My Promoting NexGen post last week prompted a lot of questions and discussions about when churches promote – before the summer or after the summer? So, I thought I’d share the reasons why I promote when I do.

At MISSION, we promote before the summer. We’re actually promoting this Sunday, May 21st. I LOVE promoting just before the summer and I’ll explain why.

At my previous church, we promoted in the fall for the first 4-5 years there. There were several obstacles preventing us from moving promotion. I hated Fall promotion, primarily for one reason, which I’ll get to in a second. It wasn’t until about 4 years ago until I moved to a pre-summer promotion and it was amazing for us.

Here are the biggest points of resistance for a pre-summer promotion:

  • Kindergarteners aren’t ready yet. Those kids leaving your preschool environment into the brand-new elementary environment are still developing. The longer you can give them, the better. I don’t disagree. However, I’m not sure that 2-3 months of extra development is worth a ministry-wide decision of waiting.
  • Promoting into the summer. Promotion is fun. There’s a lot of momentum with it. It seems counter-productive to take this easy momentum and point it at a season when attendance is naturally going to fall off. This absolutely makes sense.
  • The last hurrah! It’s very natural to want the summer as an end to a season of ministry. You promote all spring for a summer camp or mission trip. It seems normal that you’d want that experience to be the end of a season rather than the beginning of something new.

All of these are great reasons for promoting in Fall. But here’s the one reason that trumped every great reason for me.

When a kid finishes their grade at school, they don’t want to be in that grade anymore at church.

That’s it for me. In all those years that I promoted in the fall, it was ALWAYS a two-month fight with every kid in our ministry.

  • Weekly Eye-Rolls. I’d see the disappointment in kid’s faces every week as they printed their tags and be frustrated by the printed grade. They considered themselves done with the grade that they were forced to stay in at church. Most kids were okay, but some kids really resented it.
  • Long explanations. During the summer, the conversation would always change at check-in. Families who didn’t come very often would go to the main check-in desk to have their tags corrected. The volunteers at the desk would have to explain to the families that we promoted in the fall. Everyone was cool with it, but it was a conversation we had multiple times, every week. ALL. SUMMER. LONG.
  • Conflicting Data. Lastly, we’d spend weeks in the fall fixing all the incorrect summer data. We had many families visiting for the first time over the summer that didn’t hear our “we promote in the fall” spiel. All of their kids would end up in the wrong grade. Some families would figure out how to edit their data and change their kid’s grades. Regardless of the situation, we’d do a mass promotion the week before school started and spend the next 2-4 weeks making corrections of kids who accidentally (or nefariously) promoted early.

I just didn’t want to fight our kids and families. I didn’t want to do something that was foreign or something that required a thorough communication plan for every family, every week. This is the primary reason for moving to a pre-summer promotion.

However, this is how we changed other things to make a pre-summer promotion a slam dunk.

  • We didn’t do summer camp. We did winter camp, so there wasn’t confusion about promoting to something that they wouldn’t be eligible for by the time summer came along. We did do mission trips, but we scheduled them all for the first two weeks of the summer.
  • We scheduled a back-to-school kick-off event. Promotion is a natural momentum builder, which is why a lot of people will promote in the fall. Attendance is already picking up. We just created some extra momentum with a back-to-school event synchronized with the new school year.
  • Staggered change. The beginning of the school year is CRAZY busy. There’s something nice about getting your groups set during a season when attendance is low and there is less going on. As kids are experiencing the crazy of new classes, new friends and everything else new, it’s comforting that they have something familiar at church.

This is why I do what I do. It was years of investment and shaping programs/events to support a pre-summer promotion. I’d love to know what you do and why? Every church has a unique community where one promotion date may not work as well. Please share what you do and how it has been working for your church!