Transitioning to the Tweens - Issue #126
When children leave elementary school and move into middle school, they experience a profound transition in their lives. While not quite teenagers, these "tweens" are entering a period of rapid growth, both physically and socially.
The Discipleship Team at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, is committed to making that transition as smooth as possible, at least in terms of the young people's church experience.
In May, members of the ministry team meet with parents of fifth graders who will be moving into sixth grade the next fall. During this meeting, parents learn about confirmation and other aspects of the congregation's youth ministry.
On the Sunday before new classes begin, the church holds an open house. Rising sixth graders meet their Sunday School teachers and participate in their first youth group meeting that evening.
The new middle-schoolers also participate in a Discovery Weekend, which is a spiritual-life retreat. Designed for sixth through eighth graders, this weekend retreat is led by the high school youth of the church (with appropriate adult help). This helps older teens develop leadership skills, and it provides the younger participants with an opportunity for spiritual growth and positive role models.
Since the Discovery Weekend retreats began a few years ago, participation in Vestavia Hills' youth ministry has doubled. The new sixth graders do not feel as overwhelmed, and parents are excited about their young people's participation.
Some Questions for Discussion
- How does your congregation intentionally plan for the transition from elementary-aged ministry to youth ministry?
- How are older youth engaged with younger youth in appropriate ways?
- How does your congregation support families as members of the family face age-level transitions?