special event: anything from laser tag, to sky zone, to whatever works for your group.

10:30-11:30: Come back to Worship with the Middles school worship band and a Chat with the Middle School pastor

Sleep whenever it comes 🙂

7:30-8:30: Up dressed, Breakfast

8:30-9:30: Morning Devotions and more worship time

9:30-10:30: Games with the Middle School Pastor

10:30: Dismiss

Sean Sweet (4th/5th grade preteen ministry in California)

  • We transition our students IN at the beginning of June, but don’t transition our students OUT until the middle of July. This overlap time is when the 6th graders are given the responsibility of passing on “Elevate culture” to the new 4th grade students.
  • Our outgoing 6th graders lead one service entirely by themselves (tech, worship, teaching, small groups, check in, everything). This is the culminating activity of the Fifth Grade Helper program.
  • Our transition takes place at camp…they leave for camp as part of Elevate and return as part of Detour (our middle school ministry). At camp, we have a campfire ceremony. Click here to find out more about that.


So….what about you? What questions or ideas do you have when it comes to transitioning students into and out of preteen ministry. Let us know in the comment section!