Youth ministry is a fluid environment. Each passing year brings with it new people, challenges and potential. There is so much to consider and think about that it can be overwhelming at times. How are we to relate to a media driven culture? How are we to even compete with school sports, dances and family activities? What is the content of our program and how do we balance it with games or other events? One of the things I think a lot about the people who don’t participate in the youth group. Why do they stay home? Is there something that God is telling us to do?
Each year we need to consider the demographics of our group. One of the things that often comes up is whether to run a ministry with Jr. High and Sr. High together. The answer to the question is more complex than it sounds. If we split the groups up there is a divide that takes place. However, a split up group allows for more age directed activities, but takes away some of the natural energy Jr. Highers bring. Then there are those who are in 8th grade who have friends in 9th grade. How do we account for that? This is something I wrestle with because I know there are positives and negatives to either way.
I understand that students who are in 6th grade don’t naturally want to hang out with students in 12th grade, and vice versa. At the same time, I also see the potential in that. It is amazing to watch as an older student looks outward and interacts with a younger student. What a wonderful opportunity for someone who is older to be an example and encouragement to someone who is younger. This sort of interaction doesn’t happen enough in the church.
Then you have those who have siblings in Jr. High and they are in Sr. High. How do we work with that? Is it too much to ask for someone to hang out with their brother at youth group? Well, ideally there are other students to hang out with so that it isn’t an issue. What I mean is that someone’s little brother isn’t hanging around their older brother all night long.
One of the ways we have tried to address this is by having all the students break up into smaller groups at the end of the night. This allows Sr. High to talk with Sr. High and have their time together. It seems to be a good compromise and opportunity for everyone to interact in an age appropriate manner.
I also remind students when they complain that they were all Jr. Highers at one point. I think that if we can get our eyes off of ourselves and on others, there is not only great blessing in the group, but also individually. If we can look past some selfish need who knows what might happen. The older students have a special place and I would not want to discourage them from coming. The same holds true for the younger students.
With all the variables, programming can be a real chore. However, it is helpful to remember that God doesn’t call us to have all the answers. God calls us to proclaim the only answer that matters; Jesus Christ as the answer for our sin. Methods and games are not the main even, God is. I think that youth ministries are guilty of becoming too complicated and too oriented on some outward result. This is not how it should be. It should make no difference whether we have 6th graders with the 12th graders. It doesn’t matter what night of the week we meet or whether we have enough soda for everyone. What matters is that God is at work in the lives of our students! We want to see them move close to Jesus Christ. No ministry will satisfy every person’s concern. We can, however,display where everyone can find satisfaction by pointing them to Jesus Christ. Let’s stick to it and not get side tracked by mundane programming issues and the appeal to be some cool, hip, trendy program. It is time to get back to showcasing Jesus while leaving the rest of it at the altar.