Leadership | Small Groups
Wayne Yeager

I am a full-time youth minister in Western Kentucky. I have been in youth ministry for 11 years, mainly in rural areas.

I’ll admit it.

I don’t split up my students into middle school and high school groups. For me, it’s strictly a structural issue. I serve in a small church and dividing our students isn’t practical in our setting.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot of positives for keeping your group together as one unit. Here are a few:

1. Mentoring—It’s truly an amazing thing to watch a junior and senior mentor a young seventh-grader in the youth group. This happens in teaching sessions, special events, and especially during extended trips. During those trips, I often room my seventh-graders with an upperclassman and specifically instruct my older student to mentor them.

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I want the older students to teach our younger ones what it means to be a member of our youth group, a leader among their gender, and a follower of Christ.

2. Leadership—Have you ever seen an eighth-grader lead seniors? I have and it’s a sight to behold. One season of our ministry, it became obvious that our upperclassmen were not strong leaders, yet we had tons of potential among our middle-schoolers. I challenged two particular eighth-graders to step up and lead. They answered way beyond my expectations. They taught our upperclassmen what it meant to lead despite age, and led our youth group for five years before passing the baton to other, younger students.
3. Stability—Having our group together creates stability for our group as a whole. Our younger students see the older students plugged in to our group. It increases their excitement and enthusiasm for what we do. In times of transition, our younger students take solace in the fact that older students are around. When I arrived at my current church, I had two seniors who stuck around and became the glue for our group as I settled into the position and community.

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4. Resources—I don’t need two teachers for each meeting. I don’t have two sets of curriculum. I don’t have multiple events in a month that require my attendance and time away from family. Keeping your group together allows you to pull resources and that has a major impact on your bottom line.

I love having our group combined, even if our circumstances dictate that. Feel free to split your group, but also consider keeping it together. There are many advantages.

2 COMMENTS

  • Former Youth Pastor's Wife says:

    I totally agree with the comments from Pastor Steve… After serving in youth minsistry for 9 years (and trying it both ways a couple of times), I can honestly say that we saw the most spiritual growth when keeping the teens together. It truly did provide an excellent training ground for mentoring and building leaders.

  • PM says:

    We keep our group together 7-12th grade for worship, games, announcements and teaching. We then split up into small groups separated by grade and gender. 7-9th grade boys are in their own group as are 7-9th grade girls. Then we have other groups for 10th-12 grade guys and girls.

    It works well for us and allows for age appropriate discussion. We have been doing it here for over 13 years and we plan on continuing.

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