Thursday, April 28, 2011

Big Brothers and Sisters

As part of the transition at our church from a three-year to a four-year high school group (yeah, we're probably the only city in the country who still considered 7th-9th graders as junior highers), we're trying a youth ministry experiment: we're encouraging the current sophomores and juniors to adopt an incoming junior higher as their little brother or sister. We compiled the junior highers' contact info, printed it on cards, and gave one card out to each of our high school students, with key students receiving multiple little siblings.

Their job: get to know their little brother/sister before the beginning of next school year and love them in the name of Jesus.

This has played out in numerous ways, from spontaneous text messages, to Facebook friend requests, to coming to junior high gatherings in order to meet students, to even giving gifts and cards. The junior highers are a bit weirded out by all this--why does friendliness from strangers make us so cautious?--but I hope that it's forming some connections and helping create a sense of belonging before the junior highers even enter high school.

It's been amazing to see high school students embrace this idea. It's a small step in creating an environment of love, and I hope the experiment pays off.

What experiments are you trying this season? How do you handle transitions in ministry?


  1. very interesting what your doing. Curious... did the junior high student know you were going to give out their information? And did you do any training for the high school students? Like was there any guidelines of what to do or not to do in their interaction? Our transition takes place in the summer. The students coming into the high school ministry are brought into the summer weekly programming and trips and summer is a smaller setting with most kids coming and going due to schedules. So summer is our big transition period. Great thoughts!!

  2. jpez, the junior highers did not know, though they have freely given their contact info and parents sign a release every year attached to our annual medical release forms that allow us to share certain info and use students' pictures in promotional materials. We coached the high school students on what to do and why to do it--i.e. be friendly and loving, and welcome them in the name of Jesus, not out of obligation or "because Joel said I had to." So far, we haven't had any negative responses, but we'll see how successful the experiment was by the end of summer.

  3. sounds great man! Looking forward to hearing how that turns out. I love mentoring. Keep working hard brother!

  4. Hey Joel!

    This might be a bit random, me commenting since we haven't talked in, oh, I don't know... 10 years!? But I am going with it! ;o)

    I think your idea of creating big brothers and sisters is FANTASTIC! From a non-spiritual side, my transition into both junior high and high school were easy and comfortable because I had relationships with some of the older kids. The relationships were either due to a recent "family" vacation or volleyball practice starting a few weeks early. But just knowing some older kids who said hi in the hall and were willing to be looking out for you was wonderful and so comforting. I am now 34 and I can still remember those people and some of the things they did for me during the transition. Way to go to help with the transition!