For a long time in our shared calling we’ve made a big deal about being a “youth ministry lifer” – someone who does youth ministry until they’re super old. There certainly was good reason for that when the average stay of a youth worker in a church was less than a year and people recklessly used the position as a stepping stone to become a real pastor.

But here’s what I started thinking this morning: we need more youth workers in other parts of the church, too. We need more youth workers to become senior pastors. We need more leaders of businesses, organizations and non-profits to think like and care like youth workers. Why do we guilt people into staying when God is calling them on? Maybe it is a good thing that many don’t stay in youth ministry their whole life – I just want them to still think, serve and love like a youth pastor when they move on.

I’m not planning on going anywhere – so you’re hearing this from the heart of a youth ministry lifer: if you’re dropping out of youth ministry, always be a youth pastor, even if you’re title changes a little bit.


I have a question that might bring us some interesting responses for you all today and it surrounds giving students a reward for bringing a friend or friends to an event. This is nothing new, whether a chocolate bar, a crisp picture of Honest Abe on a $5 bill, a discounted registration to an event or camp or as much as an iPad from a draw. Youth Pastors everywhere regularly and sincerely are rewarding students who invite their friends to an event.  So my question today is simply this:

Do you offer a reward / prize for students who bring someone new to youth and what is it? If you don’t why not? 

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

I’ve received a few questions this summer about how we do promotion (students moving up from children’s ministry into youth group)  in our student ministry and thought I would share a few things we’ve done in the past and a few things I’ve seen or would like to try soon:

Everyone moves up the same weekend every year
Promotion in our church is the same weekend for everyone across the board – there are a lot of changes in the family so we try to consolidate them into one weekend. The transition usually takes a few weeks since people may be gone on vacation or miss church that weekend, but we stack hands that throughout the life development years (birth-college) we all move up at the same time. It has been incredibly effective to be aligned from top to bottom – it may be hard to convince (or concede) to a Sunday School Superintendent or Small Group Director that this is wise, but it is well worth the effort.

We choose to move up at the end of the school year
There are pros and cons to which ever time of year you promote students – we choose the weekend immediately following the end of school or right at the beginning of summer. This makes a clean break fo seniors as well as gives freshman an easy entry point into high school ministry. You may want to make a handout or promotion video for the date you’re choosing – because clear warning of big changes ahead is always a good idea.

Promotion Weekend is a big deal
Each department has a BIG to do that weekend welcoming new students. In our High School Ministry we plan a freshman weekend which has a “get to know us” sort of vibe – lots of relational time, a parent orientation meeting, stories, history, food, giveaways, and fun. We do our best to avoid hazing, but definitely try to have some fun at our own expense – like showing pictures of ourselves when we were freshman which is incredibly embarrassing, too.

Hand over the info!
Passing along family information is critical at this stage – if you have small group information, parent emails and text numbers, get it now. In our specific case we  get incoming 7th graders info and we give the contact information of our graduating seniors to our college ministry so they can work to integrate them immediately as well. If your church is tech-savvy, this will be a dream. In some cases where data integrity isn’t a value, be prepared to get handwritten attendance sheets or worse yet, nothing at all!

Plan a big welcome event
If you’ve got a bunch of new students moving up – plan something relational for them where they can get to know some volunteers and upperclassmen. Creating a sense of community and friendship is the key to helping with transitions. Could be as simple as a Scavenger Hunt (with a freshman require in each car, for example) or a giant overnighter to kickoff the summer and welcome the newbies.

Some age groups get a Preview Weekend
In some cases, your church may decide to do a preview weekend – for example letting 6th graders come see a junior high service. Usually it is planned to acknowledge the next level of students and to give them a painless taste of what is to come. If someone is hesitant to transition usually it isn’t a big deal through the summer – but heading into this time of year (fall) the transition should be complete.

Would love any questions you have about the process in the comments – or if you do it a different way please share!


So, I’ve been hearing about different strategies to help new students get “plugged in” to youth group. I remember talking about that at the last church I worked at. So I anticipated it… worrying about plugging them in. But strangely enough our youth group didn’t have any problems with it. It just sorta happened. I was pleasantly perplexed, but when I thought about it more… it just made a whole lot of sense. The two things I think contributed to the easy transition were these…

Teach the Gospel every week. Being exclusive is a result of your students feeling in their hearts a need to exclude. To make themselves feel more important, to feel safe. Teach them the gospel week in and week out. How through Christ their needs for love and inclusion are completely filled. It takes their focus off themselves and turns them outward towards others. It works… the students around here are not perfect (I tell them almost every week they are a bunch of rag-tag sinners), but they are more outwardly focused. Not because of guilt, but because they know they are loved. If you remember high school at all that should blow your mind. High School is the most self-centered time of your life. Solution… teach them the Gospel over and over again.
Have older students help out in the children’s classrooms. For years we’ve had a program called Kids Helping Kids. I grew up knowing the older students because they were my old sunday school teachers. Relationships were already formed. So a new 6th grader coming into youth group already knows the older students! A few weeks ago a seventh grader expressed this during a sharing time. Basically he said… I was excited and felt comfortable coming to youth group because I already knew people liked me and wanted me there. Do I need to say more? I think not.
Teach students the Gospel and have older students help in the children’s classes. It makes the whole “promotion” thing into something very natural and easy.
David Misson is the Youth Pastor at Peninsula Bible Church in Willow Glen CA. You can follow him on Twitter: @davidmisson

I’m sorry, I just love these so much (from Southeast Christian Church in KY) … had to post the other two. Got a great summer camp promo video, too? Leave a link in the comments!



Had a youth worker last week suggest this poll idea (sorry I misplaced your email – argh!) about promotion in your youth ministry. Do you promote students at the beginning of summer or at the start of a new school year? I’ve worked in ministries on both sides of the question – curious if there is a clear winner in our community here. Vote now!


Really enjoyed watching Southeast Christian’s ulra-creative promotion for their summer camp (called Bible and Beach – you can get much more from their website here). Love the simplicity and awkwardness of the above video, and here’s a music video they made to celebrate their new mascot as well. Really, inventive stuff:


Taffy promotes killball in the perfect way … love it.