Keeping in touch with Young People after their Primary Schools say Goodbye…
Many of you will have been at tearful Leavers’ Services when the Year 6 children are moving on from their old, safe, small primary school and moving onto bigger and scarier things.
A lot of churches [] have strong relationships with their local Primary schools, whether church schools or not; with whole families, parents and children, as they grow up from the tiny dots in Reception to “tweenagers” on the cusp of adolescence in Year 6. In many places clergy or school visitors know the year 6’s by name – or the Year 6’s certainly know the clergy and vistors by name. They are used to assemblies, trips to the church for Christmas, Easter, RE lessons – and then the Leavers’ service…. when it’s time for Goodbye’s all round.
Or that’s how it can feel. It can seem as if they are not only turning from their old school, they are saying good-bye to Church too, before they fly off to secondary schools all over the place and we never see them again.
Here’s a simple idea and some resources to help you carry it out that might just help you to keep hold of those kids.
Use a Leavers’ Service and a Golden Ticket tucked inside a gift to invite the Year 6’s to a special Reunion Party after the Summer, and from there you will hopefully have links, relationships and good will to help you to begin some regular youth work. And each year you could add to it with a fresh Year 6.
 In my first year as Youth Missioner in Northampton Archdeaconry, I have been asking questions and researching the current situation regarding youth/children’s work in our Parishes, and a key question has been regarding school links. Whilst only a small handful have meaningful links with Secondary Schools( if they have one in their Parish at all), many members of the clergy that I spoke to had at least one Primary School in their Parish and they had good links or the potential for links to be developed between school and church.
So, here’s a step-by-step guide: (these steps form the Content of this Resource and are unpacked below)
Before you do anything else: Pray!! pre pre planning – pray! And keep on praying….
- TALK Start talking to the Year 6’s early about future plans; build the hype and excitement
- Gift Choose a good gift for your Leavers – include some food, chocolate/sweets, if you’re giving a Bible, make it a young people friendly edition
- Ticket Insert your Golden Ticket, preferably in a bar of chocolate for extra excitement! Include a form to collect contact information and permissions
- Party Plan a great party or event at the end of the Summer or beginning of the September term
- What Next? Plan something to invite them to next, whether it’s a regular club, or another one off, perhaps at Christmas or New Year. Make sure they don’t leave the party without an invite to something else – use the party to find out what kind of things they like to do and plan something they’ll like for the future.
- Heart Keep a Christian heart to everything you do – the young people all know that you’re from the Church and what you’re all about, as they’ve been brought up with you.
BEFORE ALL ELSE – Pray!
Before you begin this project and throughout the planning and executing of the event, of course you will need to be praying.
Here’s a few ways you could focus your prayer and mobilise your whole congregation to feel a part of the project.
Ask for a class list from your school for Year 6 – you will need to explain to your head the idea for the Golden Ticket event, gain their support and interest, and tell them that you would like to pray for the young people by name during their transition time. Assure them that the list will only be used for prayer and for the gifts and invites at the end of the year.
If you are able to get a copy of their class photo, that would also be a great aide to prayer and a way of you getting to know them and match names to faces more easily too. Again ask the head and explain the purpose.
A small group of keen pray-ers could use the list and photo to regularly pray for the young people and for the project as a whole.
If you have a spare noticeboard at church, you could make a prayer board especially for the school Year 6’s (updated each year). When they come down to church, they will feel valued and part of the church community already. Your congregation will be informed and be able to recognise them if they ever come to church independently.
If your school uses Prayer Spaces in Schools try and encourage them to have a space especially for the year 6’s (if they don’t use PSS why not suggest it, as a great way of developing spirituality in children in schools)
Don’t forget to pray in your regular intercessions slots at services, encourage prayer in homegroups or maybe you could use it as a reason to start a regular prayer group for general Mission and Ministry in your church.
Start talking to the Year 6’s early about future plans; build the hype and excitement, as early as you can, from about Feb/March onwards.
Ask the school for an opportunity to go in and talk to the Year 6 class and tell them about the idea. Make sure you keep the Y6 teachers and the head in the loop throughout the process.
Get them talking about parties, what they enjoy doing, what their favourite foods are, their music tastes, games they like to play.
You could give out the Party Feedback sheet, downloadable here Your Party Worksheet for Y6 to get ideas directly from the horses’ mouths, to inform your planning and to ensure you give them what they want, not what you think they might like.
Nearer the end of the year, put up posters (Link: customisable poster) and if your school has a facebook or other social media network for parents, see if you can get onto it. This will provide you with a brilliantly interactive form of promotion. You can keep on adding reminders, right through the Summer too and in the early stages you can ask for ideas, comments, thoughts and feedback, before and after the event. If you are going forward with a regular youth group, Facebook is a great way to communicate with parents. If you need help or advice on using social media, please get in touch with me directly email@example.com
Don’t be afraid to talk to the Year 6’s during whole school assemblies and tell them about the Reunion Party sooner rather than later. This could give them a real sense of “specialness” and build the anticipation for the other year groups for when it will be their turn in the future…
Talking to them about this may also have the effect of lessening their fears of their post-Primary school future, knowing that there will be at least one day after they have left school, when they can see their old friends and return to a “safe place”. We can underestimate what an unsettling time it can be and sometimes it’s combined with hormonal changes too. As churches we can offer a long term pastoral service to these vulnerable young people.
Start thinking and researching early to find the best gift(s) for your Year 6 Leavers.
Many schools have Leavers’ Services at their local Church, but if not they may still have a Leaving ceremony of some sort. Try and get an invite and ask if you can give them all a gift from your church. It’s great if it’s a clergyperson or a church member presenting them with the gift, but the gift still needs to be clearly labelled that it’s from the church, so that when they look back on it, it reminds them of you. Labelling is especially important if they will be given to them by the school on your behalf.
As the Golden Ticket idea references the classic Roald Dahl tale of Charlie and the Chocolate factory, it would be great if you can give the young people a bar of chocolate, and even better if you can slip the ticket into the wrapping!
If not chocolate, a small bag of sweets (eg Haribos) stapled to the ticket could work just as well. It needs to be a treat and something that they want.
Many churches like to give Bibles, but it’s vital that it’s an attractive modern Bible in a readable translation ; not too boring and adult, but not too baby-ish either. Presentation Bibles might look nice, but if inside they are impossible for an un-churched 11 year old to read and make any sense of, they are as good as useless.
I would still recommend giving a sweet treat as well as a Bible (or alternative) – just as an extra to make them smile!
Below are some links to possible Bibles, Gospels and Christian books – but there’s lots more out there. In fact the choice can be bewildering!
Here’s a few that we can recommend. I’ve given a link to a place where you can buy these items online (at the time of writing). Other sales points are available of course, you may like to research yourself to find the cheapest or best source for your needs. You may have a local Bible bookshop which will appreciate your support. In the Diocese there are at least three and you may know of others.
Manna House, St Giles St, Northampton, Amazing Grace, Midland Road, Wellingborough and Peterborough Christian Bookshop Ltd, Westgate, Peterborough.
You can also think about supporting your local high street bookshop instead of online purchasing.
The NCV Youth Bible is a safe bet, it is a full Bible, it treats them as young people rather than children and it should last them a long time. It has inserted stories, case studies, and highlights modern day issues and how they relate to the Bible and the presentation style is good.
The NIV Bible for Teens is another edition of the full Bible. The advantage to this one is its slimline, nice quality, durable, lies flat and has Jesus’ words in red, as well as some teen-friendly inserts.
The Soul Survivor Bible is produced by the team behind the annual Youth festivals, NIV, with inserts and relevant ways to help bring the Bible to life for young people.
The NIV Bible for Boys is another version, specifically targeted at boys, not just in the look, but with some added extras eg “Grossology: Gross and gory stuff you never knew was in the Bible and Makin’ It Real—Help for applying Bible stories to your everyday life”.
Faithgirlz NIV Bible is an alternative for girls, including extras that might suit girls such as “Dream Girl—Use your imagination to put yourself in the story. Bring It On! Take quizzes to really get to know yourself.”
The Authentic Youth Bible, written in ERV (Easy Read Version) for a more accessible way in for young people.
The Lion Graphic Bible is an abridged version of the Bible, good for tweenager boys, or anyone who likes to read comics or graphic novels. This tells the main Bible narrative in dramatic and readable style. It’s British and the author has worked on Marvel comics, no less.
The Action Bible is similar, but from America, also with illustrations by a Marvel and DC alumni.
The Manga Messiah is a version of the Gospels in Japanese animation style. Very readable, with the distinctive super-cute people that young people will recognise and enjoy (whilst dividing opinion amongst many adults, I suspect!). There is some quirky naming of characters, some using Hebrew versions, some Greek, but it has an effect of freshening the familiar stories.
Budget may be an issue for you, but there are lots ways of giving the young people something meaningful which don’t need to cost the earth…
One option is to give a single Gospel – less overwhelming than the whole Bible, whilst containing the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
The Authentic ERV Youth Bible is available as individual Gospels, still with extras to help make the most out of the text, like the full Bible but at a fraction of the cost.
Christianity Explored Gospel of Mark is not specifically for Young people, but it is clear, helpful and aimed at those who know little about the Bible, so a good alternative which could last the Leavers a lifetime.
There are some good free Apps out there now, and you could point your young people to them by giving them a bookmark, or sheet with some links, along with their Golden Ticket and a sweet treat . Just be wary and cautious; check out anything before you recommend. Some Bible apps feature social media type interactivity options which you may not want to encourage 10 and 11 year olds to be getting involved in, from a safeguarding point of view. There are also issues with UK appropriateness, as some apps can be very American.
The most popular Bible app in the world (American): Bible
Faithlife study Bible App is a free Bible app with some interesting features but it’s also rather American and a bit adult.
At the other end of the spectrum is Bible Trumps – possibly a bit childish, but fun and actually gives the young people a lot of Bible info within the game setting.
A Bible quiz app, Bible Trivia is fun while giving them some key Bible knowledge – it would need to be given in conjunction with a Bible, to reinforce their reading.
It’s Your Move
It’s your Move is a Scripture Union resource, specially written for Year 6 Leavers. It’s a book that is designed to help year 6’s to face their move to secondary school, to remind them that God is always with them and to give them practical tips and advice too. There’s also downloadable resources on their website too.
The Golden Ticket inviting the Year 6’s to the Party/Event needs to be inserted into your gift: tucked into the front of a Bible or into the packaging for a bar of chocolate, or attached to a packet of sweets, or however you want to present it. Try and make it fun!
The Ticket is the heart of this project and so to ensure it looks as appealing as possible to the young people, I would highly recommend using Gold paper for your ticket. We have a supply at the Diocesan Office in Northampton that you can use or you can buy printable golden paper – check on Ebay or your local stationers. Or it can be sourced from Amazon (at a price…).
Get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how we can help you with this.
The ticket template can be customised with your own details; church, school names, venue, date and type of party/event, before printing on Golden paper, or if you give us the details we can do that for you.
Download it here Golden Ticket 3 to A4 sample front and back printable
The reverse of the Ticket has a very simple form, but with vital permissions, information and contact details on it, to keep you and your young people safe, plus giving you information and contacts going forward.
The sample ticket template shows some of the key information needed: emergency contact and medical information, space for a permission signature and contact details, including email address. The small print section about all leaders being DBS checked and Diocesan Safeguarding policies being followed is good practice to share.
Make sure you remind the young people that the event is by ticket only – so they need to keep hold of their ticket and bring it to the event, with the reverse filled out.
Time to plan your event!
Firstly you need to decide what sort of event you can successfully host and the most suitable date and time. Make sure you use the research you carried out with Year 6’s (see Talk section) to inform your choices where possible.
In order to make sure that the event is successful you need to consider various issues:
Choose your venue carefully, with the maximum potential number of young people in mind. Think of potential hazards to avoid, perform a risk assessment, and ensure there is a minimum possibility of damage to property eg if you decide to use your church building, ensure precious, easily breakable items are put away.
It is perhaps obvious but simple questions need to be asked such as, do you have facilities such as water and toilets?
The way a room is laid out can make a huge difference to the dynamics of a group, so think about seating, tables and general layout. 10/11 year olds will usually “spread to fill the space” if a room is too big and they are over-excited, so think about partitioning a big space, keeping them a little more confined and controllable.
A café style lay-out, with some board games on tables, or beanbags/comfy chairs/sofas would facilitate an ideal laid back chatty feel, if your venue will allow it. Try to add some colourful touches such as plain bright table cloths, if the tables are ugly.
If you have no suitable venue, or the option/budget to hire one, think about a suitable outdoor space – weather depending, of course! If it’s a public space there are other issues around safeguarding and permissions so a private space is preferable.
Ensure that you have a team of suitable leaders/helpers to run your event. As a one-off event (potentially) you should hopefully find it easier to get volunteers and helpers. You will need someone to lead the session, people to perhaps run games or a disco, people to provide and serve refreshments and others to help with “crowd control”. Whilst a party for a group of 30 young people could be successfully run by 2 or 3 experienced youth workers, the bigger the team, the easier it will be. Just remember everybody will need to be DBS checked. The Diocese will pay for these and it can be organised through your Safeguarding Officer. Ideally they should attend a Safeguarding Training Day. Any questions, contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Officer, Garry Johnson on 01733 887041. Make sure you allow plenty of time for the checks to go through, so start your recruiting early. As with any youth and children’s work volunteering, it’s not advisable to put out a general plea for help, but approach people who you think would be good and who you know something about, or who come recommended from a trusted person. There will be different levels of skill and experience needed; baking cakes and serving them with a friendly face and listening ear, is a different skill to running a set of games with lively 10/11 year olds, so you will need a mix of people to help out.
Time and Date
Depending on your Church calendar, holidays and other local issues, it may be good to set a date before the young people have gone to their new schools – perhaps early September or late August, when they are bored of the long holiday and perhaps haven’t seen each other for a while. Alternatively you could let them get a few weeks under their belt in their new schools and they might be very keen to share their new experiences, especially if they go to a number of different schools. Gathering them together may be harder, the longer you leave it, however. The excitement of new friends and new experiences may render their old school friends obsolete for a while. When you are doing market research with the Year 6’s earlier in the year it may be worth asking them which they think might be better, though the parents would be more useful to ask, as young people tend to only think a day ahead if you’re lucky!
Listen to what your Year 6’s suggest, but you can’t go wrong with pizzas, hot dogs, crisps, cakes, doughnuts, sweets – basically anything very bad for you!!
Word of warning: If you are going to fill them full of sugar, fizzy drinks and energy, it’s better to do that near the end of the session, so that you don’t have to deal with the resulting hyper-activity… Maybe a few small treats at the beginning as they arrive, but not too much sugar all at once!
Do have some alternatives for those with allergies, or some healthier options just in case someone can’t eat too much sugar/fat, but it’s a one off party and your main aim is to be appealing and fun, so don’t worry too much about their balanced diets!
There will be a cost to this event and I suggest you don’t at this stage pass that on to the young people. The event is a gift from the Church to the Young People and as such I feel it should be free. If funds are stretched, maybe some of the young people or children from your congregation could do a fundraising activity especially for the event.
The main costs of the whole Golden Ticket programme will be your Leaver’s Gifts, printing tickets, posters etc and refreshments. You may have to pay to hire a venue if you don’t have a suitable one belonging to the Church. You may need to buy some games or sound equipment, or even some beanbags/comfy seating but these would be an investment for long term youth work. If you think you might be setting up a new youth group coming out of this event, it would be worth contacting Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs (NAYC) who have access to a £250 Start Up grant for new groups who affiliate with them.
It may also be possible to get some funding through the Mission Fund, or a Summer Outreach Special Grant
What are the young people going to do?!
As this is a reunion party/event – most of the time can be given over to simply letting the young people chat.
Having board games around gives the awkward ones something to do and gives leaders an easier way to engage with those on the fringes. A selection of suitable games for this setting is listed on our Games page.
Have some background music; there are very cheap, often tiny but effective wireless speaker systems that connect to smart phones. If you have a young person to consult/borrow from that’s the best. Make sure you research the Year 6’s music taste and download a selection of songs (having vetted them for explicit/racist/misogynist lyrics!). The young people may want to plug their own phones in to play their favourites. It is worth being aware of the possibility beforehand and having a pre-decided policy on it. If you do allow them, keep an ear out for content and be prepared to unplug if necessary!
If they are happy chatting you don’t need to force them into organised games or activities, but it is worth have a series of games up your sleeve in case they get restless, bored or too exuberant!
The Games page has a selection of group games plus some icebreakers appropriate for this age group, if you need some ideas.
You might choose to do something completely different with your young people, if something came from your market research that suits your space and leadership team – maybe a barbeque or picnic in an outdoor space, or a sports session might work just as well. You might have someone in your church who can run a disco. Whatever activity you choose, it needs to have opportunities for the young people to talk and build on relationships, with you and your team, and each other, and it needs to be manageable and most importantly fun!
The Golden Ticket event could be a one-off, or annual event, and there will be lots of positives to take from this. You will be putting down a clear marker that Church is still there for these young people at a time of big change in their life, showing them that you care about them and giving them a fun memory which could inform their thoughts about church as they grow older.
However, the potential strength of this programme is that it gives you an opportunity to launch something new and more deep rooted, from a solid base. It gives you the opportunity to welcome into your community a group of young people who you already have a relationship with; to strengthen it and build on it – and potentially move onto making new followers of Jesus to be discipled and nurtured.
There are as many ways of going about that task as there are churches in the Diocese, but here are a few ideas for ways forward.
At any point when thinking about setting up a group or running a new activity you can always get in touch with your Youth Missioner for support, ideas, someone to talk to, or with any specific issues/questions.
Contact us by phone or email (preferable, as we are often out and about)
Becky: Brackley, Brixworth, Daventry, Northampton, Towcester and Wellingborough Deaneries
01604 887058 email@example.com
Chad: Corby, Higham, Kettering, Oundle, Peterborough and Rutland Deaneries
01604 887059 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On-going open youth group
The most straightforward option is to run an “open” youth group, where you open up a suitable space, provide some games and equipment, refreshments, music and people to monitor, listen and help. Then allow the young people space to chat, be with friends and hang out. This works well with groups of 12-20 but any less and they can get bored easily and might need some more structure to a session. Any more and it can get hard to control, so again, more structure, more leaders, dividing up the group into different activities can be solutions.
For those in Northants, the Christian based youth club charity NAYC (Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs) is a useful resource. They can provide consultancy and potentially some funding before you start up a regular youth group. For a small annual fee you can affiliate giving you access to area workers and specialists who will happily come out to your group and help you, run sessions, provide resources and ideas.
For more information, hints and tips on setting up a new regular youth group, see the Start Up page on our website
A great resource that could be a part of your open youth group or could be at the heart of a new initiative is Table Talk, a discussion starter board game from the Ugly Duckling Company.
This very simple but innovative and potentially ground-breaking “game” was developed after research into our culture, it’s patterns of belief, changes in attitudes and current ways of thinking about spirituality, faith and religion. They found that many people in Britain today, and particularly those from younger generations are culturally so far from the Church, in knowledge, understanding and even recognisable points of contact in common, that traditional pre-evangelism courses such as Alpha, Christianity Explored etc are still too big a jump for many people. Those courses expect people to be spoken to and listen, with an “authority figure” in charge of the session, they expect people to understand a basic Christian understanding of God, and a desire to hear more about Christianity.
Table Talk, amongst other resources from this company, is designed to give people the opportunity to talk about the big questions of life, interspersed with the not so big questions, making for a relaxed but potentially powerful session. Packaged and presented as a quality board game, it’s a great icebreaker/ tool for getting discussion going in a non-threatening way. You could serve food before or after playing the game to make a fuller session.
“Seekers” or Discipleship Courses
If you feel that the young people have a little more of a grounding in faith, perhaps from their contact with your church, they may be interested in learning more. There are a number of different youth discipleship courses which can be used as a framework for sessions. They usually feature food, games, activities and other fun elements, alongside the teaching and faith discussion elements. They are designed to be user-friendly and can be used “off the peg”.
Some examples include:
These courses have a limited time frame and so aren’t such a big commitment (from the young people or your team) as a weekly, monthly or fortnightly regular club.
Small, focussed Discipleship group
It may be that you pick up that there is a core of young people who would come along to a more focussed, in-depth discipleship group. This is likely to be a small group, but could be extremely important and strategic work. You would need to be open about what kind of group it will be – Christian teaching, nurturing young Christians, sharing issues and experiences, being a source of support and mentoring, and drawing into the wider Church family. There are many resources to help you with running regular sessions. You can find links to a number of established providers of session plans, ideas, discussion starters etc on the Resources page on our website
There are some other ways that we can help you to support your discipleship group with local Youth Worship Services, online worship gatherings and a young leader training programme. We also have an email group, Facebook forum for youth leaders and helpers, Twitter feed and the chance to meet up with other leaders every now and then.
There are many other possibilities for the future of your group and they may well depend on the interests and make up of those who come along to the party. Try and get a chance to chat to them about what they would like. Perhaps the next step after your reunion party might be an evening of food, games and listening to the young people, where you try and find out what they would like to come to; what their hobbies or interests are. These need to be matched to what you can successfully offer – so, what are the interests, enthusiasms and skills that your team enjoy?
Some possible ideas to suggest to them may include:
Film nights: gather to watch a popular film, have popcorn and treats, maybe have some discussion of issues contained in it afterwards.
Trip out club: facilitate the group to be able to go on occasional trips to local places – fire station, cinema, country park, bowling etc
Special Interest group: could be anything from crafts to woodworking to watercolour painting to hip hop dancing…
Music Group: if you or someone in your church has musical ability, you could form a group around a choir, band or music group. It may be that you just meet to play for fun, or maybe you could feed into an event, or even a church service.
Sports group: a lot of young people enjoy sports and a football team, aerobics class or running club could form a core group to work with. Having an inclusive, fun and encouraging ethos could set your group apart from more competitive results driven teams in the local area.
Feel free to call in your Youth Missioner to come along to your listening session and help bounce ideas around.
Whatever you do – the most important thing is that Christ is at the Heart of it.
When you are welcoming young people in Jesus’ name, with a heart to see God’s Kingdom come, He will bless your work.
You may end up working with 1 or 2 new young people, or a youth club of 30+ but what is vital is that it is coming out of an awareness of Christ’s love for each individual young person.
Your volunteers, helpers and leaders need to be aware that they are ambassadors for Christ and can be hugely influential in a young person’s life and faith journey – even if they are just selling them tuck with a listening ear…
You may be running a small discipleship group or running a regular football tournament, but both need to be open and transparent about who is running the session; people who are Christians, part of Christ’s family, the Church. Whether you explicitly teach or talk about faith, or your session is primarily a social get-together, the over-arching ethos needs to be clearly Christian.
And while you are listening to the young people and standing alongside them, you will be building on relationships that have been gently nurtured through their experience of church during primary school.
By making an effort to re-connect and keep the communication open we hope and pray that you won’t be saying “Good-bye” on Leavers Service day, but “See you soon”!
Appendix contents (clickable link to separate pages)
- Market Research – Party Ideas Photocopiable Worksheet
- Customisable Printable Poster
- Customisable Golden Ticket Template, including permission form on reverse
- List of suitable board games for on tables (towards the bottom of the page)
- List of suitable group games/icebreakers for transition age young people