Issues surrounding separate jr. and sr. high youth ministries [podcast]

LIVE Youth Ministry TalkJohn Mulholland recently separated his youth group into jr. high and sr. high ministries. He joined us to talk about some of the issues that surround splitting the ministries and, together with a group of other youth workers who joined us on the call and in the adjoining chat room, we had a pretty lively discussion. Apparently this is an issue that’s much more controversial than I anticipated, with many different perspectives and opinions.

Some of the things we talked about:

  • Reasons to separate jr. and sr. high ministries.
  • Reasons to keep the ministries together.
  • What separating can unintentionally teach teens about the body of Christ.
  • If your ministry should split or stay together.
  • And a lot more…

You can listen to the whole conversation below or grab it in iTunes.

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Next Monday’s discussion

January 4: There is no LIVE YM Talk this week nor next week. Our next talk is on Monday, January 4, 2010, were we will talk about designing and communicating the student ministry’s vision to the church and community. Our guest will be Todd Perkins of Youth Ministry Consultants, Inc.. Join us then for LIVE YM Talk.

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Posted on December 19, 2009

  • I missed the conversation (and caught the podcast), but for what it's worth, here's what we did at a small church (about 120/Sunday) I served at:

    We had about 20 students each week involved in the ministry. Sunday mornings, we had a dedicated time for "Christian Education" between our two services. Junior and Senior High would meet together for an hour in a Bible study format.

    On Sunday nights, we would have youth group. Junior high was 5-7pm, and high school was 6-8:15pm. At 5pm, junior high would meet for the lesson/discussion part of the night until 6pm. At 6pm, the high school students would show up, and everyone would have food/fellowship/games for an hour until 7pm all together. Then, at 7pm, the high school students would have their lesson/discussion. We usually covered the same topics, just tailored to the different age groups if necessary.

    For big events (denominational retreats, 30 Hour Famine, lock-ins, etc.), we were usually all together, and often teamed up with other churches. I found it was the best of both worlds. Each group had their own time for development level-specific conversations, but there was a lot of fellowship and mentoring going on, which was cool. They loved being together, and I loved it when a high schooler would take a junior higher under his/her wing.

    Great conversation.

  • Chad

    In my opinion the good outweighs the bad as far as splitting. I have been a volunteer or YP at 4 different churches, small to medium (75-350) size, and have sucessfully split the MS from the HS in all of them. By sucessfully I mean that in each case, the groups grew numerically and spiritually. Two of those groups were big enough to do combined game/worship time and that seemed work well for a little while, but there was still too much of a difference in age/maturity. And I have learned something – there is no such thing as a critical mass. My last church I split the groups because some sr. highers stopped coming because of the rowdiness and immaturity of the Middle Schoolers, which included a few church kids and a few outreach kids. Even though I sometimes had 1 or 2 in each group, (the numbers fluctuated every week) I still believe it was worth it. I was able to be not just a teacher but someone who would enter a discussion with them. We did big events together and it went really well there too – I saw no drawbacks to the split. (Oh and I was part-time at that church, so meetings were Sun nights, 6-7:30 for MS, 7:30-9 for HS)

  • Chad

    And the same thing has happened where I'm on staff of now – the group was together when I came, around 15 but fluctuating weekly, and now is split with 10-15 in each group. It's 90% outreach kids, so the whole notion of older mentoring younger is kinda mute. And I really disagree with the idea that we're teaching students that the body of Christ is fractured just by separate age group meetings. It happens all the time naturally – we all tend to establish relationships with those of our age or life situation. Doesn't mean we are splitting up the Body. Should we do away with women's groups, mens groups, divorce groups, married with kids groups, retired groups? That's just silly. The groups we have at churches have a funtionality, and so do the HS and MS groups. Is there a risk that young never interact with old? Yes, but we can do other things to mitigate against that happening. I've been able to have intense, deep discussions in the HS group that wouldn't have happened with the MSboys around. In the end, you have to do what's best for your group. Not what's easiest for you, but what's best for the students that have been entrusted into your care.

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