Today’s billion dollar question is (drumroll please)…. What makes moms cry more: Kindergarten Graduation or High School Graduation?

While we may never know the answer (it’s high school) – we DO know that BOTH are pivotal milestones in the life of a child. BOTH cause someone’s most important people show up. And BOTH mark time in a way that’s intentional (and a little tear-stained).

And, here’s the thing… I’d bet all those billion dollars on the fact that everyone reading this knows EXACTLY what happens in between those two graduations, besides those tears. 1st – 11th grades.

Because there’s a sequence to school. There’s a plan. And between each grade level, there’s a known next with strategic steps around transition.

Can you say the same thing about your ministry?

  • When a new family arrives at your church, can you show them what a child will experience in your ministries from crib to college?
  • Do you have milestones that allow a young person to mark time in their faith journeys with the ones who love them? (And not just when they’re little. “Big kids” need markers, too.)
  • Have you built strategic bridges of transition (between elementary and middle, middle and high school, high school and…) that help draw those on the periphery back into the fold of community before they launch into the world as young adults?

If not – then you’re reading the right words to get started.


  • Take a piece of paper and draw three columns. The first title “Life Stage”, the second “What Do They Need To Know?”, and the third “What Do We Need To Do?”.
  • Down the left side of the page, create 18 rows. Then, in that first column, write out each stage of focus from crib to college. Start with “Newborn”, “Nursery”, “Toddler”, “Pre-K”, then “K”, then the numbers 1-12, and then the last row, “Post-Graduation”.


  • For each row, fill out the second column by answering the question: “What do parents need to know each year their child is involved with each of our specific ministries?”

Do they need to know…

  • How to check their children in and out of programming? If there’s any paperwork they need to fill out? How you will contact them if a situation arises? How they can contact you or other leaders?
  • Your safety policies surrounding volunteers and leaders who serve with children and youth? If these policies change dependent on age, location, or activity? How parents can get involved and serve?
  • What curriculum is being taught at each life stage? What big events can they expect to join in with? What core truths or experiences do you hope a child knows by the time they leave elementary school programming, enter high school, or graduate into adulthood?
  • Who’s in charge of the discipleship pathway for each grade level? What are the experiential opportunities that are offered to children and youth? How does the church celebrate and support children and youth with gifts (ex: first bibles) or rites of passage (first communion or confirmation)? When and how can children and youth serve with the larger church family?
  • Some churches provide studies or small groups at specific points along the parenting journey that focus on things like developmental needs of children, growing up with technology, or how to prepare for an empty nest. If these are a part of your church’s offerings, that’s awesome! Let parents know sooner than later!


  • In the third column, answer the question “What is the ministry’s strategic focus for a child or youth at that age?”
  • Then, answer the following to help determine what the ministry and larger church needs to do to make the plan a reality:
    • What does teaching and learning look like at each life stage? Are there any big events during certain years that a family “can’t miss”?
    • Who needs to be present to support the primary focus each year? (Pastoral staff? Volunteer leaders? A child’s family? Their peers? Adult mentors?)
    • What are the key characteristics that need to define the environments at different life stages to keep kids safe, engage learning, and provide a place where young people want to be?
    • What are the tangible takeaways or real-world experiences that will happen over time to allow for life application of learnings?


Once you’ve determined the best ways in which your church will come alongside families to help raise up children into young adulthood, make sure it all connects.

  • Does this plan shape a ministry that supports the Christian Mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ?
  • Do the experiences and truths align with the core values of your church?
  • Are there clear bridges of transition in place and do parents know how their children move from…
    • preschool to school aged programming?
    • younger elementary to older elementary?
    • elementary to jr. high?
    • middle school to high school?
    • high school to post-graduation / college / young adult discipleship opportunities?
  • Are you celebrating the right things? Is what you’re lifting up in the life of children and youth helping prepare them to follow Jesus beyond your programs and into their daily life?


Last but not least, you can do all the planning and preparing and pathway sketching you want – but if you can’t answer this question, it will all be for naught: Does it all make sense?

Can the pathway you’ve created help a child get from where they start to where the church hopes they’ll end up, once they’re out of the children and youth ministries?

If you think so, then let it be known! Invite others to be a part! Bring it before Jesus and pour into the next generations with all the gusto you can muster!

If you don’t know? Email the first Ministry Architect consultant you can think of and let us help! 🙂 AND – Get a team around the table and dive into these questions. Be sure to allow space for even more questions. Take a breath, talk to Jesus, and start tackling this elephant one bite at a time.

Ministry Architects Consultant Renée Wilson

Renée Wilson
Renée will tell you the best advice she ever received as a volunteer in youth ministry was “prepare well and love ’em to Jesus.” And that’s exactly why she’s a part of our team. Through her 15+ years of mentoring and ministering with children, youth, and young adults, Renée knows the value of building healthy teams and loves creating approaches around the vision of seeing more and more people come to know Christ.

Before devoting her days to full-time ministry, Renée earned her B.S. in Psychology from The Ohio State University and her Masters of Education and Educational Specialist Degree in School Psychology from the University of Cincinnati. She has served churches in rural, urban, and suburban settings, currently calling the east side of Columbus, Ohio home.

Renée loves college football, being an aunt, and can sing at least one song from pretty much any Broadway musical. Just ask her!

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