Adults celebrate a new year every January, but children often mark the new year when school starts in August or September. This is true in Sunday school as well as daily school. Many churches that sponsor Sunday school host a "Promotion Sunday" church service that marks the day Sunday school students advance to the next grade or class. Some churches hold it at the start of summer, while others wait until summer ends.
Publicity is important to the success of Promotion Sunday. The service is often heavily attended, and parents need to know when it's happening to ensure that their children attend the correct grade-level class the following Sunday. Post a special announcement in the church bulletin or newsletter several weeks in advance, or send a formal invitation to the families by mail. If your pastor makes announcements at the start of each church service, ask him to include information about Promotion Sunday. Students also could make posters and display them prominently around the church.
Food and Drink
No celebration is complete without food and drink. Honor the students with a cake and punch after the church service, or offer "promotion sundaes" instead. The students will get a kick out of the play on words. The church can go big with a church-wide barbecue that also celebrates the beginning or end of summer. Or you could host a breakfast or brunch for the children and their parents before the church service.
A Promotion Sunday service is not a full-on graduation ceremony, but the church service usually includes an acknowledgement of some sort. Some churches pray for the seniors by name. Consider honoring high school graduates by presenting them with something special during the church service, such as a cross necklace or engraved Bible. You could have the students participate in a small but meaningful ritual designed to signify "moving up" a grade, such as having the fifth-graders get up and move to sit with the middle school students.
Fun and Games
Fun and games can be part of the festivities. Once the students have been recognized and officially promoted in the church service, dismiss them to go to their new classes. You could color-code the classrooms -- ask the teachers to wear certain colors and consider decorating the classrooms in those colors -- and give the children simple rhymes to solve, such as "First grade students, we look forward to meeting you! Find us wearing the color blue!" Older students might want to play some team-building games to get to know their new teachers and classmates, especially if they are joining a larger group of children, such as eighth-graders joining a high school youth group.
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