The other day I tweeted:
“Rethinking EVERYTHING for 4th/5th Graders in #kidmin . . . can’t wait to experiment. TOTAL GAME CHANGER. WOO-HOO. Love me some #kidmin”
Shortly after that vague tweet I received quite a few requests from awesome Kid Min Leaders asking me to elaborate. I was hesitant at first because the Cross Street Team is still VERY MUCH in the planning stage for what we have in mind for our Preteens. In fact, we do not plan to launch our new system for 4th/5th Graders until August of this year.
Before I go any further let me explain what has led our team to the point of wanting to completely revamp 4th and 5th Grade Ministry. Like most Kids Ministries our range is from K thru 5th grade, which honestly bothered me from the start. From k thru 3rd grade kids LOVE Cross Street, small groups in all services are packed, and kids are having a blast. But when I look at 4th and 5th Grade small groups I notice that numbers drop, kids are still having fun . . . but it’s not the same, and you can see that there exists a tension in their hearts as to whether they should be OK with still having fun in kids ministry or if they need to shun the entire experience by skipping Cross Street and attending the Adult Service with mom and dad. I love how Keith Tusing describes PreTeens:
“They are not ready for “adult” issues and they still find getting messy is fun. However, they desire to be involved in something that is uniquely designed for them.”
This is what we have tried so far that only put a bandage on the situation:
1. We’ve physically separated 4th/5th Grade Small Group Areas from K thru 3rd. We figured keeping them from seeing the younger ones might help them forget that they were still in Kids Ministry . . . LOL!!! But honestly, it helped.
2. We gave the older kids their own Large Group service for the same reason mentioned above. And yep . . . it helped.
3. We always strive to make sure we have the right leaders in place to lead those 4th/5th Graders . . . we’ve become VERY PICKY when it comes to this group of leaders. You need to be able to let your hair down and have fun but at the same time you need to maintain enough control to where the kids don’t burn the building down. These leaders also need to have a strong ability to CONNECT with their kids. Of course, this helped.
4. We transformed our Large Group environment by darkening the room, adding cool backdrops, and including wild games and what not. We only play music that kids would here in our Middle School and High School environments . . . Steve Fee, Kristian Stanfill, Lee McDerment, and Charlie Hall. You got it . . . it helped.
The list goes on and on . . . we tweeked and tweeked . . . and tweeked some more. Always studying our 4th/5th Graders to find out what works best for our population of kids. Meanwhile, I started getting a flood of requests from parents of 5th Graders, and 5th Graders themselves, asking if they could volunteer in Cross Street . . . I said sure. When our 5th Graders graduated from Cross Street, a handful of them asked if they could still be a part of Cross Street by serving . . . I said sure. At the same time, Middle School kids began coming out of the woodwork requesting to volunteer in Cross Street . . . they wanted to serve and they love Cross Street . . . I said sure.
I’ve watched these kids serve for a couple of years now and I am blown away by their passion. They are excited about church, they are becoming growing followers of Jesus, and, simply put, they are having fun with their responsibilities. It got me to thinking about my days as a 4th grade teacher . . .
Once a week I would take my class to the 1st Grade classroom so that my “big kids” could help the little ones with reading. IT WAS AMAZING! Even the students in my class that HATED reading loved to on those days . . . and in fact for the rest of the day my entire class couldn’t get enough of READING TIME. Why? Because they had the chance to lead . . . to take ownership.
So . . . 4th/5th graders want to lead. I mean, think about it . . . all those years in K thru 3rd grade they have wanted to help with stuff . . . in other words they want to take ownership of something, they want independence, they want to lead. The thing is they’ve been told “NO” so many times they have just about given up on trying to help. Well, in Cross Street, we’re gonna give them the chance starting in August to volunteer in Cross Street . . . helping kids in Kindergarten and 1st grade small groups, assisting with set up and tear down (both of our campuses are in high schools), helping with the Tech Table, and so on and so forth.
They want to be INVOLVED in the ministry . . . they do not want to just sit and learn anymore . . . they want to DO SOMETHING!!!
Here are some of our ideas so far which are subject to change:
1. When a kid graduates from 3rd Grade they enter 4th Grade as a CROSS STREET SENIOR (or something to that effect). All 4th/5th Graders will have a chance to sign up for a volunteer position if they would like to try it out. Parents will be able to request that their kids be involved in the program, and Small Group leaders may also pinpoint kids that would be great volunteers. Even the WILDEST kids, once given a chance to lead, rise to the occasion.
2. For kids who do not want to volunteer or parents who do not want their kids in the “program” . . . NO WORRIES. We will still offer 4th/5th Grade Small Groups.
3. Kids in the program will first check in to Cross Street like normal, then they will head over to their Small Group. From there, the Small Group leader will touch base with what we are covering that day, allow kids to share what’s going on in their lives, and pass out Cross Street Senior Shirts and Name Tags.
4. After 5 to 10 minutes the 4th/5th Graders will head to Large Group before any of the other kids so that they can GREET the younger ones by giving high fives and what not. 4th/5th Grade kids in the program will then spread out amongst all the younger kids to help with worship by being engaged in worship and actively doing the dance moves. The 4th/5th Graders will then sit with the younger kids as the Bible Story of the day is being told, paying attention and helping those around them pay attention too. (In the process they will learn as well . . . pretty sneaky . . . LOL!!!)
5. After Large Group, 4th/5th Graders will go to their assignment to help volunteer . . . what ever the task, each 4th/5th Grader will have an adult to report to. If it’s Small Groups, then the 4th/5th Grader will report to the Group Leader, if it’s tear down in Large Group at the 11:30 Service then the 4th/5th Grader will report to an adult that is in charge of Tear Down. Picture that, while tearing down an area the adult will be able to connect with the 4th/5th Grader by talking about what was covered that day, and by simply talking about what’s going on in each others lives.
And here’s the beauty, when 5th Graders graduate and enter The Mix (our Middle School Service on Wednesdays) they can still continue serving in Cross Street . . . BAM!!!
4th/5th Graders want to be involved . . . they want ownership . . . let’s give it to them.
6. For each service our Overseer’s (those leaders in charge of Cross Street for a particular service) will be the one to manage this program. 4th/5th grade Group Leaders will still need to be in charge of a Small Group so when newbies show up they are not thrown into a volunteer role. But let me be clear, the goal will be to encourage every 4th/5th Grader to be a part of this.
7. About 10 minutes before the service ends all 4th/5th Graders will be asked to head back to their Small Groups. During this time kids will talk about their experiences . . .
Once a month or so . . . we’ll allow our 4th/5th Graders to have a game day . . . all out FUN!!!
Remember, this is VERY MUCH still in the planning stage. LOL!!!