Nearly every church is aware that they need to support young people as they transition out of high school. There are other transitions, however, that youth ministry leaders are less conscious of. They come with less fanfare and attention. Yet, they can be just as powerful and meaningful. Here are three transitions you may be missing:
Middle School to High School
We often think of the transition of high school to independence. A huge transition that we may be forgetting about is the transition of middle school to high school. If we do, we may tie this transition to confirmation, but that doesn’t always align with the transition of schools.
Some youth go from a school where they have the same teacher all day every day to having a locker and multiple teachers. Some kids go from small schools to one large school. There are new people at high school – meaning new opportunities (both good and bad).
Consider having a youth ministry event or lock-in for your junior high kids where you talk about the transition to high school. Find out what they may be nervous about. Team up with local High School guidance counselors for a presentation at a lock-in or event. As you prepare them, talk about new challenges to their faith they may discover. Help them to find supportive adults and peers who can talk to them as their school experience shifts dramatically.
Private School to Public School
This transition can be hard for some. To go from an environment where Christ is spoken in almost every, if not every, subject to an environment where Christ is either not allowed to be spoken or is spoken of as one of many gods is tough! Going from having one or a handful of middle school teachers to a different teacher for every subject can be tough!
Help young people who make this transition know that God is still with them and how they can continue to learn and grow in their faith even in the different environment. This is a great opportunity for conversations about vocation and how being in a public school setting may provide opportunities to be the light of God in dark places.
Finding a Church
When young people transition to life away from home, many won’t know how to find or connect with a new church. While most Lutheran churches are quite similar, every congregation is shaped by its leadership, community, and history. This can be a startling thing for young people who have known the same congregation for most of their lives.
You can find local congregations through LCMS.org. Help them find what they are looking for in a church (worship style, size, community, etc.). You can even encourage them to go online and watch worship or read about congregations where they are moving. Ask them questions that help them see what kind of church they are looking for. Remind them of the importance & blessings of receiving God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament regularly.
As a youth leader, you can also look at a list of LCMS churches in that area. With the student’s permission, contact those churches to let them know one (or more) of your young people are headed their direction. Be sure to ask youth about where they have been attending worship when the visit back home.
Transition comes in all shapes and sizes. A key note as you consider transitions: Parents are the primary faith leader for their children and are vital partners in preparing youth to make a healthy, Christ centered transition. As you approach all these transitions, you should actively include parents as a part of keeping young people connected to faith and the church.