What Do I Do When A Kid Is Held Back?

pgviIn life there are moments we ask ourselves, “what do I do”? Some situations do not have a step by step process. I find these situations have multiple options and they all at the time appear reasonable. Recently I had to make one of these tough “what do I do” decisions in my children’s ministry.

It was the end of school and throughout our student ministry we are graduating our students into new classes. I am going to breakdown how our ministry is set up so you can better understand the predicament.

Student Ministry Breakdown:

  • K4/K5
  • First-Fourth Grade
  • Five6 (Fifth/Sixth Grade)
  • Fusion (Seventh/Eighth Grade)
  • The Cause (High School)

I had a 4th grade student we will call this student “Jack”. Jack’s dad came up to me before service on graduation weekend and said that Jack was held back. He was curious if Jack could graduate and move up to Five6 with his friends.

I’ll stop right here and explain what went through my mind at the time. I thought to myself Jack should stay in First-Fourth until he graduates the following year to the Fifth grade; however, I did not express this opinion. I was stuck and I did not know what to do, so I said, “how about he comes to class today, and I’ll discuss it with our lead pastor”.

At this moment there are two possible outcomes, Jack’s dad could be completely upset or appreciate that I am exploring an option for Jack to move on to Five6. Jack’s dad was thrilled and I was too because I felt I had escaped a tricky situation.

I went to my lead pastor and explained the situation. We came to the conclusion that Jack should be able to move up with his friends/classmates to Five6. Some of you might be saying, WAIT, earlier you said he should stay back. Yes, I did, but I realized with the help of my lead pastor that I am not the public/private school system. I came to the conclusion that Jack would be able to receive and learn better in Five6.

Too often we decide to make decisions in the heat of the moment. We need to remind ourselves that it is okay to say, “I don’t know” or “I am going to discuss this with my lead pastor”. I know we think we should have the answers at that moment, but we need to remember we are a part of a team with members who have more experience than us. Our teammates have wisdom in areas that we do not have wisdom in at the moment.

One of my favorite verses about seeking advice is found in Proverbs 12:15 in the message, “Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice.”

What was a situation in your children’s ministry where you had a tough decision to make?

What did you do in that situation?

7 thoughts on “What Do I Do When A Kid Is Held Back?

  1. doug rushton says:

    Challenge # 2 and challenge #3 and challenge #4. What about the next age groups he is going to encounter with moving up out of five6; and then Fusion; and then the Cause; will they graduate the Cause even though they are still in school. Makes it tough I know. We simply reflect what grade they are in at school. That way we don’t have to make the decision. The child’s family makes the decision by what grade they put him in at school.

    We also had a mom come to us and said her child was suppose to be going into Kindergarten but because of an issues was going to have to complete Transitional Kindergarten first before moving up. Some time kids are just not mature enough or because of environmental issues cannot move up with their grade school class.

    It could get messy by sending them on ahead in our church class because they will begin to make friends at school in their new class but then change when they get moved back up at church.

    Just a thought

    • Lance McKinnon says:


      I understand where you are coming from in regards to what happens when he moves up to the following classes. I never said how I dealt with Jack was a sweeping declaration for all my students who were held back.

      Typically parents leave their children in the grade levels they are currently in at school and I respect that as their children’s pastor; however, I evaluated his case on an individual basis looking at where he was and after talks with not only his parents, but my lead pastor I came to the decision we arrived at.

      Jack is doing well in five6 and I believe he will continue to be just fine as the only challenge I see is when he hits high school where he will have an additional year as a student in The Cause(which the youth group is pretty cool, so I think he will like it).

      In the case of Jack it wasn’t a maturity or environmental issue, yes it can get messy sending them ahead, but it can be equally messing leaving them behind. I know how we handled the situation isn’t how everyone would handle it at their church, it is just one way of handling it.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. John C Burzynski says:

    Hey Lance,
    I think I understand your situation, but it seems to me that you shifted the Lead Pastor to the potential hot seat. In theory you would understand the kids situation better than the Lead Pastor. I can appreciate delaying the situation until you could think it through or get advice, but I think the Kid’s Pastor should make the call. The time to take it to the Lead Pastor is if the parent is not satisfied with the decision. Then if the Lead Pastor over rules your decision its no big deal and he is the hero. The Lead Pastor backs up your decision, the parent will see that the situation was given due consideration, and you may gain an improved relationship.

    • Lance McKinnon says:


      Yes I understand that it looks like I transferred the hot seat over to my Lead Pastor; however, I was following the proper procedures we had for our staff when we didn’t know what to do in a particular situation. He appreciated me coming to him with the problem and ultimately he left the decision in my hands.

      Could I have worded things differently with the parents to make it sound like I was just going to think about it for a week and then return with my answer? Yes, but that’s hindsight and it is easier to see where things could be made better in retrospect.

      Appreciate your comment John!

  3. Marie says:

    I am in this situation now… We had a student that did not want to go on to 6th grade. His parents tried to say it was not about the friends and that he was just too young. He was not being held back at school, he was moving on to 6th grade. I talked to him and he said “I don’t like the kids in 6th grade.” That sealed the deal for me. We are teaching our children to “love” each other. We are teaching them to strive to be like Jesus. What happened in this situation was the kids in 6th grade felt alienated by him, which I would have too at that age. Our Jr. High Youth Minister has also talked to him and the parents and has told them that he needs to move up based on his school grade. We have to be careful when making a situation based on an individual situation, because it becomes much bigger than just individual. People are always watching and waiting. As is the case with another student, and mom is determined and even made the claim that he would not come to Church (at 2nd grade) if he could not be with his friends. 🙁 Very sad. Shame on Mom. 🙁 (a Minister’s wife). I have been a Children’s Minister for over 20 years… I have seen a lot and dealt with a lot. My own daughter was held back in 1st grade… and I kept her back at Church. She was still friends with the kids a year a head of her. I have seen it over and over again… if they are friends, they are friends, the grade does not make the difference. Please think about these things and know that we are in these amazing ministries to teach and lead our children into a greater relationship with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 16:13, John 15:12-13.

    • Lance McKinnon says:


      I appreciate your comment and the experiences you’ve had with this particular problem. I abbreviated my story with Jack in the blog and it probably doesn’t do it justice because it was beyond friends for Jack.

      His parents wanted him to move into the higher class because they thought he would get more out of the lessons being taught in our five6 class. As soon as his parents mentioned his relationship with God being in the mix as to why they wanted him to move up, I was open in my mind to the possibility which brought me to needing to talk with my Lead Pastor.

      Thanks for your comment!

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