Why 6th Graders Shouldn’t Be in Junior High Ministry
6th graders belong in preteen ministry, not junior high/middle school ministry.
Yep, I just said that! I’m pretty passionate about that position too.
However, some people think that 6th graders should be in middle school ministry.
They argue that the church should follow the school system. If 6th graders are in middle school, then they should be in middle school at church as well.
Another argument is that 6th graders are at a maturity level of middle schoolers and would best fit in with 7th & 8th graders.
I strongly disagree with both of these arguments.
Before you start hurling insults at me, let me explain.
Let’s tackle the first argument – the church should follow the school system.
Ha! This one really cracks me up. In case you didn’t realize it, the school system in the U.S. is broken in many ways. One of the ways is that 6th graders are often pushed into middle school. Unfortunately, this is an issue that goes under the radar when people talk about education reform.
Why should the church follow a broken school system? Just because the school system is doing it doesn’t mean the church has to do it.
If we truly believe that 6th graders don’t belong in junior high ministry, then we should design a preteen ministry that includes 6th graders. In doing so, we address the specific needs of 6th graders and create a healthy environment for them.
I unpack this idea later on in the blog post.
The problem is that many ministry leaders aren’t convinced that 6th graders belong in preteen ministry, which leads us to the next argument.
Let’s tackle the second argument – 6th graders are at a maturity level of middle schoolers and best fit in with 7th & 8th graders.
In reality, 6th graders aren’t ready for jr high…at school nor at church.
They’re not at the same emotional, physical, cognitive nor social level of 7th & 8th graders. In fact, there is a HUGE difference between a 6th grader and a 7th grader. And an ever bigger gap between a 6th graders and 8th graders.
When grouped together with middle schoolers, 6th graders feel the pull to gravitate towards jr high related issues. In fact, they get caught up in all the drama simply because it surrounds them.
For example, a 6th grader is less likely to want to get on Facebook if she is surrounded by 4th or 5th graders, rather than 7th/8th graders. That same 6th grader is less likely to feel the pressure from peers to make out (or even have sex) with the opposite sex – if she is hanging out with younger rather than older students.
That’s just two examples. The list goes on and on.
Here are some more reasons 6th graders shouldn’t in junior high ministry:
- They don’t feel the freedom to act their age, which isn’t healthy anyway you slice it.
- Because of the age gap, it is more difficult for 6th graders to take on leadership roles in a junior high ministry.
- Less junior high drama. Yes, drama still exists (they’re preteens) but the drama is more “preteen” oriented.
- 6th graders get lost in the shuffle, often being overlooked by leaders. Of course, this isn’t intentional. It’s just reality.
- They become overly self-conscience and worried about what the older students think about them, which becomes a hinderance to spiritual growth.
6th graders belong in preteen ministry, separate from children’s ministry (under 4th grade) and separate from jr. high ministry (7th/8th grade).
A preteen ministry that includes six graders could be 4th-6th grade, or it could be 5th/6th grade. I’ve seen both work effectively.
A preteen ministry is specific to those in 4th-6th grade, addressing students’ specific developmental needs.
A preteen ministry is most effective when leaders LET GO OF THE BIKE, helping students own their faith in Jesus.
6th graders belong in preteen ministry, rather than junior high ministry, because:
- Students have the freedom to act their age, whatever that might look like for them.
- They aren’t forced to deal with jr high/middle school related issues while at church.
- Students can more easily take on leadership roles at church. They’re older than the other students and can flourish in their leadership skills when given the opportunity.
- They feel a greater freedom to question, explore and own their relationship with Jesus.
- 6th graders get more attention because they’re the oldest in the group. Because 6th grade is such a transitional year, this helps to boost their confidence.
- They feel safe in a preteen ministry. Especially if 6th graders are experiencing a lot of school related issues in middle school, but are in a preteen ministry at church. They’re likely to feel safer in that environment.
Issues do arise when 6th graders are in junior high at school, then preteen ministry at church. How do you address that concern?
I say deal with it. There will always be tension with this issue. Yes, it is a downside, but worth dealing with when you consider all the benefits noted above.
So, what should you do if 6th graders at your church are in middle school ministry?
I propose you initiate conversations with the junior high or youth pastor (and anyone else involved in making the decision). Avoid arguing. Simply start a conversation.
If everyone disagrees with you, that’s okay. In that case, your hands are tied. But every once in awhile, initiate the conversation again…when the time is right. Don’t give up.
If preteens in your ministry are grouped with younger kids, this could be a great opportunity to start a preteen ministry. Now is the perfect time to take younger preteens out of children’s ministry and 6th graders out of jr high ministry.
I know this is a controversial topic. That’s why I’ve been silent with my viewpoint up until now.
Agree with me? Leave a comment below.
Disagree with me? Leave a comment below.
Want to add your thoughts? Leave a comment below.
The more people involved in the conversation, the better.
In fact, share this blog post with your volunteers, the youth pastor at your church, and anyone else who would benefit from it.
80 Replies to “Why 6th Graders Shouldn’t Be in Junior High Ministry”
I couldn’t agree with you more! Our 6th graders were a part of the youth program (6th – 12th grade). Once my first child reached that age I began to realize how inappropriate it was for him to be regularly engaged with kids that much older in an environment with a lot of unstructured time. It was at that point that I started the preteen (5th and 6th grade) ministry at our church. So many parents have thanked me. They also felt their 6th graders were too young, but there weren’t any other options. I have the best time hanging with these kids and giving them a chance to act their age. Last night the group asked to play duck-duck-goose. Sometimes I forgot how much they are still kids.
Awesome!! Good for you for doing something about the problem you saw. And duck, duck, goose…classic. Funny thing is they would have resisted that game if you came up with it. Ha!
I’ve just started a job working with a youth ministry at a Methodist Church. I definitely believe that 5th & 6th graders should have their own preteen ministry. Students go to middle school at 5th grade in our small town, so the tradition at our church is to move them to youth ministry at 5th grade. They’re just not ready for that! I’m working to start a preteen ministry for 5th & 6th grade. Thanks for your great article in support of this.
Tammi, I started a preteen ministry at my UMC earlier this year. If you would like any help, thoughts or ideas on getting off the ground, please contact me. You can reach me at email@example.com at your convenience. Prayers for you and your ministry!
I completely agree with you. Our church has a 5th and 6th grade preteen ministry (which my husband and I lead). What we find is that many are not ready to move up when they are starting 7th grade. I have many kids that still come hang out before church/after church or want to “serve” in the preteen ministry. I cannot imagine sending them up a year earlier!!! We have different school districts represented in our group and some children are at an intermediate school (5th-6th) and some are in middle school (6th-8th). I think the schools have it wrong as well when they lump 6th in with that Junior High age group. Thank you for this post!
I agree Kris. We started a 5th& 6th grade ministry two years ago, and it has been very popular. I found that a lot of my rising 7th graders didn’t want to move up when the time came. Thank goodness our church doesn’t follow the public schools, because I have the flexibility to treat each child individually and to move them up to the youth group as they feel ready.
While I do agree with some of your points I personally disagree with not allowing 6th graders in middle school ministry. You have to realize a majority of churches are not on the large scale. I would estimate 70% or more are 300 or less on average which means it is HIGLY unliley a preteen ministry exists, nor have the volunteers to maintain one. I have worked with preteens for 15 years and also not the youth pastor for 8 of those years. I would not say I include 6th graders in my ministry because of the school system but because the 6th graders are being hit with those things you mention (peer pressure, self image issues, etc) while at school. Why in the world would we take kids who are immersed in this type of things for 8 plus hours a day, 40+ hours a week and the only place they can get truth, a Biblical worldview and tools to combat satans attempt to steal them for only 1.5 hrs a week we don’t take advantage of this time? What happend to raising the bar for these youth? I worked in Alabama for 5 years and there school system had 6th still in elementary, that worked leaving the 6th graders in Awana or childrens ministry. I feel putting our current 6th graders in childrens minstry (we are a small 175 average attendance church)is only a repeat of what they already have done, they are bored, they have heard everything and been there done that and ready to be challenged. At this time at our church we give the 6th graders a choice to remain in Awana or move up to youth and a majority of them do move up because they are ready and some do stay back at parents request. These have only been the homeschool kids whom parents don’t want them to be around kids who may be tempted with sex,drugs and rock and roll. We do have small groups for middle school, which in my opinion is the BEST way for them to grow at this age. We pair them by middle school girls and then a group by middle school boys. Usually no more than 10 and never more than 12 (Jesus had his 12!). I can tell you now, I don’t write blogs, I don’t have a purpose driven method, I am a unpaid youth pastor who has 2 other jobs but what I am doing works for our situation which doesn’t have paid staff nor tons of adults to make a seperate ministry. We have high school girls and boys who are big brother,sisters to these 6th graders. While some are shy they see the standards that I set that we are above their peers in school. They all willingy put their cell phones on a side table to not be distracted, the 6 graders help with set up and run powerpoint, they are involved in ministry. God has even moved so much we go witnessing and praying with strangers in public all because I want them and God wants them to have high expectations for themselves and not lower the bar with telling them they are nothing but kids and to not grow up yet. Not that I am a numbers guy because Jesus always say “about 12, about 400” etc I have about 40 youth with about 120 adults or so which is a great number! While most chuches, and I suspect many reading this article have 3 out of 10 remain in church after highschool I can say with confidence only through the power of Christ that we have 100% of our youth still attending church, many involved in ministry after they leave highschool and this is for the last 5 years! 100%!!! If you keep lowering expecations for kids, keep lowering the bar, they will hit it every time. Again it would be different if 6th grade wasn’t middle school with our education system but as it is, we need to step up our game and provide tools and come along side them during this crucial time of life. I don’t want to throw my son in the swimming pool (school) with sharks (satan) and tell him “sorry I know you are there 40 hours a week but for 1.5 hrs come over to the kiddie pool with floaties and I will teach you how to swim and fight off sharks next year”. Its a dangerous world out there! If you would like to chat more email me, Acodding97@aol.com.
This is Terry. I work with Nick on another website…JuniorHighMinistry.org and I really appreciate some of your points. Nick will tell you that he and I disagree on this idea. I feel that 6th Graders should be in Junior High Ministry.
For me I see that students minds are filled with Junior High Related thoughts and temptations all week long and I want to help them deal with those issues. I feel that keeping them out of Junior High Ministry in my situation would be ignoring their needs.
I think that it can work either way if people are focused on the needs of these 6th grade students, but for me I believe it happens better in Junior High Ministry.
Thanks for sharing on here. This is a great discussion.
Hi Terry! I agree with your comments about Jr. High students be hit with the issues it seems the author of the article would like to avoid (wouldn’t we all!). He said “For example, a 6th grader is less likely to want to get on Facebook if she is surrounded by 4th or 5th graders, rather than 7th/8th graders. That same 6th grader is less likely to feel the pressure from peers to make out (or even have sex) with the opposite sex – if she is hanging out with younger rather than older students.” ………………………………………………………….
Now this is true, BUT these things ARE happening in SCHOOL and NOT at church! In a supervised setting as a church should be a safe haven for students to be around other like minded Christians (with supervising adults) and not have temptations and pressure for sex, make out etc. I could not say personally knowing they are hit with these things at school I would be ok to avoid talking about them at church. So yes the writer is true, they would less likely face these issues if 6th graders were still in elementary. The issues he writes about shouldn’t be happening at church in a youth ministry setting!
Thanks Terry for your input. My husband and I have been the Middle School leaders going on our 4th year. Our church Celebration Covenant in Omaha just purchased JuniorHigh and High School Live Curriculum. This discussion just started at our church about a Preteen Ministry by one of our Sunday School Leaders, but both my husband and I agree that we think our 6th graders respond really well with the 7th & 8th graders. Sometimes they even act more mature then our older kids.
That being said since they are in school with 7th & 8th graders M-F they do experience real life issues and what better place to bring those issue out than at our Youth Group meetings. Our 7th & 8th graders are great mentors and they are very open at sharing their personal fears and concerns that they had when getting in Junior High.
We are a small church with 12-14 middle school kids (3) in 6th grade and 6-8 High School kids. My own children are adults-the youngest just turned 21 and our oldest of 5 is 32. Most of our middle school kids consider my husband and myself as their second parents and have reached out to us when they felt they had no one else.
Thanks again for re a firming my own thoughts on this issue.
Hey Chris, I’m currently at a church of 125-150 adults and kids. We have a preteen ministry for 4th-6th graders that I lead with a team. We only have 10 or so preteens. I think that a church of any size should make it a priority to have a preteen ministry. It’s possible. We’re a great example of that. Now, I totally agree that 6th graders shouldn’t be grouped together with elementary. Nor should 5th graders. That’s why I advocate for having a preteen ministry, and that can be a reality for a church of any size. A preteen ministry will look different at every church. However it looks, it is not kids ministry, nor is it jr high or youth ministry. It’s preteen ministry. An environment preteens can learn to own their faith in Jesus that is tailor fit for their developmental needs. My argument, which is controversial based on comments here, is that 6th graders would benefit more from being in a preteen ministry, rather than a jr high ministry. That said, I appreciate your comments on the blog and thank you for hashing out your thoughts! And keep making a difference in the lives of young people!
Hi ndilberto! I do see where it is anything is possible with Christ but in our specific church situation (as described with comments below to another poster) a preteen ministry has not been welcomed by the children’s ministry. Our church has a successful Awana program for k-5 and not open to breaking it down any smaller as the 5th grade is in the TNT section. This would leave us having a ministry JUST for 6th graders only and our church does not have the extra volunteers. Our Awana ministry currently has 90 or so average kids with 25 or so leaders and already short staffed. Our youth ministry has average of 35-40 youth with 5 adults. The flexibility of our Awana to “give up” the 5th grade and go into something that is NOT Awana structured would not go over well. In our setting on a typical Wednesday we begin with 30 min of worship with middle and high school together then break into middle school games and high school games for 20 min. Then our small group lessons for 40 min. We had enough 6th grade girls last year that we had our own small group just for them…they loved it! This would be ideal if you have plenty of girl students….however we only had one six grade boy so he was grouped with our middle school small group. In your situation where you have 5th and 6th grade in preteen ministry. What do the children in 4th grade and under have at your church? Thank you for beginning this discussion, it is great to see student ministers working and talking about these things!
Have you experienced keeping 6th graders with younger kids hinders your ability to meet them where they’re at. For example, throughout the week, 6th graders are having interactions with 7th and 8th graders, probably many of which don’t hold the same values as the 6th grader. How are you able to address those issues in a small group setting?
I feel that 6th Grade Students should be in Junior High Ministry, but I think you bring up a great point that in small groups you can attack issues on a much more specific level. I teach to 5th-8th grade and then we break into small groups. I feel in those small groups we can meet each student at their own level. This is the power of opportunity in small groups.
I agree with both replies. We are in the process of creating a preteen ministry, but one of the things that I have noticed is that by about halfway through the year 6th graders can make a smoother transition into Jr. High after having been in a more targeted preteen ministry. I do think that when they begin 6th grade that they are still immature in their thinking and being in a preteen ministry, whether small group or large, allows them to have a strong group of friends that believe what they believe and help them. But I agree that about halfway or towards the middle of the second semester at school they are craving older interaction. We are using our preteen ministry to bridge the rough gap between elementary ministry and youth ministry. We feel by encouraging them to be involved in small groups with the youth in the second semester offers the best of both worlds and allows them to transition smoothly.
I believe you are right, Nick. Adults tend to think we need to follow the school system for children’s ministry, too. That is a huge source of friction for me in ministry. Folks forget that school and church have very different goals. Schools want to impart a specific body of knowledge on a schedule, churches should be developing faith relationships with Jesus and the family of faith that transcend school ties. I have the preteens in children’s ministry and believe they are much closer developmentally to the 4th-5th graders than the Jr. Hi grades. I may be in the choir, but keep preaching, brother. Adults need to minister to kids, not their notions of order. God bless, brother.
Agreed in principal. But, every church has it’s own context and abilities to divide up. Not every church is ready for separate k-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12 ministries. You could also make the argument that 9th graders aren’t really ready for Sr High youth but it helps push them in a good way.
I think it is better for 5th & 6th graders to be with Jr High then elementary if a church isn’t quite ready (size wise or structure wise) to divide into the 4 age group ministries.
We currently have K-4, 5-8, and 9-12. Definitely not perfect, but that is where we are right now as we transition to growth.
I think that the way your church has it set up is great!
Not saying I disagree or agree. I have seen BOTH kinds of ministry be effective. But I think you are glossing over the primary reason to look at what the local schools do. The reasons we would want 6th grade in middle school ministries has little to do with the trusting the “expertise” of the school administrations and decision makers. It has more to do with the fact that because they are in that environment already, it is incumbent upon us as ministry leaders to tackle the issues they are dealing with on a daily basis. While there may be a larger developmental divide between 6th and 7th grade rather than between 5th and 6th grade (that’s disputed by some, but that is for another conversation), there is an even wider cultural divide between 5th grade and 6th grade because they live and breathe in two completely different worlds that instigate different issues that have to be dealt with (that is, if they do not go to the same school – that is possible in some areas of the country). It’s nice to call the church a safe place where they can be free to be their age, but the fact of the matter still remains that we have to equip our kids to live within the world they live in. If that is in a preteen school, then have a preteen ministry. If that is in a middle school, then include them in middle school ministry. If you choose the latter, it can be powerful way to orchestrate your ministry in such a way that 8th graders become brothers and sisters that care for the younger ones. This is how it works within out ministry. Just some thoughts. You do make some good points that I have considered over the past few years as I lead our middle school ministry.
Kyle, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this. I think it’s good for those on both sides to share their thoughts. Stretches us all 🙂
Totally agree! And I too, am passionate about it! It is the whole hurried child syndrome. Let your child be a child! They will have plenty of time to be an adult-don’t rush them into it, even if they are the ones putting the pressure on to hang out with the older kids. they need to listening to age appropriate messages and be discussing age appropriate topics. Look at it from the other side too! Do the 8th graders want to be stuck with 6th graders? No! – because they even see the maturity differences. Thanks Nick for speaking out on this subject!
Thanks for writing this post. I agree with your points as we are also in the process of giving our preteens their own identity as a group They have been with the younger children until now. One thing we are initiating is grade 9 and 10 peer mentors for the grade 6’s who will join in with the grade 6 activities from time to time. We are hoping this will give the grade 6 graduates an easier transition to the teen ministry as they will already know a high school student, plus it make the grade 6’s feel special now having an older teen pay attention to them. Extra bonus is that it gives our older teens a great way to serve.
I have a lot to say on this subject but you’ve covered a ton!
I think following school is funny and a bit sad. I also think one of the biggest reasons why is that parents need some more challenging for what’s about to come at them in the life of their child.
I think if you intentionally use the time you have with parents than you can make a bigger difference in the life of your students.
Ultimately though, I think it’s up to the person in charge. I think the one thing that I wish happened more was that we had smaller age groups to minister to.
56, 78, 910, 1112, etc. I just think we could use our time so much more intentionally.
Totally and completely agree….if you have a preteen ministry (4-6) that is separate from your children’s ministry. I would go a step further and say that the 6th graders need a space of their own because it is such a transitional year. I also say this about kindergarten kids! Having the space of their own allows you deeper conversations and more pointed lessons to prepare the 6th graders for the changes that are coming without pulling the 4th graders into the mix. This also allows you to introduce them to the JR High ministry towards the end of their 6th grade year without generating all of the envying and “I want to move up too” attitude from the 4/5 grade kids!
Good point. In the past I would do a lot of special events, small groups, etc specifically for 6th graders.
Something seems to happen after Christmas, for both 6th and 4th graders. I think the optimal situation would be to transition 4th graders in and 6th graders out of preteen ministry then.
I totally agree! Our church had 6th graders grouped with the youth (6-12th), but we felt strongly about them being in preteen ministry so we brought up the issue and now they are grouped with preteens. This also led to the 7-8th graders being grouped separate from high school! We instantly saw a change in their spiritual growth and also noticed a smoother transition for the 6th graders going into the middle school group. Thanks for taking a stand on this subject.
When I was a child 7th grade was still considered elementary. Times have certainly changed since then. I do agree 6th graders should be encircled with kids their age and younger. My view is to empower them. Most average churches have a Full Kid’s Ministry and a Full Highschool (Youth) Ministry with a supplemental Middle School Ministry. So sixth graders are already in an identity crisis. So Empower them in Kids MInistry. Make them feel like the big dogs. Teach them how to lead and then release them to lead. You gain several things from empowering sixth graders. 1. New leaders 2. Respect from Parents for believing in their kids abilities 3. Future prospects for Kidmin leaders It’s a win win as long as you have the patience to help them learn. You just have to help kids cope with going from President of Kidmin to Awkward new kid on back row of YouthMIN….that alone is worthy of its on blog post.
So you know by my posts on the Facebook thread that I agree with you 100% on where I wish 6th grade kids were and that’s in preteen ministry. I also was one who said you should follow the school district. The last statement has been from personal experience and from many my preteen ministry friends who have shared the same experience of trying to keep 6th grade kids in preteen ministry when they are in a public middle school. The kids want to be in middle school and their parents want them to. Now, since when do kids and parents know what best right? I realize it probably does work for some and it probably depends on your church, church size, community etc. I have had friends who’s school districts had 6th in elementary and changed, and the ministry tried to keep them in 6th and the parents nearly started a riot.
I currently just got a new youth pastor and he agrees with me on where we both wish 6th grade kids were. It’ll be interesting to see if this leads us to anywhere in making a change. We are starting small with when we promote 5th grade, it’s beginning of summer now, but we are moving it to end of summer. I will keep you posted if there are more developments in our ministry that open the door to get 6th grade back to us. Thanks for the conversation starter.
LifeBridge Christian Church
I think end of summer promotion has a lot of advantages. I’ve done both over the years. Curious to see how it turns out for you. And glad to start conversations 🙂 Good for both sides.
First of all, great post! I love that we are simply having this discussion, because it makes us rethink our position and become more effective and intentional ministers of the gospel because of it.
First, let me say that I agree that there are SOME 6th graders who would benefit from this type of scenario. However, I don’t think that could be applied to ALL of them.
I also think that this would be different from church to church, because the maturity level of the students typically varies due to a correlation between their maturity and which grade they fall into at school. I don’t believe we are unloading unnecessary conversation, temptations, and pressures on them by placing them in this age group at church. The fact of the matter is, if the 6th graders are in Middle School they are being subjected to the temptations, discussions, and pressures at their school. The church is supposed to be a place where they can say, “Here is what I’m hearing at school, what does God say about that?”
If we mix the grades too early, then you have 6th graders telling 4-5th graders there is no Santa Claus, talking about making out, sex, and all the things they pick up from the entire week they spend at the school.
Then we could also bring up the maturity level between guys and girls. While none of my guys were ready in 5th grade to be in Middle School Ministries, almost all of my girls were. They were tearing at the seems of our preteen ministry to get out. If we kept them back another year, I believe that we would only hinder their growth spiritually. With the age of puberty constantly moving backward, we have girls that are in 5th grade that have already started going through puberty. By 6th grade, they are in full swing. How does she talk about her situation in the midst of 4th and 5th grade girls without exposing them to undue discussion, temptation, and pressure?
In closing, I agree that we should not simply lump students together solely based off of their school placements, however, I believe that keeping 6th grade in Middle School Ministry would be the best option. When I look back over my 6th graders this year, I can’t believe the way that they have stood up as leaders in the midst of our ministry. They have gone deep, created incredible discussion, and grown exponentially. Part of the reason they’ve done that, is that they have had a safe place at church, where they can examine what they are hearing at school vs. what God is saying to them.
Thanks for the discussion, you rock!
Thanks for sharing Eddie! I love what you say about not just lumping based on school placement. It is about needs of students.
Eddie, thanks for commenting here. I appreciate reading your thoughts on all this.
Absolutely agree! Great post!!
While I certainly agree that 6th graders are vastly different than 7th/8th graders, I feel that their place is in middle school ministry. Their hours at school inundate them with the drama and problems of the middle school age group and their time at YG is a safe place for them to learn truth about those very issues. That said, I do believe that there should be a time after large group teaching (ie small groups) that each age group seperates to discuss these truths in a way that is appropriate for their age/level with a leader who cares about them.
I agree with this 100%, you said it MUCH better than I did (above with all the cell phone typos).
Nancy Van Diest
I completely agree!!! Many of the schools in our area have gone to 6th/7th/8th grade middle school for budgeting reasons. Our previous junior high guy desperately wanted our 6th graders in junior high ministry but our parents have expressed strong opposition to moving them. Our Highway 56 ministry for 5th and 6th graders is flourishing… so why try to fix something that isn’t broken.. Thank you for the encouragement and reinforcement of what we strongly believe at our church!
Though I think there are some valid points to this argument, I don’t believe it to be true for ALL situations. It’s like saying every church is the same, every middle school/Jr. High ministry is the same, every 6th grader is the same. The other mention of what 6th graders are faced with…I hate to say it but they are faced with those same issues in elementary school.
I have to agree with Dave here. One of the biggest challenges of your post is that it generalizes a great deal. I am a youth pastor at a church of about 400. I run a 6th-8th grade midweek youth group and a 9th-12th. Do freshman deal with the same issues as my seniors? Does an 8th grader deal with the same issues as a 9th grader?
My first point is we have to make a division somewhere. I think following the local school grades makes tremendous sense! Kids spend most of their time at school and know will have friends at youth group. In my ministry context, if we were to have a group of 8th and 9th grade for example, the group would naturally divide itself in an unhealthy way, simply because the majority of older students wouldn’t be friends with the younger students outside the church. Following the school system allows us to use those natural connections and friendships to our advantage.
My second point is one that came up at the last youth specialities conference I attended. Dr. Chap Clark discussed an interesting physical observation in today’s adolescents. Children are experiencing puberty earlier today than at any point in observable history. Our young people are being exposed to the adult world earlier and earlier, so much so that the actual physiological expression of adulthood is starting sooner in many children. As the church, we have a choice to make, we can ignore the reality that 6th, 5th and even 4th grade students are exposed to issues and adult situations sooner than the generations before them or we can be on the ground floor exposing them early to an alternative way of life, a life following Jesus.
Jared, thanks for commenting here…I actually have really enjoyed reading your comments and others who oppose my viewpoint. Addressing your second point, all that is absolutely true. Which is why I would advocate having a specific preteen ministry that includes 6th graders. A preteen ministry that is specifically designed for their needs. Or as an alternative, have something specifically for 6th graders. Now, i know not every church can do something just for 6th graders. But some can. But every church, no matter the size can have a preteen ministry.
Thank you for raising this issue. This is the first time I’ve engaged in a discussion on a children’s ministry site. I’ve been in children’s ministry for 23 years and a Director for the last 14 of those. As someone who teaches older elementary and is passionate for them to make their faith their own and know they can trust God and His Word in every aspect of their lives, my experience has been that 6th grade is a golden opportunity to equip students to be able to strengthen their understanding and deepen their faith before going to youth group.
6th graders can be provided with a true transition year with small group discussion/prayer, a focus on relationship building, opportunities to serve & fellowship outside of Sunday morning, and learn why we can believe Scripture as absolute truth with a focus on apologetics:
– Creation/Evolution debate (lack of evidence for ape-to-man; fraudulent examples in textbooks)
– recent geological & fossil evidence that supports a global flood
– DNA evidence for one race
– incredible complexity of human body & animals
– how astronomy (the heavens) reveal the glory of God & miniscule probability of randomness
– how to study their Bible using Bible interpretation & challenge them them to have a quiet time
– learning about those who have served the Lord even at great cost
– having a clear understanding of the whole of God’s message of salvation in Scripture, with “stories” & people of the Bible placed in chronological order and finding Jesus in Creation, the Tabernacle, the timing of His entrance as Savior, and parallels with the ark, Joseph, Jonah, etc.
– attributes of God (not leaving out holiness & sovereignty) & why we are should trust & obey Him
– why we should join God on the adventure for which He has created us, & not deviate from it
My experience is that 6th graders become hungry to learn more and look forward to coming, and bring their friends because it’s interesting and answers questions they haven’t even yet even formulated. These kids develop confidence in the truth of God’s Word and can then enter youth group as young missionaries with the confidence and discernment to reflect Jesus in their world, engage their culture, and have the discernment necessary to stand firm in their faith. I strongly believe that putting them into the junior high/middle school environment before they have had this kind of teaching is not only a lost opportunity, but actually increases their risk of confusion, of falling into various temptations, and becoming yet another casualty of “church kids” who walk away from their faith & church. A number of them come back later in life, but with the consequences of living outside of God’s will. Our responsibility should be what works best for the kids, not what are other churches or schools are doing.
The position at my church is ending soon because leadership is bringing on a children’s pastor, and it concerns me to see that most every posted open Children’s Director position stops at 5th grade (or even 4th).
Connie, thanks for your input and comment! I really appreciate your thoughts on the matter.
This topic has been something I have wrestled with for a while. Your article really made me think and had some great points. In our area 6th graders are in middles school at their schools. Even though the school system is broken it is what it is. Sixth graders are in a world of middle school daily. They face and deal with the drama and the pressures daily at school.
So the idea of separated them at church is not helping the students where they are. Churches should equip their students so they can be strong in their daily environments.
Preteen ministry doesn’t meet them where they are it gives them a context at church that is safe and not relavant to their daily lives.
We have a preteen ministry that consists of 5th and 6th graders and what I am seeing is our 6th graders are feeling out of place and they feel it’s too kiddish. I believe this goes back to their daily environments. The school system has almost forced them to adapt and advance much quicker.
I believe we as churches need to find better ways to help our students stand for Christ and meet them where they are in life.
Brandon, good stuff. Thanks for your input!!
Nick ~ Thank you for your article, and I couldn’t agree with you more. I specifically write curriculum (www.thouartexalted.com) for this 4-6th grade girl (thank you for selling it, btw!). Our elementary school is from 1st-6th grade, and I can see such a change when these girls leave 6th grade and enter 7th. It’s like they go through this invisible doorway of believing they need to wear lots of make-up, like boys, and be cool. 🙂 Why rush this? Let’s allow them freedom to stay young, be themselves, have fun, and believe in an amazing GOD who loves them unconditionally.
Thanks Annie, good to hear from you!
I am in complete agreement! Not only as a Children’s Pastor but as a mother of five children who have all gone through elementary school and junior high. As a Children’s Pastor, I hear the comment “I don’t want my 6th grader with the 8th graders” for all the reasons you mention. Also, I am a previous school teacher and most decisions are made in the public school system based on finances and what space, money is available. We can’t always count on those decisions guiding ours since our goal is to disciple kids not get them ready “for the world” or throwing them to the sharks as someone mentioned. Our choices need to be based on something more substantial then how the public school system is making their choices. We need to be asking a more fundatmental question – how do we best disciple 6th graders? What is the best environment for them where they can grow deeply in their faith and receive age-appropriate, life-changing Biblical instruction? If they are distracted by the others around them (and it is hard enough with just 5th and 6th graders together!) then our environment for their spiritual linstruction is compromised. Look at the physical differences between a 6th and 8th grader and you have your answer – those physical changes represent all the other changes going on inside of them as well. (One exception to this might be a small church where the elementary and jr. high kids number in the teens or 20s. Small churches are faced with different kinds of challenges that make this kind of consideration difficult to accomplish.)
Yes, yes, and yes. When we have parents who worry about having their young 4th grader in a ministry that includes 6th graders, we ask them if they’d prefer that, or having a 6th grade daughter in a ministry with 8th grade boys. They get the point.
Well said 🙂
Hello I’m a 11 year old girl who just this year went up to middle school. I completely agree with the fact that yes we are more likely to adapt to drama around older people. Also i agree on the point that we will be more like ourselves around the younger kids. But i do disagree that it is completely unhealthy to be aroung high schoolers.I am starting my own ministry with middle school and high school students. I believe that it is the situation of the teens that would actually affect us. I personally find that once i told the high schoolers about my ministry that they were much more attentive and wanting to help then the younger kids. At first the high schooler girls weren’t happy that i was there but after my story i could tell they respected me a LOT more. The high schoolers after my speech were the only group that made sure to ask me how they could help. So i really believe it depends on the churches dynamics. I mean some churches have a lot of pastors kids so there is less drama but some have more. It really also depends on their spiritual walk with Christ. It also should make the church evaluate themselves because if the kids keep getting more drama then before they need to make a change at the way they do things. The middle school student I could tell were to nervous to speak up and ask what they could do. So for me i think it just comes down to the kid, the church, and what kind of drama. If they church has serious problem ( Not that a lot of them aren’t serious.) I just mean like drugs they need to not only speak wit the kid but the adult. I hope this helps. This is my view that it is okay as long as the church has it together. Yet other times it can be a good church but sometimes the person could use different help. Also the most friendly kids in my group are the 8th through high school. They were nicer from the start and it really just shows where the church is at. I do believe though that if the church has young adolescent leaders ages 18-25 it wont prosper in the kids lives unless they have good training. Because it really comes down to the church not just the kids. Thanks for reading my long winded speech.
Thanks soooooo much for commenting on here! I truly appreciate your presence on this blog post. I applaud your efforts to start a ministry with middle school and high school students. That kind of leadership is what excites us preteen & youth pastors. Also, the fact that you got high school students respect is absolutely amazing! Good for you. And I’m glad you brought everyone reading this post a very unique perspective…thanks for that! You rock…keep up the great work!
One point coming out of discussion with my team here is that if your 6th grade kids are in middle school in the public they are exposed to and dealing with middle school issues. Could be a negative impact if those kids bring middle school issues and attitudes to the 5th graders
I am a volunteer small group leader at my church, I eventually want to go into full time youth ministry. I work with 4th-5th graders in the children’s ministry and I work with 6th graders in the middle school ministry. I feel like I could make a case for either approach on what to do with 6th graders. Although, I will admit, I don’t know much about ministries specifically for preteens. Every church I’ve been to only has children ministries and middle/high school ministries. Between those two I would advocate for 6th graders to be in with the middle school group. But I would love to learn more about how you run preteen ministry. If anyone has any thoughts on this and experience running a ministry specifically for preteens please email me, firstname.lastname@example.org
I just sent you an email
I completely agree! I have a group of 5th & 6th graders that I do discipleship leadership with weekly and tell them they are my Jrs and Srs of the children’s department. I train them to do ministry in the church and when they leave me they are natural leaders in the youth!!
So excited see this! Healthy discussion about ministering to Preteens are needed a lot more these days. Go preteen ministry! Having said that, I love what Sharon said about
asking the more fundamental question – how do we best disciple a 6th grader? One of my favorite chapter in Acts is 17 where Paul addresses the men of Athens. The first thing he does when he gets to Athens is to look around city studying their culture. AFTER THAT he determines the people there are very religious and uses that religious slant to begin introducing them to Jesus. I think the key, like Sharon said, is to first spend some time getting to know the culture of the 6th graders we are each ministering to. Then we can determine how best to reach them. Will discipling them be better in Jr. High, Elementary or their own separate preteen ministry (called Middle School ministry at my church)? It’s hard for me to say – I don’t know your students! What works for one area of our country or even areas in our cities, may not work best for others. Just like missionaries in another country we need to KNOW the people WE are called to and reach them where are THEY are at. I’m a huge advocate for a separate preteen ministry but have definitely seen where it just doesn’t work in some places. But spending the extra time getting to know the students and what works best for them always pays off. And (this is kinda scary) that way of discipling could change from year to year depending on the needs of the students each year…ok I just stressed myself out with that one.
One thing I have seen to be successful during the past 13 years I’ve spent with Preteens is that it’s always better to teach up then teach down. They’re usually more interested in learning about where they are going than where they have been. And for those of you that would like to “keep them young” as long as you can…experience has shown me that that is a losing battle. They are growing up whether we want them to or not. Thanks Nick for keeping the conversation alive!
Bam! Patrick, you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I totally agree with this article. I have a 5th/6th grade ministry within my children’s ministry and it’s working out wonderfully. We did encounter push back from parents when our schools took in 6th graders into Jr. high. However they got over it pretty quickly as myself and our youth director stuck together knowing that it was best for the students keeping them separate. It’s now the norm at our church and my 5th/6th graders think they’re pretty cool AND they are sharing life together with no jr highers lurking
Another valid question is: “are we, or have we lost any 6th graders because we have or have not, moved them into youth. In my case, we have lost a handful because they were ready for a change. I made the move to include them, set high expectations that if maturity wasn’t evident they would be moved back with the children. We still provide silly game time and small groups for their age so they are thankful we trust them with things and not treat them as a kid. They aren’t kids anymore but not quite teens either so this is the time they fiqure out who they are, build character qualities and move from bible story time to life application!
Good question. A friend of mine pulled 6th grade into preteen ministry, they were averaging 4-6 6th grade kids. When they moved then to middle school they averaged 30 plus 6th grade kids.
Hi Craig! That is awesome!! As reading many comments on this article I do see where every situation is church specific. Deep underlying issues here that have not been discussed is the youth ministers ability to work with the children’s minister on these issues. For one there is not a great transition from children’s ministry into youth and the flesh of me comes out when our churches AWANA leaders want to steal…I mean keep 6th graders. We do not do Awana with our youth ministry for reasons a whole other article can be written but not here to put down other ministries, it does not work in our church after a few attempts. I do not feel our church would be open to taking 5th out of children’s ministry and creating a preteen ministry for 5th and 6th graders. We have discussed this before and they want to continue to do TNT (Awana) and have the 6th graders remain in there with them as a solution. Which in my eyes is a repeat, too elementary and not much of a challenge when it’s time for them to start eating the meat and be around their peers. Not to say Awana is a bad program or that there could not be specific extra challenges and verses to memorize, I am just hitting at the fact that most children’s ministers and youth ministers are sometimes not on the same page with this age group and it is exactly what Satan wants. To be at odds with each other. What our Awana leaders came up with is that 6 graders have a choice to do Awana for another year or to go to youth ministry. They also have a select group of home school kids who started a Trek (Awana) as a option. This is very dangerous to me as it begins to look the Pharisee’s and having an “all star” class. Its confusing to guests or new members and is beginning to create division. I have no say so in the matter and ultimately always the parents decision but I have not been at peace with it yet. I don’t see much difference if I bring my 4th or 5th grade kids to church and instead of putting them in with Awana to just do my own thing with them. This conversation brings up so many areas and I enjoy the discussion.
Two years ago our church restructured our student ministry. We launched a new preteen ministry which encompasses 5th and 6th graders. Our preteen ministry…called Linked 56 is our students first entry into student ministry. The next step (or in our case link) is Linked 78 for seventh and eighth graders. Their final step is Linked which is for our high school students. Myself and an amazing group of volunteer leaders lead Linked 56. I worked in Children’s Ministry for years prior to moving into student ministry with our first group of 5th and 6th graders. I LOVE that the preteen ministry is part of student ministries. This allows us to build on integral parts of our programs such as service and missions. Our 5th and 6th graders participate in local service projects throughout the year with a church overnight (which we call Mission 56) in the summer. Sixth graders will be attending “Jam” which is a mission based weekend (where they will stay two nights). When they reach Linked 78 they will attend a week long missions experience, and in High School they attend Missions trips in other countries. The progression is going to be so valuable.
I also see the value in pouring into the 5th and 6th graders in a way that deals with the experiences they are having now as they walk through life and preparing them for what lies ahead. It is a delicate Holy Spirit lead balance…but is much easier to navigate with these ages grouped together. The gap between what a sixth grader is ready to receive and apply can be vastly different than what an eighth grade student is needing to receive.
We also do “bridging” on Wednesday nights during the summer. Upcoming 4th graders are invited to attend Linked 56 Summer Nights and upcoming 7th graders are invited to join Linked 78 for Summer Nights. Sunday mornings they do not transition until move ups in the Fall.
We received some parental push back when the restructuring was introduced…but following a couple months into experiencing it all with their students… it is now embraced wholeheartedly.
I absolutely love Preteen Ministry…and am excited to see how the Lord continues to work in these preteens through a ministry geared specifically for them.
Awesome…love the way you structured that. Thanks for sharing!!!
Interesting indeed. There are some points that we would deem valid and others seem to overly generalize that age group. Ultimately it depends on the exact youth group. Yes, there is a funny transition period with 6th graders, but isn’t there a transition period with every age group when moving around? If the purpose of moving them to preteen is to avoid that then that wouldn’t be productive, because the reality is we do talk about more “serious” things and whether they get used to it as a 6th grader or they are more “ready” when they are in 7th grade is up in the air. Either way there is going to be a learning curve and transition for each student, with some moving on quicker than others. There are 7th graders in our group NOW that have the maturity level socially, cognitively, emotionally etc… as 6th graders. So do we analyze each and every student and hold them in the ministry that we feel they have the maturity to withhold or do we allow them to grow in the ministry that we are sending them into? We have seen many 6th graders LEAD 8th graders in different areas. We have also seen 8th graders really embrace 6th graders. Now, the one haunting point is that 6th graders are definitely influenced by the older students indefinitely. Now as a pastor do we just recognize that and pray for the best or do we actively create environments for students to influence one another in positive, Christ-centered ways. But with this point, even if we do hold them back, will not 7th graders still be pressured into what 8th graders are doing? Don’t 9th graders look up to and try to emulate that of upper classmen in High School? I guess the ultimate end goal would be the concern of the spiritual growth of 6th grade students. Would 6th graders be able to grow in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ more effectively in a “younger” atmosphere? We definitely believe that is dependent on the church and pastors of those specific students. Our approach to ministry is and will always be, especially in this age group, is one of evaluation and questioning. We structure small groups and sermons to present Biblical truth and equip them, then we provide healthy conversation for them to understand how that Biblical truth applies to their personal life. Now are 6th graders in the cognitive state to critically think about such things, no. But are they in the stage of pure concrete operational thinking where they can’t rationalize? Some are, some aren’t. So what majority do you base your decisions off of? Those are some of our initial thoughts.
I do feel that 6th graders should be included in the middles school ministry. It really has nothing to do with the school system, in that we homeschool, so that is not an issue for us. My argument is that (as has been said) in the majority of churches, there is NOT a preteen ministry. Thus, 6th graders get left out of the Children’s activities (which usually include through 5th grade) and they get left out of Youth activities because people kind of forget they are part of it, since they are really not. We have always gone to fairly large churches so the kids have lots of activities to participate in so there theoretically could be a preteen ministry, but there really is not. The 6th graders sort of get set adrift and feel disconnected the entire year, and I can only imagine how that does not help when they do attend public or private schools also.
I am going to be a seventh grader this upcoming school year and have been looking for tips on how to study better and form those habits! But this was helpful in its own way also! Thanks so much! Oh, and for those of you going into 6th grade it is relatively easy. YOu get stressedbut then it all eases itself out so take it easy and enjoy the ride!
Bridgette…glad to help. And thanks for encouraging those 6th graders 🙂 You rock!
I’m Jordan, a Sr. in high school. God called me into ministry about two years ago and ever since, I’ve been watching the way churches are run, looking for ways to improve the way we reach out and minister to all age groups. I specifically want to talk about the issues of bringing too much separation into student ministries. I understand that students Pk-12 all need ministries and that kids/teens all need to be in a ministry that allows their faith to grow. However, the more we split up our students, especially teens, the more potential there is to hurt their overall spiritual growth in the future. Students in ministries that split 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 are in many ways, catered to too much. Allow me to explain. Take 5-6 and 7-8 out of this equation and then you have two age groups that are entirely capable of maturing their faith at the same rate, but they have been separated since 5-6 grades, never allowed to interact with the students above them in a spiritual setting. Fast forward to the graduation of these individual classes, and now you have adults who have been separated in two year increments since 5th grade and they are expected to survive the church world all on their own. This can be said about student ministry entirely. In most conservative churches, you don’t find a lead pastor getting slimed on the platform on Sunday morning. Students have been catered to to make church and their faith exciting, however, the same type of excitement is dropped as soon as grad hits unless there is a solid college ministry, and after that, you then have 21 year olds who have been catered to for 21 years who don’t know what its like to attend or participate in church as an adult. There are no more youth camps, retreats, or large events on the same scale as today’s youth events. When we cater too much to one group of people and then tell them that the experience that they have had over the past several years is not the reality of what “grown up church” is truly like, then interest is lost. Some will argue that the people who truly lose interest over the fact that not as much fun stuff goes on in big church are not actually at church to grow their faith, and I agree to an extent, but at the same time, it’s all they’ve known of church. So, in my opinion, while some separation is needed, (pk-2, 3-6, 7-12) the more we separate our young Christians now, the more separated the church as a whole will be. Also, student ministries should be extremely involved in regular church events. Allow the ones who are passionate about music to join your music ministries, get the ones interested in children involved in the children’s ministries, allow the ones passionate about technology to volunteer in sound/av/video positions, work with adults on community wide service projects or worldwide missions trips, Get students excited about what goes on in the real world and dont just cater to their youthful years, because when they are gone, then there are a lot of lost students who don’t know where to try and fit in in a church. I was lucky, dad is a pastor and Ive never had trouble finding ways to fit in outside of my age group, but that hasn’t been the case in all of the youth ministries I have been a part of. What I’m trying to say is, I agree, some age groups simply have to be separated based on maturity and spiritual growth/maturity, but don’t let students lose interest in their faith because they were not prepared to participate with other age groups or in a totally different style of ministry, because thats what youth ministry is, its different, which can be a blessing or a curse.
Thanks for your thoughts in this. You bring up a good point about the importance of integrating young people of all ages into the church body. Very important indeed!
Thank you for the article. You’ve stirred the pot on this one for sure! I read your reasons, and for your context and your students, it might make sense. But I’m a little hesitant with blanket statements of what ministry “should” and “shouldn’t” be. Context is everything!
If 95% of my students spend 40 hours a week (not counting extra-curricular) in a 6th-8th context, then I believe the best way I can prepare them for carrying the Gospel into that environment is to mirror that context at church. I read and understand your reasons, but I struggle with offering something for 2 hours a week that looks nothing like the reality where they are trying to live out the Gospel. You state in the article to “deal with it” but for me, that’s huge. I think the price of creating something totally different is greater than the cost of tackling/dealing with the issues you present.
[STATED ISSUE] They don’t feel the freedom to act their age, which isn’t healthy anyway you slice it
[POSSIBLE SOLUTION] Gender/grade split small groups!
[STATED ISSUE] Because of the age gap, it is more difficult for 6th graders to take on leadership roles in a junior high ministry
[POSSIBLE SOLUTION] A strong high school and middle school mentoring program fixes this QUICK. Let the 8th graders teach our 6th graders how to run stuff. It works!
[STATED ISSUE] Less junior high drama. Yes, drama still exists (they’re preteens) but the drama is more “preteen” oriented.
[POSSIBLE SOLUTION] Leverage small groups to process the drama. It’s what they see/feel for 40 hours/week, so give them a safe place to tackle it.
[STATED ISSUE] 6th graders get lost in the shuffle, often being overlooked by leaders. Of course, this isn’t intentional. It’s just reality.
[POSSIBLE SOLUTION] With the right leader training and delegated ownership, this goes away. Tell leaders that they are the pastors for their kids, not “us” (the official youth pastors). Give them that ownership, and I find that they are pretty protective of their little groups.
[STATED ISSUE] They become overly self-conscience and worried about what the older students think about them, which becomes a hinderance to spiritual growth.
[POSSIBLE SOLUTION] At least in my context, I don’t see this. We are so often split into small groups, that the downward pressures just aren’t there. Again, for the little that does exist, it is no where near what happens at school, so leverage the small group environment to wrestle with it.
Thanks for the great website! Keep up the amazing work with this FANTASTIC age group.
I could not agree with you more. Once again the church has said let’s not do what’s best let’s do what everyone else is doing. I started doing pre youth ministry in 1977 because the state my kidmin was in led the nation in unwed pregnancies under the age of 13. I saw then we could not wait to give 6th graders the word on Godly relationships and it didn’t fit in my Children’s Church. While we’re in the neighborhood I think that Youth groups should be broken up every 2 years 7 & 8, 9 & 10, & 11 & 12. There is too much going on in these ages that need focus and attention from God’s Word to throw 6th graders in there just because the schools are doing it (which have taken Christmas & God out) is just plain stupid!
I’m a 6th grader and I think that we should start Junior high in 6th cause we need three years to adjust to multiple classes and the new schedule
Hi, I am the Pre-teen Pastor at my church and our school system currently has our elementary schools k-6th and our junior high is 7th-9th, and high school 10th-12th. I am meeting today with our Youth and Children’s Pastor to discuss the possibility of moving our 6th grade to a junior high ministry in a couple of years when the school district changes to K-5th, 6th-8th and 9th-10th like most school districts. While I completely agree our school systems are broken, I wonder how you deal with the older students not wanting to be around the younger ones?
You see we recently added 4th grade to our pre-teen ministry 5th-6th and suddenly the 6th graders are very unhappy because of the little kids (4th graders). We are thinking when the schools change, our Youth Pastor is wanting to launch a Junior High ministry, therefore we would just move the 6th grade up.
Hi Bryan. It’s tricky. I find that there is always some tension between 4th and 6th graders. Just like 8th graders might feel towards the 6th graders. I have found that giving 6th graders some leadership role, specifically with the 4th graders is helpful.
I really liked the article and is very helpul. I do not desigree of having 6th in preteen ministry but i wanted to share what I am expirence in my ministry. I students are middle and high school. Couple years ago I felt the strong call to work with them due the necessity they were showing when reaching the teen years. I have written a statement, named the group and presented to the pastors my idea and purpose in working with them. Didn’t get much from them but I continually doing the work or at least trying it. Later on the youth leader began to call all the ages to be part of youth group and I felt that my vision and call were falling apart. My ideas goes along with what I hard from one of your webinar…”to separate teens ministry from children’s ministry” but until now it didn’t happened. My argument is that all my students are going to youth group…where all ages are together. To me having middle and high schoolers together works fine but I dont agree when they are in the weekly meeting with all ages. For my pastors is fine and I see my work only on Sundays’ class being done..because the youth leader have them on weekly meetings. I am getting much information I can and working on it to try to have this conversation with them. Is hard when they can define the ages between teens and youth/young adult. would love to hear from you.
Vivian, I am happy to help. What specifically were you needing assistance with Vivian?
I agree with you! Our church has a 5th/6th grade theatre and I feel it is very important that they be separate from 7th and 8th grade issues. Kids grow up so fast anyways, let them be kids a little longer. Pre teen age is already awkward as it is so this is a place they can feel safe to be themselves without all the drama older kids face.
I would like to add that beginning of 6th grade and end of 6th grade are very different times for boys separately from girls. Church ministry needs to be sensitive to each gender and the individual kid’s maturity levels need to be taken into consideration as well. I know it’s a lot, and very specific, but the age of 12 to 13 is a very critical time in the life of a child, especially if that 12 year old is in full-on puberty mode. The parents need to be brought into the ministry with the youth leaders and each child needs to be known by the leader. It’s not an easy task but a necessary one if you want to be a nurturing, compassionate, responsible leader who should not ever lump together kids with a blanket-style approach to youth ministry during this tender time of puberty. For example, this past week at my 12 year old son’s church-away middle schoolers camp, there were 4 boys, a male youth leader for boys and the rest of majority were girls (more than double the boys) with a female youth leader. The boys leader delved into prompting confession of sin issues on their hearts while in a circle group setting and one of the boys shared that he had once thought about suicide but was not suicidal, more like, is it a sin to even think about suicide, so there was a confusion of thought and feeling that is very common in pubescent pre-teens…well, one of the other boys in that group took what he said and used it against him for the rest of the trip, thereby bullying and being obnoxious and by telling the girls that he was ‘suicidal and depressed’, this made on of the girls start crying and next thing you know a camp staffer saw her crying and texted the boys youth leader that one of his boys was suicidal, so this whole drama began. So what began as innocent questioning was overblown and exploited and ultimately made the boy who originally spoke about suicide the ‘leper’ of the group in his eyes. Point is, maturity levels are huge at this age, and just like the 11 year old who commented on this post said, their is a danger in the youth leaders being too young themselves, and not know how to appropriately navigate this tender age of puberty. The youth leaders, I have seen, want to be so relational to the kids that they end up becoming blinded to the wise adult influence/inpact of knowing what is appropriate to talk about in mixed maturity levels and what is not. Knowing the individual kids is huge. Why would that same male youth pastor divulge to the small group of four 12 year old’s that he himself has struggled with pornography, in his effort to get the boys to open up about their own sin and struggles?
This occurred at a very well organized, well meaning church, but I have found out as a parent, you really need to ask the hard questions to your youth ministry to find out what kind of leaders they are and ask them how far they will go in discussion with your kids. Know what messages they are spreading to your kids ears, minds and hearts. This particular youth pastor was well meaning and it’s important to note he is used to ministering to high schoolers. Can anyone comment if they think it’s appropriate for a youth pastor to divulge to 12 year olds his personal struggle with pornography?
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