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OPINION

FIRST-PERSON: Preparing students for middle school

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--It's an enormous transition time, both for preteens and parents. How can a church assist its students entering middle school this year?

Try a Get-Ready-for-Middle-School-School event -- an info-packed, fun event planned exclusively for sixth graders* entering middle school. Scheduled on a Saturday shortly before school begins, its sole purpose is to encourage preteens to excel as Christians.

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Recruit a top-notch team of instructors and helpers. Design a huge "welcome to middle school" sign. Plan impressive snacks, youth group T-shirts and info packets containing annual youth calendar, youth leaders' contact information and church information. Personally invite every incoming sixth grader in your church. Youth leaders can call parents. Older youth can hand-deliver invitations. Publicize via Facebook, email, website and newsletter.

The Get-Ready-For-Middle-School School's schedule is fast-paced and purposeful:

-- Opening Session. At registration, preteens enjoy snacks and informal fellowship with youth workers. The youth minister shares a lively, well-prepared presentation to passionately challenge youth to live as vibrant Christians in middle school. He introduces youth workers, and overviews the opportunities for Christian fellowship and discipleship at your church.

-- Many mini-classes: Eight power-packed classes last just 10 minutes each, and preteens rotate from class to class. Instructors are youth leaders, role models, church members on faculty/staff of the local middle school, and godly older youth. They use handouts and visuals to teach relevant how-to topics about Christian growth, resources and inside tips for middle school life. Favorites at our church were the etiquette class, first-day tips, and secrets for a Christ-like middle schooler. (More at keeponshining.com.) Some games and snacks may be interspersed.

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-- Prayer points: The youth minister prays for preteens by name, asking God's blessing and guidance. Students receive a list of prayer points to remind them to shine for Jesus.

-- Party time: Culminate the event with a fun, memorable activity to promote friendships, such as Frisbee golf and cookout in the park or a photo scavenger hunt.

-- You're in the youth group! Sunday morning after the event, incoming sixth graders are officially welcomed into the youth Sunday School department.

A Get-Ready-For-Middle-School-School function will become a greatly anticipated annual event and an enormous encouragement for young Christian youth.

*Adjust grade to fit the year middle school begins in your school district. Diana Davis is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board vice president for the Midwest region. Visit her website, www.keeponshining.com.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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