Yes I have started this post out by naming it with a line from a song by the band Offspring back in 1994. This would be strange if we were trying to communicate with our students, but when we are dealing with each other as leaders this makes total sense.
In many churches it is a struggle to know what is best. Do we keep the Junior High and High School students together for youth group, or do we separate them out and try to run two separate programs.
This question will exist forever in churches because of numbers, staffing, and financial concerns. I want to let you know today some of the advantages of keeping them separated.
1. Relationships are hard! It is difficult to relate to junior high students at the same time you are ministering to high school students. It is true that in many cases these students deal with some of the same issues, but they do it on different levels. The pressures and freedoms are different for these two age groups. If we separate these students we allow for the junior high students to not get lost in the crowd. If you separate these students out you allow for these students to grow at their own pace instead of being pushed too deep too early. Junior high students need to feel like they matter. They need somebody to help them focus on the changes happening in their body, mind, and heart. This is when they grow and mature at a healthy pace.
2. Activities and Outings. When working with high school students there is a freedom to adjust and make changes to plans. Many students have the ability to drive or get a ride from a friend. This creates opportunities for spontaneous ministry or less rigid schedules for the students. Junior high students however are at the mercy of their parents, and I can promise you that if you want to keep your students coming to junior high events then you want to communicate clearly with parents. Parents many times choose if there is room in a students schedule for church activities. If you are changing plans last minute or canceling events, you are not meeting parent’s needs.
3. Junior High and High School are important! Both of these groups are extremely important. The key for each ministry to realize is that they have different needs. There is no magic number of students, right size of church, or right size of staff where you should split junior high from high school, but I can tell you that it will be a huge advantage for your students if you do. This will show all of these students that they matter. It helps us introduce Jesus to our students in the most age appropriate way.
This guest post was written by Terry Goodwin. Terry has been working with Junior High Students for the past 12 years. He currently works as Junior High Minister at Second Church of Christ in Danville, IL. He is also the creator of JuniorHighMinistry.org (your source for everything junior high).