middle school ministry, high school ministry, youth group split, splitting your youth group

When to Split Middle School and High School Ministries?

By Austin McCann September 4, 2018

One of the questions that often comes up in student ministry discussions is about splitting your youth group – when should you split your middle school and high school ministries? This a valid question and one worth considering, but before you make any moves towards splitting these two groups I think there a few questions you should ask yourself?

Do I have enough students?

Having a critical mass of students is important before splitting your youth group into a middle school ministry and a high school ministry. This is one of the reasons I’d suggest smaller student ministries keeping both groups together until it grows in attendance. If you find yourself in this situation don’t rush the process. Enjoy the benefits of a smaller group of students and take positives steps towards building an environment and program that attracts more students. Once you see more students coming and you have a decent number of students in both middle school and high school you can split the groups and keep the momentum going.

Do I have enough leaders?

The second thing to consider is your leadership team. Splitting your youth group between middle school and high school will require one of two things: more time commitment from your leaders or more leaders in general. I’d suggest you lean towards that second option. However, if your leadership team isn’t deep enough or committed enough to support two departments within your student ministry you may want to hold off. However, if you have the depth and amount of leaders you need (in addition to having enough students as explained above) you may be ready to move towards splitting middle school and high school students.

Do I have enough personal bandwidth?

So maybe you do have enough students and even leaders to split middle school and high school students. However, do you personally as the leader and overseer of the student ministry have enough personal bandwidth? Having a middle school and high school ministry under your supervision can be overwhelming and exhausting. It will probably require more of your time and energy as you prep and also run the two programs.

Don’t burn yourself out and make yourself ineffective just because you think you need to be splitting your youth group. Take inventory of your time and abilities before you move forward. If you do decide to move forward here are a few ideas to help protect yourself from burnout:

  • Empower an adult leader to help oversee and champion one of the ministries
  • Ask your church leadership if they would be open to hiring a part-time or full-time person to oversee one of the ministries
  • Keep your teaching the same across both ministries so you are prepping one talk opposed to two
  • Bring the two ministries together when possible

Obviously there will be more things to consider when deciding if you should split middle school and high school. However, the questions above will serve as a great starting point in making this decision.

In addition to the thoughts above, let me end with two cautions. First, don’t rush this. Splitting your youth group too soon can hurt your youth group. Take your time and make a transition plan. Second, you don’t have to do it. Don’t get suckered into the lie that you need a middle school and high school ministry to be successful in student ministry. There are many great, healthy student ministries that combine both middle school and high school. So don’t do it unless you feel like it’s the right move for your ministry and church.

About the Author

Austin McCann

Austin McCann is an associate pastor at Redemption Chapel in Stow, OH. Austin has a passion to see things done well within local churches and enjoys creating and maintaining effective programs and systems within the context of the local church. He loves everything basketball (die hard Cleveland Cavaliers and Duke Blue Devils fan), reading, spending time with…  Read More