From time to time I post a question that comes into the blog for YOU to answer. What advice would you give this youth pastor who is asking about violence and accidents that happen during youth group. Was hoping you could share your thoughts in the comments, too. Weigh in!

I was wondering, when it comes to youth trips, how are chaperones funded in your ministry?  Does everyone pay out of pocket?  Are all of their costs subsidized by the ministry budget or fundraisers?  Is there a split between the two? I was just curious as to what your policies are.  How many “trips” would an adult leader have the opportunity – or even be expected – to attend in the course of a year with your youth group?

JG

How, when, and why do you split middle school and high school?

Lots of different takes on this question – you can read one here and another one here. What do I think? As soon as possible.

There are just too many reasons you should divide your students into separate programs – developmentally a 13-year old kid and a 18-year old adult are worlds apart. While I like the idea of occasionally doing events or services together there I love the wins of programs that meet their needs specifically. I’m sure my colleagues here in this Slant will cover those well.

But there are a ton of excuses why we don’t want to make the jump to two programs! Here are a few common reasons people don’t and I hope a few ideas to help you fight through them:

You’ll never have enough room
Dividing your youth group in half is going to create some logistical pressure right out of the gate. Don’t let that be an excuse! What about starting all together for half the service (music, announcements, etc) and diving up into smaller areas after that? If your church has multiple services – what about having junior high during one service time and and high school at the other? Or what if you did senior high in the middle of the week and junior high on Sunday mornings. Figuring this out is going to take work!

You’ll never have enough volunteers
Making a youth program specifically for junior high and high school is going to take more people. It is hard enough to find enough as it is! What if you asked your current leaders to find a second leader? What if you asked your students whom they would like as a leader? What if you asked a few of your children’s ministry workers who work with the older children to move up with them and into your new ministry? People will always be a challenge; don’t let that be an excuse to not start a separate program.

You’ll never have enough budget
Wait … you have a youth group budget? First, say a little prayer of thanks to God that you’ve even got that … and then start to think creatively about how to stretch the few dollars you’ve got. Do all of your events combined still so you save on reservations and can use better group discounts. Adapt resources you buy for high school. Find reliable, low-cost youth ministry tools that can help your youth ministry.

You’ll never have enough time
How am I supposed to prepare 2 different messages this week? Two programs? I’m just a volunteer myself – how can I take basically another youth group on myself? And that’s exactly the point … you can’t. You shouldn’t. Don’t! Give the leadership of one of the youth group halves to someone else. Groom that up and coming volunteer or intern from the Bible College down the road. Maybe even a student leader (preferably a senior) who is ready to take it on. You’ll need to increase your bandwidth to oversee them, but don’t make the mistake of feeling like you have to be the point person for both.

So when should you split? Set a target date for this fall and start working through some of the obstacles … it’ll totally be worth it.

JG



If you are fortunate enough to even have a youth ministry budget, most of us work to preserve at least a chunk of it until the end of the year. For many, that means some critical purchasing power at the end of the calendar year (or fiscal year, depending on when your church “resets” everything back to the start).

If you find yourself in these merry last few days of the year with some funds left to spend on your own development and your youth ministry, here are a few recommendations for you to consider:

A resource for your students
Think of a spiritual growth tool to put in your students’ hands to help them grow in their faith. Right now the 1-Minute Bible (the most popular resource in our Grow Booth each year) is only $6.99 and a total steal at that price. Next closest is Amazon at $10.14. Lots of other great options to get good stuff in your students’ hands, too!

A training event for you
There are a ton of great training events and conference on the local, denominational and national level. Pick one that has some offerings that will encourage you were you are at and push you where you need to grow. I highly recommend the upcoming Simply Youth Ministry Conference and I’d love to meet you at one of the events I’ll be attending in the future, too! You can get a great book or tool – those are certainly helpful – but there is something special about being in the same room with hundreds of other men and women who share your calling.

A challenge for your volunteers
Find a great resource to develop your team, too! 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders has been fortunate enough to be one of the best-sellers of the year at Simply Youth Ministry. Doug Fields and I wrote it to help youth workers lead their groups better – think of it as leader training in a simple little book. Combine it with a Starbucks card and it is a total winner. On sale right now for $4.99.

What are you thinking about buying here at the end of the year?

JG