When asked when to split your middle and high school ministry, my answer is usually a simple one:
“As soon as you possibly can.”
There are just way too many good reasons to separate them:
- High School student are more apt to invite their friends when there aren’t a bunch of middle school kids running around.
- Some middle school students might be more likely to show up if they aren’t worried about that high school guy with the beard hanging around.
- The ability to craft every second from pre-service to the closing prayer with only one age group in mind is a powerful thing. Some ministries split for the message and small group but that usually doesn’t take place until halfway through the total experience.
- The ability to have a high school student co-leader in every middle school small group should not be underestimated.
- Splitting the ministries might make it more possible to move your middle school service to be simultaneous with your adult service, which has a TON of benefits like the fact that middle school students can’t drive themselves and it also is an easier time slot for adults to volunteer to lead your small groups.
- Middle School students have something to look forward to instead of the jump from elementary to middle school being the last environment change until college.
When it comes to splitting your middle school and high school ministry there is really only one reason NOT to:
When it comes to critical mass here are some factors to consider:
Yes, critical mass is important. But critical mass is relative to the size of the room that you are meeting in. That means critical mass is different for everyone so there is not really an easy answer here.
Cheat Your Room
Not only that, but almost every room can be transformed to take whatever size and shape that you need it to in order to create the best possible feel for your crowd.
I have even seen amazing rooms within a room that have been created with nothing but pipe and drape. Step inside the curtains and there are beanbag chairs, rugs, couches, café tables, foosball tables, PlayStations, thumping music, small stage, and a couple of flat screens. Walla! Room within a room. And you can make it whatever size that you want to.
Take the Show on the Road
Not to mention the fact that meeting in a home is always an option until the group is just too large to fit in a living room or basement.
The other thing that critical mass affects most is live worship. There is nothing more awkward than 9 kids scattered 10 feet from each other around a room while the worship leader is acting like he is at the opening session of Passion Conference.
Alternatives to Live Worship
That said there are lots of other ways to engage students and turn their hearts and attention toward God without doing a live worship set. If you want to know more, just reach out to me and I will introduce you to my friends Ed Williams and Jordan Geist.
Think about Small Group not Large Group
Instead of thinking critical mass during worship, think about critical mass during small group. As long as you consistently have enough students for at least one middle school boys small group, one middle school girls small group, one high school guys small group, and one high school girls small group, then feel free to split the ministries. Until then, you might want to keep them together.
Small Group Baseline
If you’re are wondering if you have enough students to form these small groups we usually think of a small group as at least 10-12 active students on a roster with 2 adult leaders. That allows that group to grow to 20+ on the roster over time.
Two Talks, One Week
If you are worried about having to run 2 different series simultaneously or having to give 2 talks per week, then XP3 can definitely help you with that. XP3 makes running 2 different series really easy and by taking advantage of the teaching videos you can show a video in one environment and teach live in the other until you recruit and develop a teaching team.
I know that this is ton to take in, but hopefully these factors have helped you to think about this decision holistically. There’s no wrong choice here, just lean into your Next Gen Pastor or your senior leader to decide what makes the most sense for the size and phase of your ministry.