How to Welcome New 6th Graders into Your Ministry
But what’s planned for the students entering your youth group for the first time? The new batch of incoming middle schoolers – and their parents – will be experiencing a milestone of their own. One that includes excitement, anxiety, and changes similar to those leaving the nest.
It is important to take advantage of this crucial time in your students’ lives. The transition from 5th grade to middle school can be rocky (I may or may not be speaking from experience here). But if you are intentional about how you welcome new middle schoolers and integrate them and their parents into the youth ministry, you can set the stage for God to do amazing things as your youngest students become a part of the youth group!
So what does this look like? There’s not a one-size-fits-all plan, and it would be unreasonable to think that one event or parent meeting is enough. It’s definitely an ongoing process, like it is with students of other grades. However, an incoming 6th-grade welcome event is a great place to start!
The following are ideas that can make your event the best it can be for your new students:
1. Do a “Late-Night” or Overnight Event
Can you think back to the first time you went to sleepaway camp? Or some type of hangout that had you out until midnight? If you were anything like me, you were a little nervous but excited and feeling grown up.
Having your new 6th-grade event include this can be a great way to provide this experience for your new students! Some of them may have been going to sleepaway camp for years, or this could be their first night away from home. This opportunity can ease them in for longer youth group retreats and mission trips in the future and give parents some peace of mind. If an overnight event at church isn’t possible, consider a late-night event – a similar experience, but not as involved.
2. Include a Question Box/Discussion Panel
Hear me out – you’ll probably get your fair share of joke questions and a doodle or two, but the majority of questions submitted to an anonymous box will probably be sincere. Again, think back to that time in your life. We had so many questions about what middle school would be like, from “How do I make friends?” to “How do I make it to class within the passing period?” Having a question box and subsequent discussion panel can be really helpful. Students can ask questions without feeling embarrassed and will probably be encouraged when they realize that their peers have the same questions they do.
Word to the wise – have older youth group students on the panel that you know will take it seriously and be mature. Our students deserve to feel safe asking questions, both big and small. I recommend having students rather than adults be on the panel because no matter how young at heart you might feel, hearing encouragement and answers from someone not as far removed from 6th grade will be more meaningful to the kids.
3. Have Older Youth Participate
Speaking of involving older youth, I personally feel that this is the backbone of an incoming 6th-grader event! While it’s important for the new 6th-graders to get to know each other, it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t include the other youth in this milestone event as well. I remember how much I loved this when I was a student – getting to have fun with my friends while also welcoming in the new kids.
This is a great way for 6th-graders to feel like a part of the youth ministry because they are welcomed and included by those who are actually in it, which can help them feel less intimidated. I highly recommend designating which middle school each youth helper did or currently attends so the new 6th-graders can know who will be a friendly face in the halls.
As you can see, these guidelines leave a lot of flexibility for what your event looks like. Whether you have pizza and a dance party or tacos and a movie, including these suggestions can pave the way for your 6th-graders to have a positive and meaningful experience as they are welcomed into your youth group.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- How do you currently integrate new 6th-graders into your youth group?
- Do you have any tips for creating a welcoming and un-intimidating atmosphere for new students?
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