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Applying Nuclear Fission in Youth Ministry: The Necessity To Split Middle School and High School Ministry | REyouthpastor.com | Home youth ministry, youth pastor
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Applying Nuclear Fission in Youth Ministry: The Necessity To Split Middle School and High School Ministry

A few weeks ago on the Slant 33 blog, Marko (from theyouthcartel.com), Josh Griffin (www.morethandodgeball.com) and myself each took a crack at answering this question:

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

____________________________

Here is how I responded to the question:

In my previous youth ministry position, I was given the option to leave middle school and high school combined or to split them. Logistically, it would be easier to combine the groups, but I would lose some high school students if they were in the same program as middle school students. If I split the groups, it would mean two separate programs on two different nights, and each program would cater to the developmental, environmental, and theological needs of each age group.

After much contemplation, prayer, and research I decided to split the groups. I was too convinced that there are major differences (theological, social, developmental and emotional) between middle school and high school, and each needs their own environment.

If you spend more than five minutes with a middle school student, you will quickly notice their uniqueness. Middle school students are concrete thinkers. They cannot think abstractly. They need life to be black and white. Middle schoolers are also intuitive. Somehow they manage to feel their way through life. Middle schoolers are emotional basket cases. Their emotional worlds consist of many highs and lows. So let the drama unfold and be the stable adult who anchors them in reality while affirming their crazy emotions. They need consistent adult relationships because they are so dependent. They also need to experience the affective side of God’s character. They need to feel Jesus in addition to just learning about him. This is why worshiping through music and environment are such a big deal for middle school students.

Nuclear Fission is the splitting of a large atom into two smaller ones.  It takes little energy to split the large atom but the outcome is very explosive when you make the split.  I felt the same way about splitting middle school and high school.  It is pretty clear I had to make the split and it would take some time and effort to do it but I knew it would be so beneficial to the middle schooler because they need their own environment due to their life experiences, life expectations and life examples.  The beauty about applying nuclear fission to combined youth groups is that is automatically releases enough momentum to generate two  distinct groups.

So how does a youth pastor go about splitting the groups?

When I did it, I used the acronym RARE, which helped me think through each component when splitting 1 combined program to create 2 programs.  Here is how I designed 1 specific targeted program for middle school students.

Room. I secured a space designated for middle school. Having a room is vitally important. Environment is everything for middle schoolers. Middle school students need a climate that is welcoming and warm. It helps if the room is fairly open so they can run around and burn off some of their energy.

Adults. Getting more consistent adult volunteers to volunteer in middle school ministry will help middle schoolers relationally connect. The aim is to have 1 committed and caring adult for every 5-8 kids. Middle schoolers need proactive support. All middle school kids need to have an adult leader look into their eyes and say something nice about them. Having affirming adult volunteers will assist in creating a safe, warm, and welcoming middle school environment.

Resources. Find specific middle school resources. Middle school ministry resources will help your programs meet the developmental, environmental, and theological needs for each middle school kid. Middle schoolers love games. There are a ton of great youth group game websites and books. Find a great middle school curriculum. Curriculum will help lighten your work load as well as help teach you how middle schoolers learn and experience the Bible. Also find a winter or summer camp that is specific to middle school. Middle schoolers need time to retreat that includes fun, Jesus, and sugar.

Enthusiasm. A passion for middle school ministry is a requirement when making the split. If you are not passionate about middle school, you need to find someone who is. It is a disservice to middle schoolers if their youth pastor isn’t excited to be ministering to them.

I have really grown to love working with middle schoolers. They have taught me an enormous amount about how to follow God. Middle schoolers have this tenacious way to run after Jesus. They simply have no problem expressing how they feel toward God.

I am so glad I made the split. Yes, it did takes a lot of prayer, a little more work and required one more ministry night out, but it was worth it. Each age group deserves its own time and program.

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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2 comments

  1. So I totally get the split idea. So let me pose this question, can we effectively have the two groups on the same night and sharing the space. My story is this. We don’t have worship. Got all the other components.
    In a few weeks we will move into our new building. The executive pastor and I agree that having MS and HS on the same night is good for the kids (MS gets worship shared with HS), good for parents (if they have a HS & a MS, it’s only one night out), and good for the ministry (more adults on property and with my childcare {I pay a college kid to watch children of youth workers in the nursery/playground} the HS might get more helpers too [oh and the HS will get better trained-developed students from MS]). The HS leader is opposed. She doesn’t want “little kids” around. What do you think. Forge ahead or keep ’em separate?

  2. I really like this article. It is more work for the youth leader, volunteers, and church to split the nights. Two nights out… more volunteers, more time… more investment. I think it is certainly worth it to keep them separate for all the reasons you listed, and if they aren’t separate it would be a good idea to split them. I do think, if you have the SPACE, you could have both programs on the same night, but I would create as much space between the programs as possible. If you need to share the worship time right now, use it as an opportunity to raise up a new worship leader for Jr High group. I agree with Jeremy, it is worth in investment, time, effort and money.

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