Transition Ideas For Students

smart-304883-unsplashAround this time of year a few transitions happen within our student ministry: 5th graders move into the middle school ministry, 8th graders move out of the middle school ministry and into the high school ministry, and seniors transition out of the high school ministry. These transitions really start during the last few weeks of the school year and continue throughout the summer months. By the time the next school year starts everyone is in (or out of) the appropriate ministry.

Transitioning students into, out of, and even within your student ministry is not an easy task. However, over the past few years our student ministry team has gained some great experience in this area and have crafted a pretty good plan for transitioning students. We aren’t perfect by any means and some of the stuff we do isn’t even original with us but has been adopted from other ministries we respect.

I want to share with you three ideas you can steal from us to implement within your transition process. Tweak these ideas to best fit your context and see if they help you shepherd your students through these transitions.

Sixth Graders Into the Middle School Ministry
A few years back one of our children’s ministry staff members came up with the idea of having a breakfast for the current 5th graders where the children’s ministry team can officially “send them off” as well as have those students meet the student ministry staff. We tried it and it went great. Each year around this time we have meet with all the current 5th graders to introduce our student ministry team as well as share with them what to expect in our middle school ministry. We show them pictures, videos, and even play some of the most popular games from our ministry. We also give them some free stuff as well as some resources help them (and their parents) connect with our middle school ministry and keep up with what’s happening. This year we are doing all this as well as having a cereal bar that morning. We do all of this within the kids worship services on Sunday mornings so parents are not having to bring their kids to another event during the week.

Eight Graders Into the High School Ministry
Transitioning our 8th graders into our high school ministry is the hardest transition we have. For us, our middle school and high school ministries are very different as far as atmosphere and programming (example – no musical worship in middle school but in high school we have a full band that leads worship each week). Many students have a hard time with this change and we are always looking for ways to do better. Also, a lot of students just get more busy in high school so we don’t see them stick around or at least show up consistently. However, we do our best to celebrate them as they leave our middle school ministry and encourage them to make the transition to our high school ministry. We do this with an event called Edguation. This is one of the things we have adopted from another church that we use to be a campus of. Edge is the name of our middle school ministry so “Edguation” is like our 8th grade graduation. It’s a special night during our normal program where we honor our 8th graders, give them free stuff (ESV compact Bible and high school ministry t-shirt), craft a talk to challenge them (click here to see how we did it this year with a panel of high schoolers), and have some of our high school students there to meet them. One of my favorite parts of this night is when we send all the 8th graders out of the room (our way of sending them out of the middle school ministry) and into the atrium where they are greeted by screams, high-fives, claps, and more from our high schoolers (click here to see a video). After this happens the 8th graders go into another room where they have some cake and spend time talking to the high schoolers. It’s always a great night.

Seniors Out of the High School Ministry
It’s always bittersweet when our seniors graduate out of our ministry. However, we do our best to celebrate with them. One of the ways we do this is by doing a senior night within our normal program. We usually do it within the last few weeks of the school year and it’s a night where we honor our seniors, give them some free stuff (costum ministry alumni t-shirt), and challenge them from God’s Word. In addition to all this we also do a senior video where we have them answer some questions and share advice for underclassmen (click here to see the video from this past senior class).

Transitions are not easy but doing them well is so important to the health of your student ministry as well as for the ongoing discipleship of your students. Above are just a few things we do that you can use in your ministry as well.

 

What We Did This Week (Senior Night and Edguation Edition)

This week was a big week in our student ministry! On Tuesday night we had Senior Night in our high school ministry where we honored and celebrated our seniors. As you will see, the whole service was pretty much focused on them. Then on Wednesday night we had Edguation in our middle school ministry where we honored our 8th grade students and sent them off to officially become part of our high school ministry. Both nights where incredible!

Porch Senior Night Social MediaWhat We Did at Porch (High School) – Senior Night
Worship Set List: The Ascension (Phil Wickham), All Things New (Elevation Worship), Man of Sorrows (Hillsong), Jesus I Come (Elevation Worship), and Oceans [Where Feet May Fail] (Hillsong United).
Video: 2015 Senior Video
Teaching: Every year for senior night I prepare a message just for our seniors. It’s always something all the students need to hear but it’s specifically for the seniors. This year I did a talk called “4 Questions to Ask Yourself As You Graduate High School.”
Highlight: I have three highlights from this night. First, after my talk I brought all our seniors upfront and had them sit along the stage. Then I asked everyone else to gather wound them and place their hands on them. If they couldn’t reach them they were to touch the person in front of them. Then I opened the floor for our students and leaders to pray over our seniors. For about 5-10 minutes we lifted up our seniors in prayer and it was amazing. Second, we had Porch alumni shirts designed and we gave one to every senior. The shirts looked awesome and the seniors loved them. Third, the worship was incredible! The band rocked, our two seniors in the band were singing their hearts out, and the students in the crowd where going at it. I saw students who normally don’t show any emotion in worship lift their hands and sing their hearts out to God.

Edguation Social MediaWhat We Did at Edge (Middle School) – Edguation
Opening Video: Worst Doctor Ever
Upfront Game: Lego Lava Walk Challenge. This is something I ran across on Download Youth Ministry. We did it as an upfront game with all our 8th grade students. We spread about eight pounds of legos across the front of the stage and had each 8th grade students walk (or run) across them. We timed each one to see who could do it the fastest.
Video: Edge Announcement Video (this was by far my favorite announcement video to film because of the end – watch it).
Group Game: Scatterball. We play this game a ton in our middle school ministry and our 8th grade students requested it for Edguation. We did a few round for just them and then a few for everyone. It’s basically dodgeball, but with only one ball (we throw a few more in to speed it up) and you can only take up to 3 steps (when it gets down to a few people we let them take as many steps as they want). Click the link above to download the graphic we used for this game.
Teaching: Every year at Edguation I prepare a special message for our 8th grade students. This year I did a talk called “3 Things to Keep First As You Enter High School.” I also did a live interview with one our high school students at the tail end of my talk where we talked about following Jesus in high school. Click here to listen to the talk.
Highlight: Watching our 8th grade students leave the room and walk into a huge crowd of high school students that were cheering for them (and spraying silly string and blowing horns). Then they went to another room where they hangout, talked about our high school ministry, gave them free stuff (Porch shirt, ESV compact Bible, and a invite to Porch).

What We Did This Week

Jonah Social MediaThis week we had great nights in both our high school ministry and middle school ministry. We had a what we call a “Coffee House Night” in our high school ministry that went really well and was a great night of building community and worshipping together. In our middle school ministry we had our third week in a row with over 100 students there! Below are more detail about what we did both nights.

What We Did at Porch (High School)
Coffee House Theme: We usually do one of these nights each semester. We meet in a different room than normal and do our best to create a coffee house environment. Instead of rows of chairs we have tables and instead of the band doing their normal set they do an acoustic set. We also offer free coffee, hot chocolate, and tea. We build in more hangout time than normal and throw a few board and card games out on the tables for students to play while they hangout. We still have a time of teaching but we usually keep it shorter than normal.
Game: Coffee Trivia. Ten random facts about coffee. Click the link to download it for free and use it yourself!
Worship Set List: Mighty Warrior (Elevation Worship), Brokenness Aside (All Sons and Daughters), Raised to Life (Elevation Worship), Jesus Paid it All (Kristian Stanfill), and 10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman).
Teaching: We continued our Jonah series by looking at Jonah’s obedience and Nineveh’s response to God’s message in chapter 3. Click here to listen.
Highlight: The worship was incredible! One of the reasons I love doing coffee house nights is for the worship. I love the acoustic worship and our students always sing out and engage in it really well.

What We Did at Edge (Middle School)
Upfront Game: Follow Faceoff Instagram Edition. Another great game from Download Youth Ministry.
Group Game: Clothespin Chaos. Every student starts out with a clothespins clipped onto their sleeve. When the music starts they have a set amount of time (we did 5 minutes) to try to get clothespins off of other people and put them on their own sleeve. They must also watch out because people will be trying to take their clothespins as well. Student with the most clothespins at the end wins.
Teaching: Every other week we have small groups and this week was a small group week. Students discussed Jonah 3 in their small groups and were challenged to go home and read chapter 4 on their own.
Highlight: Having another night with over 100 students there! I know it’s “not all about the numbers,” but I love knowing our students are loving what we do and they are excited enough about it to bring their friends. Plus, that’s over 100 students that are hearing about Jesus!

Freebie: Dodge That Dice Game

I always love doing games in our student ministry that require little to no supplies, set up, or explanation in rules. I like simple games that get everyone involved and requires students to get up and run around. A few weeks ago I tweaked the classic game four corners and created a game called “Dodge that Dice.” I’m not that creative so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else has already created this game. If so, they deserve the credit not me.

I wanted to share the graphic I made for this game as well as explain how you play. Please download the graphic and try this game out in your student ministry. It seems to work best in a middle school setting. The game is very much like four corners except you have six corners. Tape a sign in each corner with the number so student know what number each corner is. When you say go, students must run to one of the six corners. Give them a few second and tell them to freeze in whatever corner they are in or are closest to. Then roll a dice. Whatever number the dice lands on, that corner is out. Continue doing this same thing until there is one student left standing. About half way through the game throw in another dice so you have two corners that get out. Also, have the winning student come up and be the “dice roller” for the next round.

It’s a simple game that allows students to run around and have a good time. Download the graphic before for free and try this game out with your students. If you use it, I’d love to hear how it went.

Download “Dodge That Dice” Graphic for Free

Is Jesus Really the Only Way?

Recently, we just finished up a series called Get Real in our middle school ministry. During the series we addressed major questions many people, including Christians, ask about Christianity. For example, “How do we know God is real?” or “If God is so loving than why is there so much suffering in the world?” The question I tackled a few weeks ago was “Is Jesus really the only way to God?” I want to share the main ideas from that talk in this post and hope to share why we can believe that Jesus really is the only way to God.

A popular belief in our culture is that all religions are equal. Not only are they equal, but they all lead to the same place. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what religion, or path, you take, we will all end up in the same place. Some people may choose Christianity and if that’s works for them then it’s all good. Or some people may choose Islam, or some other religion, and if that’s best for them then it’s all good. We call this belief “religious pluralism.” You see this kind of thing pop up in things like the coexists bumper stickers. You know, those stickers that spell “coexists” with the symbols of different religions. As good as all this sounds, it couldn’t be any further from the truth. In John 14:6, Jesus makes a claim that goes against any claim that all religions are the same or that all paths lead to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus claims that there is only one way to God and that’s through Him. How do we know that’s true? Let me share with you three other things that support Jesus claim that He is the only way.

1. Jesus is the only way God provided. In Matthew 26:36-44 we read about Jesus going to a garden to pray before He would be betrayed and arrested. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew He was about to be beaten, spit upon, and murdered on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. In complete agony He prays to the Father and asks Him if there is another way to do this. He asks God that if it would be His will, could He get out of doing this. But we see Jesus complete surrender and determination to follow God’s will. Jesus goes to God three times and basically asks Him if there is another way. And three times God doesn’t repond. There is no other way. The death of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin was the only way. God’s silence screams this truth from the pages of Scripture! Think about it, if God had another way would He really send His only Son to be nailed to His death on a cross? This sacrifice only makes sense if what we believe is true-Jesus is the only way!

2. Jesus is the only way that fixes our problem. Everyone enters this world with a common problem called sin. All religions recognize this is some way. They may not call it sin, but they realize this world is broken and things are screwed up. So all religions, or paths to God, try and fix this problem. Some try and say that all we need to do is be better, try harder, and hope our good outweighs our bad. Sadly, all religions, except Christianity, just puts a band-aid on our problem. Only Jesus actually fixes the problem. How does He do that? He becomes a curse for us and take our sin upon Himself. In exchange we get His righteousness which means we continue as if we have never sinned. We are justified and stand before God perfect because of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains this great exchange to us.

3. Jesus is the only way transforms our life. No one actually experiences life change outside of Christianity. All other religions don’t change a person. In actuality all they do is become an “add on” to someones life. But Jesus comes and gives us a new start. The Bible calls this being “born again” or the “new birth.” We literally go from death unto life and experience a whole new life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” No other religions can make that statement. In their book Red Like Blood, Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington tell a story about a situation the famous evangelists Dr. Ironsides found himself in. At a Salvation Army event, Dr. Ironsides was called to the platform to share a few words. On his way up, a outspoken atheists started making remarks and yelling at him. The atheist called Ironsides out for a debate between Christianity, which he claimed was false, and atheism. Ironsides looked at the man and said this: “Yes, I will debate you this Saturday morning. But there is one condition. You bring one person whose life has been transformed by the power of becoming an atheist and I will bring fifty ex-alcoholics and fifty ex-prostitutes whose lives have been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. And then we will debate.” Christianity is the only religion that has to power to change a life.

All religions, or paths, to God are not the same. There is only one way and that is through Jesus Christ. That is the only way God provided, fixes our sin problem, and brings transformation. No other ways to God claim those three things.

Click here to view my speaking page where you can hear the audio of this sermon as well as other sermons I have preached in the past.