RYM 028: Should Middle School And High School Be Separate Or Combined?

When it comes to separating or combining middle school and high school ministry environments, there are many factors to consider: ministry size, volunteers, space, budgets, and more. With variables like these, how do we create engaging and developmentally appropriate environments for middle AND high schoolers? This week, join ministry leaders as they discuss the benefits and drawbacks of separate and combined ministries, as well as possible solutions you can begin implementing in your ministry.

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In a combined environment, when middle schoolers show up, high schoolers most likely do not. (1:00)

Middle schoolers are asking different questions than high school students. (2:00)

The way you communicate to a middle school student is different than the way you communicate to a high school student. (2:30)

The idea of critical mass with students is a legitimate strategy. Students want other students in the room. (8:15)

When and how do you start having middle school events separate from high school events? (10:00)

When middle school and high school ministries are separate, it allows high school students to serve in the middle school ministry. (11:00)

The influence of a high schooler in the life of a middle schooler is important, and different than the influence of an adult. (12:00)

You don’t have to start with separate ministries. You can start by separating small groups. (17:00)

There are many options when it comes to separating your middle school and high school ministries. (18:30)

Developmentally, middle schoolers and high schoolers are distinctly different. (25:00)

It’s not a question of separate or combined. It’s about being developmentally appropriate toward both middle schoolers and high schoolers. (26:00)


Book: It’s Just A Phase by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy




Sarah is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. In 2007, she joined the XP3 high school team where she now works as a lead writer and content creator. She also a contributing writer to the Parent Cue blog. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald’s french fries.



Tom Shefchunas is the Executive Director of Student Strategy at Orange. In this role, he leads the development and strategy for XP3 Middle School and High School curriculum. Previously, Tom was North Point Ministries’ Multi-Campus Director of Transit, their middle school ministry, for 12 years. And before that, he spent 10 years as a high school teacher, coach, and principal. Additionally, he is the co-author of Lead Small with Reggie Joiner. Tom and his wife, Julie, live in Cumming, Georgia, with their three children, Mac, Joey, and Cooper.



Crystal currently leads the XP3 High School initiative at Orange. Before that, she spent 10 years as a high school teacher and student ministry leader, doing everything from leading small groups to speaking to curriculum design. Crystal and her husband, Tom, live in Alpharetta, GA with an ill-tempered chihuahua named Javier.



Ashley Bohinc serves as the Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange, co-host of The Think Orange Podcast, and co-author of The Art of Group Talk. She’s worked with students in public education, athletic, and ministry settings since 2005. Ashley is most passionate about resourcing the local church, communicating onstage, developing leaders, working with students, and engaging in world missions. Additionally, she’s the USA Director of Carry 117. In her downtime, you’ll find her watching Friends, cheering on the Cleveland Cavaliers, traveling, reading, or on one of her Fairytale Friday Adventures.

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Orange Conference 2018