Anytime I think about Promotion Sunday, I get a song stuck in my head. Growing up, I’d watch “The Jefferson’s” with my dad every day before the 5 o’clock news. That sweet memory paired with the catchy lyrics of the theme song is the primary reason I call Promotion Sunday “Movin’ On Up Sunday!”

This strategic Sunday is a big deal and there are a lot of things to consider.

Kids making big transitions on Promotion Sunday are kids transitioning form Early Childhood to Elementary and Elementary kids moving to Middle School. A lot is going to happen in this transition. Here are a few things:

  • Transition to an entirely new environment. These kids will be in a completely different part of the church, which can be overwhelming.
  • Transition to a new curriculum. How they have experienced teaching and group environment could change significantly.
  • Transition to new leaders. Who they’ve been interacting with could change in a big way. Even if their small group leader moves with them, they’ll be surrounded by an entirely new group of adults.

These transitions are big, and there are many things to consider for an effective promotion. Here are several things we do and peers of mine do to ensure a smooth transition:

Communication: We start communicating a month or so out. We send postcards home to families and put posters on the walls. We start building excitement toward this big day.

Preview Sundays: Some ministries give promoting preschool kids and promoting elementary kids previews before the actual promotion Sunday. After kids are dropped off in their normal environments, their leaders will take them to the environment they are promoting to for 30-45 minutes to experience what their new environment will be like. This helps build excitement and often helps kids feel far less nervous about their transition on the day they actually promote.

Middle School Preview: Some churches will host a special preview Middle School service just for incoming 6th graders and their parents. Its a fun service that inspires the new students with all the fun and excitement that comes with being older, but also engages parents who are still nervous about their babies who are growing up.

Family Invitation: We invite parents of early childhood kids promoting to elementary to attend with their child on this particular Sunday. We include a family seating are and kids can decide if they want to sit with their friends or with their parents. This experience allows parents to experience what their kids will experience every Sunday. When the kids go to small groups, we use this time to talk about our curriculum, supplemental resources and policies/procedures we follow in elementary.

Integration through Events: Another common tactic is to integrate promotion experiences into the events you normally do throughout the summer. If you do a VBS, look for ways where you can give incoming elementary students and incoming middle school students unique experiences that help them prepare for the shift. Maybe the 5th grade groups at VBS are all led by Middle School leaders. Perhaps the incoming elementary groups will interact with what elementary kids normally do. Maybe you allow 5th graders to attend Middle School camp.

How and when you do promotion Sunday is going to be unique to your church. Even what you call it will be your own to decide. Keep in mind, this is a great opportunity for you to lean in to families. Remember that their promotion at church is just a small part of a lot of change they’re experiencing. Kids are stepping into the giant halls of elementary school. Pre-teens are navigating a new schedule with multiple classes/teachers. Their promotion at church is big, but small compared to all the other changes they are experiences. When we make their transition at church smooth and helpful, it will be a breath of fresh air in a season of constant change. When we do this right, they’re more likely to stay engaged because your church/ministry will be a place of stability for them. So make it fun and make it meaningful – but most of all, make it smooth.