General Ministry
Josh Griffin

There’s a lot of talk in the student ministry world about how to cultivate a good relationship between the student ministry and the “big church” ministry. People write blogs about it. There are break out sessions at conferences about it. And I’m pretty sure that there’s a 37-point plan in a book at a bargain bookstore to make it work exactly right

We talk a lot about that relationship, but we don’t talk a lot about the relationship inside of the student ministry house. What relationship is that? It’s the relationship between the high school ministry and the middle school ministry.

At most churches where the student ministry is split, the middle school and the high school ministries rarely ever do anything together. They each have their own band, their own leaders, their own traditions, and generally just do their own thing.

We combine our middle school and high school for our fall camp each year. Over the past couple of years we have noticed a really cool vibe between them. All of our students interacted really well together. The high school students modeled what worship looked like to the younger students. The younger students reminded the older ones that were “too cool” to worship what it looks like to worship Jesus without caring what people think about you.

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It was an environment that we realized needed to happen more than one weekend a year.

Last week we combined the two ministries for a worship night. We took over our worship center, combined bands, and planned a night that we thought could be very special. We wanted to base the entire night around baptisms and what came from that surpassed any of our expectations.

  • We were able to baptize 18 students and a leader.
  • We had at least five students accept Christ for the first time.
  • We were able to “recreate” that camp/retreat experience where students put everything aside and focus completely on Jesus.

One of the coolest moments of the night didn’t happen between two students. We invited family and friends of every student that was getting baptized. One grandma brought a friend of hers to the service. At one point during the night, the friend leaned over to the grandma and said, “I think it’s time we bring Jesus into our conversations.” This friend had no connection to our ministry other than being friends with the grandma of a student that was getting baptized but she still heard the Gospel and still was able to meet with Jesus.

The pictures from the night blew up on Facebook. Students were talking about it all over Twitter. We were able to get a recap video in “big church” this past Sunday to celebrate the night. All of the attention was able to be focused on Jesus and students making the decision to follow him and be baptized. We were able to build up our students and celebrate their decisions in front of our entire church.

Oh, and as for the whole relationship between the student ministry and “big church,” I haven’t written a book but having your senior pastor and executive pastor witness a ton of students worshipping together is a pretty good way to establish that relationship.

Have you ever combined your high school and middle school ministry? Do you do it consistently? Why or why not? How does it work?

Jonathan Carone is in his second year of internship at Two Rivers Church in Knoxville, TN. See video, pictures and a photo recap of the weekend he wrote about here, here and here.

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  • Geoff Ingram says:

    Thanks for the post!

    I’m the youth pastor of a smaller church in Atlanta. We are VERY short staffed, to the point where I’ve started combining the Jr. and Senior High groups together! It’s a very interesting mixture to say the least, but through prayer and direction from above its gone pretty well for the most part.

    Does anyone have any ideas of how to make the most out of this opportunity for both groups?

  • Geoff Stewart says:

    Hey Geoff,

    I would love to have a conversation with you about this, we made a shift in our program this year that has allowed us to have both groups together but seperate and it required no new staff. I will connect with Josh and share it on this blog, but if you want to chat email me geoffs@peaceportalalliance.com

    Cheers! (fellow Geoff)

  • Benjamin Spears says:

    In 10 years of youth ministry, I’ve always had all students ages 11-19 together on the same night. While it has sometimes been out of necessity, it is largely done intentionally because of the benefits. To have the Jr. Highs rubbing shoulders with older teens who are really living their faith and are involved in church ministry and service makes a difference that 100 talks couldn’t do! Call it positive peer-pressure or role modeling, but I’ve found it to work well. To give one example, just a few weeks ago, I knew that a number of pre-Christian jr. high students would be coming out for the first time, so I filled in my sr. high students on the situation and asked them to seek the new students out and do everything they could to make them feel welcome and a part of conversations…to introduce them to others and to avoid the typical clique behaviour. I gotta say, it was a beautiful thing to see in action. Typically, whenever we split off into small groups, I also have my sr. high students leading the groups of jr. highs as well.

    That said, I still run a separate Sunday morning group for Jr. Highs only, but that’s largely to bridge the gap for tweens making the jump from kids ministry to our youth program. Rather than having a Sunday morning group for sr. highs, I encourage them to be a part of the big church service and to find areas of ministry to be involved in–with many of my older teens running sound, media presentation, working in the nursery and even teaching sunday school for the little ones. Wouldn’t do it any other way!

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