What Do I Do When A Kid Is Held Back?

Leadership //

By Lance McKinnon

In 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?





About the Author

Pastor, filmmaker, coach and comic book collector, Mark Harper has over 30 years of experience in the local church. He is the creator of the Super Church Curriculum series, which is used in over 5,000 churches worldwide. Mark and his wife Debra have two adult children, one grandchild and one Yorkie who thinks he's a german shepherd.