Blog/CYM Blog

From Edge to Life Teen: Making the Transition

One of my favorite scenes from the classic 1995 movie, “Now and Then,” shows where girls are at in their adolescent development. They are beginning the journey of becoming teenagers.

Teeny: Chrissy, truth or dare?
Chrissy: Truth.
Teeny: Have you ever been french kissed?
Chrissy: Are you kidding me? I don’t want to get pregnant!

If you’re a middle school youth minister or Core Member, you know how much 6th-8th graders are developing physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. 6th graders are still so young and innocent while 8th graders are trying to grow up faster than their bodies allow them. I still think it’s fun to watch 8th grade girls tower over 8th grade boys who haven’t quite reached that growth spurt.

One of the biggest transitions our young people go through is the difficult change from middle to high school. Our job is to make that transition as smooth and painless as possible.

We have 8th graders who think they are the cream of the crop (do people still use that phrase?). They are the best in their schools, sports, and extracurricular activities; they are popular. 7th grade girls want to date the 8th grade guys. 6th and 7th graders think the 8th graders are so cool and 8th graders are the kings and queens of school…and typically your Edge ministry.

But then they become freshman…in high-school! They now go unnoticed on the social radar. Their confidence goes down the drain. We invite them to Life Teen where they hang out with upperclassmen an additional day of the week, and that can be scary. We need to make sure the transition from Edge to Life Teen goes well. Here are some ideas to do just that.

Life Teen Preview Night
Have a Life Teen preview night the summer before their freshman year. Invite upcoming freshman and their parents. Put on a special Life Night for the 9th graders while someone else (priest, or YM) meets with the parents about Life Teen. This offers the freshman a chance to meet the Core Team and youth minister (especially if you have a different youth minister for Edge and Life Teen). Invite high school juniors and seniors to help welcome the 9th graders and lead small groups. Have them also give testimonies about what Life Teen means to them. 9th graders will listen to upperclassmen more than adults at this point.

Write cards to the incoming freshman
Have upperclassmen, Core, and the youth minister write cards of encouragement and invitation to the freshmen to be a part of Life Teen. Include the calendar of the upcoming events with the card to get them excited about what is coming.

Final Edge Night
If you have a different youth minister for Edge and Life Teen, have the Life Teen youth minister attend the final Edge Nights with some Core Members. In addition, find ways to interact with the 8th graders in the final school months. Attend graduation ceremonies, farewell lunches or dinners, and one-day lock-ins or retreats (Help! I’m stuck in a Locker!). Simply being around during their final Edge gatherings can be a great opportunity to play and pray.

Freshmen Hospitality
As they begin Life Teen, spend the beginning part of your first semester focussed on freshman hospitality. Build healthy relationships with the freshman. When they come to your freshmen kick–off or first Life Night, are there core members or upperclassmen welcoming them? Ask juniors and seniors to call and invite the incoming freshmen to Life Teen or hand out t-shirts or bandanas when they walk into their first Life Night. Whatever you do, create a sense of belonging.

Freshman Retreat
I live in a community that has 3-4 high schools attending Life Teen. Not only is it scary for a freshman to meet new friends in their new school, but it can be even more intimidating to have more than one school. Offering a retreat based on breaking down walls and getting to know each other might make Life Teen less intimidating. High schoolers want to be with their friends a retreat gives them a strong starting point to make new friends.

Even though this transition can be difficult, it’s necessary for the youth and the ministry. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other youth ministers, or your Life Teen Regional Director or Area Contact for ideas. We are praying for you!

About the Author

Sarah Gavin

Sarah Gavin is an Edge and Life Teen youth minister in Sturgeon Bay, WI serving 5 parishes. She also currently serves as the Wisconsin Area Contact. In the summer you'll find her all over the US and Canada leading mission trips for high school and middle school students. Unlike most Wisconsin folk, she doesn't enjoy the Packers, but she does love cheese. She loves running, biking, and competing in races. She currently lives with her invisible dog, Beatrice.