A few years ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Larry Osborne, author of Sticky Church and Sticky Teams. Larry is a brilliant thinker and innovator when it comes to how to make people stick in your ministry. Larry asked the group early into our trip, “What if success and failure was measured not by how many kids, students, or adults attended, but by how many stick when they transition into the next ministry?” He clarified, “If you have 20 – 5th graders moving into 6th grade, and only 5 are involved in student ministry after you hand them off, you have failed.”
I have spent years measuring my success on numbers that really don’t tell success or failure. I’ve not measured how well my 5th graders connected into the 6th grade. That’s a problem, right?
After our time with Larry, I began to think through possibilities of how to change the handoff problem. I came up with huge ideas. Big events, giant graduation parties, and incentive laced programs. Great ideas, but I neglected to execute any of them.
Another year passed. Promotion happened and the handoff to student ministry was weak.
As graduation got closer the next year, I dedicated myself to not missing it. As much as I planned, execution was poor at best.
I think I continued to fail because I wanted promotion to look big, feel big, and be a big success.
Poor execution year after year showed me that I just need to DO SOMETHING. Once I simply did something (rather than nothing) I could build on that and then determine how to do it better each year.
I finally learned my lesson and began executing small things that have payed off big. Here are some of the things I’ve implemented:
- Have the student pastor visit the children’s ministry: Have your student pastor be present in your ministry every once in a while. Put him on the stage of your elementary environment. Invite him to a night of camp. Let your kids connect with him/her so they can see what is next.
- Utilize High School small group leaders: I love high school students that serve. I try to have as many high school students as possible involved in my ministry. At my church, many of the high school students serving in kids ministry also serve in middle school. This makes transitions easier because they will know people involved in middle school.
- Have adult student ministry leaders visit elementary: A few months before promotion, have adult student ministry leaders speak/connect to your upper elementary kids. This will familiarize them with the leaders. Use this time to talk about transition and what it will look like for the 5th graders.
- Take the kids on a field trip to the middle school program: Getting the kids comfortable in a new environment is huge. Help them overcome their fear of a new environment by exposing them before the big promotion day.
- Focus on relationships: Trust is a huge component to the handoff. If your 5th graders know and trust the student pastor or the small group leaders in middle school, they will be far more excited about the change.
Most of these things don’t cost anything. Most of these things don’t even require that much time. It’s literally just coordinating several schedules. Don’t let desire to do something big overwhelm or paralyze you to inaction. Just do something and realize that often times, small things have a bigger impact than the big things.
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