This post is part of a series of posts called XP3 101. Be sure to check out the entire series! You can check out the previous post in this series by clicking here.
I have a confession to make: The 6th grade was the first year that I ever wore jeans.
Whew. I feel better.
Not only that, but I wore the same pair of jeans. Every. Single. Day.
All winter long.
Before 6th grade, I just couldn’t let go of the glorious comfort that was my stretchy waisted pants. I guess the pressures of being “that weird kid who doesn’t wear jeans” was finally powerful enough to make the jump to socially acceptable pant wear.
Fast-forward six years: I graduated from high school in November, and started working the graveyard shift at a local gas station while taking college classes. A few months later, I met the girl of my dreams who I proposed to just 1 year later.
Want to hear something funny? At the same time I was taking college classes and working the VERY interesting job as a graveyard shift gas station attendant,
I was hearing the same lessons each Sunday as the 6th graders in my youth group.
You didn’t need to hear weird stories of my awkward life to know that there’s a HUGE difference between 6th graders & 12th graders. You’ve felt it. Socially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, you name it.
There’s a big gap.
That’s why, 2 years ago, we set out to expand the XP3 family to have separate, focused curriculums for both Middle School and High School.
The reality is that there are plenty of youth ministries out there who do combined group (MS and HS) really well. Whether or not their contexts and circumstances allow for separate groups, some choose to stay mixed for philosophical reasons. However, in most cases, we believe focusing in on each phase by having MS and HS specific programming is a huge win.
Thus, XP3 Middle School was born.
As more and more ministries are creating phase-specific environments or are looking for phase-specific curriculum, we get a lot of questions from folks who are curious as to what the differences really are between MS and HS . . .
“Can I just buy HS and make it work for MS, too?”
“Can I use HS large group, but the MS small group questions?”
So, to answer those questions and more, we put this blog post together that walks through the similarities and the differences. So, in bullet point form below, here are some key info to help you understand XP3 MS and HS.
- XP3 SEASONS: All new XP3 material is released in seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter and each season contains 4 series (12 weeks) of content. Each new season is released 2 months before it’s scheduled to be used on our Scope & Cycle (for example, if Summer season is set to start the first Sunday of May, it will be released in early March).
- SCOPE AND CYCLE: MS and HS both follow the same Scope and Cycle with occasional changes where it’s developmentally appropriate. For example, MS may not talk about dating or money in the same way that HS does.
- CREATIVE TEAMS: There are separate MS and HS creative teams but they work together to develop the Scope and Cycle and to brainstorm each season and series. They’re connected at the hip . . . okay . . . at the glass door between their offices through which they make faces at each other. While both teams work together to create the framework and direction of each series, the teams individually build the rest of the series specifically for their phase. Different writers, different small group questions, different bottom lines, different language, different activities—all based around what is developmentally appropriate and relevant to their daily life.
- TARGET AUDIENCES: The target audience for MS is 6-8 grades, though we know some partners who contextualize the curriculum to work with whatever age their local school system defines as “Middle School” or “Junior High.” The target audience for HS is 9-12 grades, though we also know some partners who contextualize this to work with mixed groups of MS and HS or even College.
- COMBINED MINISTRIES: For those of you who have your MS and HS ministries combined, our recommendation would be to use HS and contextualize it the best you can for your group. (I’ve used MS and HS on separate occasions in a 7-12 mixed grade environment—both with success. However, you have a better chance of staying connected with your upperclassmen if you use HS content and adapt your small group conversations to be appropriate for your middle schoolers. Middle schoolers will always love something that seems “older.” The reverse is not true. High schoolers won’t always respond to something that seems younger than them.)
- TEACHING SCRIPTS: MS teaching scripts usually have a 1,500 word count, which takes about 12-15 minutes to teach (9-11 minutes of teaching plus a few minutes to complete the Interactive). HS teaching scripts usually have a 2,000-2,300 word count, which usually takes 12-15 minutes to teach. MS also includes an interactive element (called the Interactive) with each teaching script. An Interactive is a creative way to make the message concrete, make it stick, and serves as a connection point for the student to the communicator or the student to the content. Interactives are intentionally written into the script because this is a best practice for teaching students this age. HS includes unique communicator notes within their scripts.
- COMMUNICATOR VIDEOS: MS communicator videos run anywhere between 7-10 minutes and include three different communicators in an effort to keep the attention of a MS student. HS communicator videos run between 12-14 minutes and include one single communicator.
- PLAYLISTS: There are Spotify playlists for both MS and HS series. Learn more about how to get those here.
- NOTE PAGES: MS offers printable “Note Pages” for each week of content, which correspond with the teaching scripts. . This was created for the students who need to be doing something with their hands while listening. Students can use this to doodle on or takes notes during large group or during small group. (HS does not at this time.)
- GAMES: Both MS and HS offer games each week. MS games tend to be more physical, all-skate, goofy, and gross. HS offers more up-front, late-night show types of games. MS also offers access to a game library.
While this is no skimpy list, it’s not exhaustive in including all of the amazing resources we offer in XP3 MS and HS. We’re merely highlighting some of the key differences you might find in the two.
This Summer, you’ll see some new websites rolling out from us, which will also include a new, updated, and fresh way to log-in and receive curriculum. Along with that, there will be new tiers from which to purchase curriculum in an effort to fit everyone’s budget. (More on that at the 2017 Orange Conference, along with NEW components announcements!) However, until that time, here are some differences in the structure and delivery systems between MS and HS:
- MIDDLE SCHOOL: MS is purchased by season or annual subscription from the Orange Store and is delivered via email. It has 2 tiers: Compact and Plus. Compact includes the basics while Plus has everything (including teaching videos). Learn more about these 2 options here.
- HIGH SCHOOL: With HS, you purchase credits after logging in (or signing up) through ThinkOrange.com. These credits are used to license individual series. HS does not currently have tiers. If you license a series, you receive all material except for teaching videos. If you are an annual subscriber, you get the Week 1 teaching videos free for the current & upcoming seasons. All other teaching videos are purchased separately from the Orange Store.
So, are you thinking of creating a separate, MS and HS focused environments?
Are you looking for material that’s focused toward a specific phase of your youth?
Do you have a mixed group, but are looking to be more strategic on how to contextualize HS to reach everyone?
As you wrestle through these questions, your Orange Specialist would LOVE to help you think through that! To learn more about what an Orange Specialist is or to find yours and connect with them, head to OrangeSpecialists.org.
We hope this post has been helpful—and we hope this entire series of XP3 101 posts has been helpful—as you continue to learn about XP3 and the tools we provide for you and your ministry. Believe it or not, this XP3 101 series is almost over! I know you’re sad. But we have one more post left! Stay tuned next week for our final post in this series, all about the extra resources we’re creating here at Orange to help you do ministry better.
- What is XP3?
- What does “XP3” mean?
- The 7 Segments
- Teaching with XP3
- The XP
- The Parent Cue
- Small Groups
- Scope & Cycle
- XP3 MS and HS differences
- What is an Orange Specialist?
- More Resources for Student Pastors