There’s a big about when you should promote. I’m convinced that there isn’t a right or wrong answer. Every church is different and needs to pick the right time for their unique situation. However, we recently changed when we promote and I believe that it’s made a really big difference. I have the gift of “pervasive persuasion” and I’ll try to convince people why promoting when we promote is the best time ever. So here is what we’re going to do. I’m going to state the reasons why a church might want to promote in the fall or the spring. Lastly, I’ll share why we recently made the switch from one to the other and then you can decide what works best for your church.

Fall Promotion Date

I find that most churches promote in the fall. It seems to be the most typical arrangement. Below are a few reasons why churches pick this time:

Leveraging momentum: The Sunday after the last day of school is not the most happening Sunday. It’s the first weekend of summer and many people get a head start on vacation. There’s not a ton of momentum for a big Sunday like Promotion Sunday. Promoting the weekend before school starts in the Fall is dripping with momentum. Families are back in full swing and volunteers are fresh and ready.

Connected summer programs: Summer tends to be a busy season for ministry programs. Between campus, VBS and other events, it makes sense to include kids in the age-level programs they’ve been in all year. For weeks, the 5th graders are being exposed to event promotion, it’s just kind of weird that they’d heard all the hype and not be able to go.

Additional development time: Although the 5th graders may be anxious to grow up, waiting a few more months can be really helpful for the preschool kids promoting into elementary. Sure, it’s only 2-3 more months, but kids at this age develop quickly and the way elementary is programed is very different from preschool.

Spring Promotion Date

Aligning with kid’s perceptions: When a 4th grader comes home from his last day of school, he no longer considers himself a 4th grader, right? Right. They’re super excited to be in the next grade. On Sunday, they’ll identify with the grade they’re moving into more than the grade they just completed. Promoting in the Spring validates and celebrates what they already feel. It can be a negative thing to tell a rising 5th grader that he’s got to be a 4th grader for two more months when he’s “done with being a 4th grader.”

Cleaner/Efficient Data: This one is connected to the one above. If you promote in the Fall, kids will “self-promote” during the summer. They’ll request the grade on their name tag be changed and although you’ll communicate to your check-in volunteers every week, they’ll miss some. Kids who join your church during the summer will often be assigned to the wrong grade because there will be confusion about what grade they’re in currently. Then when it comes to promote all your kids, you will have a mess. Most your kids will be in the correct grade, but several will be a grade ahead of where they are supposed to be.

Summer warm up: For many churches, summer can be seen as a great period to introduce kids to new environments. Attendance is generally down, so new environments can be far less intimidating during the summer months. Kids and new students can get familiar with new surroundings and leaders before the busy fall. Even allowing incoming 6th graders to attend camp, retreats or other special events gives them the opportunity to bond with new leaders and peers before the Fall launch.

These are just a few reasons for each date. Again, you have to assess which time works better for you. A year ago, we finally moved to a fall Promotion Sunday and it was AMAZING. I’ll wrap up this post explaining why we finally made this move.

There are pros and cons to each promotion date. We finally picked the fall as a promotion date and modified the things that would have made it a con. For years, I’ve been wanting to move to the fall because aligning with kids perceptions has always been very important to me. I hated the disappointing look kids would have when a kid who saw himself as a 3rd grader had to wear a badge declaring that he was still a second grader. If we had a system that naturally frustrates our kids every summer, that’s a problem. It took several years to get our ducks in a row, but here’s how we mitigated the cons of a Fall launch:

  • Our summer events don’t really conflict with promotion. We do a Winter Camp instead of a Summer Camp. We do mission trips in the summer, but we do them during the first two weeks of summer… so all the training meetings are during the current school year and the trip happens immediately after promotion, so it’s not weird that they’re moving up right before/during their trip.
  • Although summer doesn’t have much momentum and the first week of June isn’t a high attendance Sunday for a promotion, we do host a Back to School BBQ the week after school starts. We invite parents and volunteers to attend and it provides the kind of momentum we don’t get in June.

That’s pretty much it for us. Last year’s promotion was the best we’ve had. The Back to School BBQ was unreal. Making this transition was the right move because it worked for us. I’d encourage you to ask yourselves the following questions:

  • Why do we promote when we do?
  • Does our promotion date flow with what we do or does it interrupt or hinder us in some way?
  • Do events/programs need to change in order to promote a more effective Promotion Sunday?
  • What’s holding us back from making the adjustments needed?

I hope these help! Happy Promotions!