18 May, 2015 Chapter 3
HOW TO INTEGRATE PRIMARY SIX (P6) YOUTH
(The integration of twelve-year-old youth into a youth ministry)
When the vision of a group… is clear and alive, the members will be motivated. When the plan is the logical application of the vision… the members will be made effective!
Each year, a concerted effort needs to be made to successfully integrate the primary school children who graduate from the children’s ministry into the youth ministry.
Usually this is done after the young people’s P6 year (when they are twelve years old), but some Churches do integrate them earlier.
A significant challenge in this transition for some will be the day of the meeting. The children’s ministry meets during Sunday services, whereas many youth ministries meet at other times. For us, our youth meet from 3pm to 6:30pm on a Saturday. Thus, the incoming youth will need to adapt to making an additional trip to church each week, plus up to an hour of travel each way.
(a) Many twelve-year-old youth may find such a venture intimidating (some have not travelled alone on public transport before).
(b) Some parents see this ‘extra’ meeting as an inconvenience, and, may not recognise the potential benefits that involvement in a youth ministry could bring. Thus, they discourage their youth to attend.
The promotion (invitation) of involvement in the youth ministry therefore needs to be made to both parents and youth. If we win the hearts of the parents of this age group, we will usually win the initial attendance of the youth.
How I have overseen this integration (with a group of 120 youth, and with about 15 to 25 P6s coming in annually) is as follows:
Step one: An I/C (‘in charge’) for the integration
I look for a mature youth leader, who would become the AO (‘area overseer’) for this year group in the following year, thus being the encourager and helper to the CGLs (Cell Group Leaders).
In my first couple of years in this role, I personally oversaw the P6 Integration, as it is an important transition. As suitable leaders developed, they were better suited for the role because of their fresh enthusiasm, and their ability to relate to twelve-year-olds (being nearer to their age), so I passed the role on to them.
Step two: Small Group Leaders
There is a need to raise up new leaders each year. Depending on the size of your group the number of new leaders you will need to raise up will vary.
For us, we would need two additional cell groups (small groups) for the P6 youth, each needing two leaders (a leader and an assistant). We would also need another two to six leaders annually to replace outgoing small group leaders who may be moving on for various reasons.
To raise these leaders, I would gather a group of core leaders in July each year to discuss who might be the potential Cell Group Leaders for the following year. We would consider things such as (a) their spiritual maturity and stability, (b) their emotional maturity, (c) their proven track record in terms of how well they had served in smaller roles in their Cell Group or in helping out in other areas of the youth ministry, and (d) the opinion of their Cell Group leaders, who meet with them weekly.
It is my belief that fifteen-year-olds and above can have the maturity for spiritual leadership of small groups. The age at which you involve your youth in leadership would depend very much on the culture of your Church.
It is, however, always a challenge to see the potential God has placed in young people for spiritual leadership. For me, fifteen-year-olds always look too young! (And when you serve a few more years you look at eighteen year olds, remembering them as twelve year olds, and still feel they to be too young to you!)
Whatever our tradition, we do well to remember how Jesus chose His leaders. He made his leadership selection a matter of prayer. His selection was also not made by the world’s standards or measurements, for most of us would never have chosen those Jesus chose to be our future leaders.
There will be a chapter on raising up new leaders later in this book, which will detail other useful tips and perspectives.
Step three: The Promotions
For ease of description I will outline the sort of things we do. You can adapt this to the size of your group.
– Collect the names of all P6s youth who are in our Church
– Prepare the planned Cell Group Leaders for their roles in the promotions / getting to know the P6s
- The new Cell Group Leaders start attending the children’s ministry to (a) get to know the young people and (b) to enthusiastically promote our (1) P6 Parents Night and (2) Youth Camp.
- We send a letter to all P6 Youth’s Parents (a) informing them of the youth ministry details and (b) giving them the details of the youth ministry meetings, upcoming Parents Night, and upcoming Youth Camp (See attachment ’03 – Letter to P6 Parents’ in the Kick-start Resource CD )
- I personally announce the upcoming Parents Night at least twice in the adult services, and also promote the youth camp to all and sundry, hoping that parents, aunties and uncles will become enthused to involve their children, nieces /and nephews.
- I put the promotion details of all these in the weekly bulletin for the one month
(a) Parents Night
This is the first time the P6 youth come, and they come with their parents (thus their parents help them get there / find where to go). Our program is typically a youth service (so the parents get to observe what we do), and then, when our youth go to their Cell Groups (which for us is immediately after the service), I meet with the Parents. The P6s then have a ‘getting to know you’ games time with their new leaders. I then run an agenda with the parents something like:
a. Food and drinks
b. Welcome and introductions (collecting their contact details at the same time)
c. A brief presentation on what our youth ministry exists for and does
d. A ‘pastoral’ encouragement on the importance of being intentional in the way we disciple our youth, and how a Youth Ministry can be an aid to that (noting that the primary responsibility for discipling young people is on the parents – see Deuteronomy 6, and the reflection in ’03 – Letter to P6 Parents’ in the kick-start resource CD).
e. A question and answer time
f. I then give them articles to read (see the chapter on ‘Relationship with Parents’ later in this book), and get them to discuss a simple article in small groups until our time is up (i.e., help facilitate the development of their relationships with each other).
There will be a chapter on maintaining healthy relationship with parents later in this book.
(b) Youth Camp
This is critical to our P6 Integration, in my view, as a new youth will develop relationships with others quickly, and they include relationships across the age groups. By the end of a camp, their lives would have been impacted by God and they would have made many new friends. They now have two very good reasons to want to come to the youth ministry’s weekly meetings. In fact, if successful, their parents will have to battle to stop them from coming, as such will be their enthusiasm at this point!
(c) Follow up of the MIAs (‘Missing In Action’)
Inevitably, some youth will be unable to make it to the Parents Night or Youth Camp. Integrating these youth can take extra effort. Some new youth will simply come and boldly join the youth ministry because they love their Sunday School friends. But for others of the new youth, the Cell Group Leaders will need to personally follow-up on, and encourage, them. These youth are likely fearful of the ‘unknown’ having missed the key integration events. I play a part in helping the Cell Group Leaders in this follow-up by chatting with the parents of these youths who have not yet joined, in order to encourage their attendance.
This is usually all tied up by the end of January.
If a young person is not attending by about mid-January, the probability that they will become involved in the ministry in the next few years is quite small from my experience. So, we do well to make the most of the window of opportunity that exists in the integration season (November / Parents Night / Youth Camp) and the following four to six weeks.
Your Churches’ dynamics may be considerably different, but hopefully there are at least some ideas in the above that will help you formulate your plans to integrate the new young people coming in from the children’s ministry.
Something to reflect upon
1. How many P6 youths are graduating to join your youth ministry next year?
2. How many new leaders might you need for them?
3. What could you do to stir enthusiasm in them about coming for the youth ministry?
4. What could you do to stir enthusiasm in their parents about the benefits of their youths coming for the youth ministry?
5. Who is going to do this?
If we win the hearts of the parents of this age group, we will usually win the initial attendance of the youth.