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Youth Ministry Best Practices

 —  December 7, 2012 — 4 Comments

This week we’re going to focus on some of the best practices of youth ministry nationwide and hope that it generates some helpful conversation as you agree, disagree or have no opinion either way! Right up front we want to let you know that there is no PERFECT way to do youth ministry; our hope is that you prayerfully consider your context and determine what would and wouldn’t work in the ministry you lead.

BEST PRACTICE: Dividing up junior high and high school students.
There is simply too much difference between a 12-year-old 7th grader and an 18-year-old graduating senior—specifically, the developmental differences. Plus, on a practical note, keeping them separate gives the junior highers something to look forward to. Having said all that, there are some incredible opportunities when you keep these groups together. The older students can disciple and model what younger students can become over the next few years.

• Do you have separate ministries for junior and senior high?
• Why or why not?
• What are other pros and cons of dividing up these age groups?
• What would happen if you made the switch?

BEST PRACTICE: Small groups being the primary method of discipleship and fellowship.
Most youth groups meet once a week for a large-group time of celebration, fun, and worship; and then either as part of that gathering, or at another time during the week, divide up into small groups for fellowship and discipleship. The overwhelming model has been for groups to work through a curriculum and also share life and Christian community together.

• Does your church have small groups, Sunday school, or just large group times?
• Why have you chosen this strategy?
• What is the weakness of this model?
• Sunday school used to be invincible; now it has largely been replaced by small groups. What’s next?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Josh Griffin


4 responses to Youth Ministry Best Practices

  1. Completely agree with dividing middle and high schoolers up. Sure, your group may not be “big” enough to split them up, but I really don’t believe the group will ever get big without splitting them up. So you bite the short term bullet of lower numbers when you split for the prospect of much bigger numbers as the groups develop their own identities.

  2. I subscribe to a both/and philosophy about separating our JrHi and High School students. Plenty of time together, plenty of time apart. I used to run completely separate ministries, but every fall, it was devastating to our ninth graders – it took so long for them to feel like the belonged that many just left.

    By keeping eighth graders around high school students enough that they could know each other, the transition to ninth grade went much better (and with much less work on my end to make it better).

  3. The goal should be the same, the methods can vary. The aim should be to get more and more children together in the Youth Ministry for the service of the God. Yes, it is obvious that people of the same age will feel comfortable with each other as compared to elder or younger ones.

  4. Having worked with both Jr. High and High School at different times in my life I can say without a doubt that your youth group will not grow spiritually / physically / emotionally as much as it could by keeping them combined. (not saying you don’t have a great thing going, but it could be better)

    These are two very different age groups and should be handled as such. There are many things you can do to make transitions easier to the high school group (i.e. preview days, big events etc.) However unless there is no other way split these age groups up. You will see your ministry grow in every aspect and you will be able to cater more towards each group as needed if you split them up.

    If it’s a number thing don’t even stress about that. That simply means that you will be able to build even closer relationships to these students split up and they will be able to relate to each other better and most likely be more inclined to invite their friends if there isn’t a giant 18 year old senior or a little 12 year old 7th grader either intimidating or embarrassing them .

    As for small groups it’s hard to say, it is a powerful model that I have seen work time and time again and even work in my own life as I went through high school, however it also comes with the weakness of creating cliques or exclusive groups which can divide a ministry, but at the same time you want them to form relationships. It’s a battle that brings around a lot of difficult decisions for the youth pastor for what is the best for the ministry in the long run.

    I am looking forward to see what the next thing is for discipleship ministry, however until then the relationships and success that I have seen small groups bring are to strong to try something different.

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