Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders The Question Most Often Asked in Youth Ministry

The Question Most Often Asked in Youth Ministry

In the various conversations I engage in concerning junior high ministry, one conversation seems to pop up much more than any other:
When should we split our group into separate JH and HS ministries?

That’s a GREAT question with no simple answer. But because I’m an admitted pragmatist, I offer my simple answer.

I think, as a general rule, you may be able to separate your ministry when:

1) You have the resources to do so. Resources mean the space, the budget, the leadership, the…well the everything it takes to run two separate ministries. If splitting means one group gets stuck in the janitor’s closet because of space issues, then don’t split. If it means one group doesn’t have a leadership team, then don’t split. If you have the proper resources, I believe it may be time to split the group.

2) Doing so will create momentum for both ministries. There is a point when staying together begins to kill momentum and forming two separate ministries would actually be a momentum boost for both junior high and high school. One momentum factor is attendance. Breaking a group of 25 into one group of 11 and one group of 14 may kill momentum for both groups. Most momentum factors are intangible and may be different for each group. But when splitting into two separate ministries would create momentum for both groups, it may be time.

So what do you do in the meantime? I suggest looking for strategic times for your groups to be together and strategic times for them to be separated by age. Maybe instead of having one fun night a month for everybody you offer two…one for JH and one for HS. Maybe you stay together during music and split up for the teaching time.

I may be one of the loudest cheerleaders of creating separate programs for junior high and high school students. But I’m also a fan of waiting until the time is right.

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Kurt Johnston has been involved in junior high ministry since 1988 and is currently the junior high pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He's the author of Controlled Chaos: Making Sense of Junior High Ministry and Go Team! He loves providing resources for junior high ministry almost as much as he loves junior highers themselves.