If your youth ministry is like most across the country it is probably combined 6th-12th grade. You know you need to split them up, you have been thinking about splitting them or you haven’t really thought about it yet but you should. (Check out some of the reasons why you should split here) But you just don’t know how. As we head into the new semester this is a great opportunity to get the ball rolling on splitting those groups and having success doing it. Splitting the groups can either be done well and be successful or done poorly and prove to be detrimental to your ministry. I have personally successfully separated two groups and have helped with and coached about 4 other successful splits so here are a few tips on how to split up the groups.
Before you turn your one group into two separate groups make sure you can staff those groups. You will essentially need to build two complete volunteer teams, one for high school and one for middle school. You may have volunteers who want to do both and that is great but be cautious of burning them out. My suggestion would be to have them just pick one and pour themselves into one instead of volunteering at both unless they are a super volunteer and you know they can handle it (I have some that do volunteer for both and do a great job). So, start by building your teams. Recruit volunteers and build those teams before you launch two separate groups. This can either make the split or break the split. Recruit, build, and train your teams so that it is adequately staffed before it gets going.
Often times events, series, and group splits fail in youth ministry not because they are not done well but because they were not promoted well. If you are planning on splitting your groups give the students and congregation at least a month notice so the anticipation rises and they are able to spread the word. Provide students with flyers, create social media accounts for your groups for what is “coming”, and announce it often and everywhere, get the word out! Don’t forget to promote BOTH new groups, even though one will probably stay on the same night and will have more of your preexisting students you are essentially starting two brand new groups so promote them both as such.
-Don’t just start it, launch it
Promotion definitely helps with this one, but they also work together because you need to put on something awesome to promote. Launch it with a fun event that is tailored exactly for that group (they probably won’t be the same). Another fun way to maximize the launch is to make it a competition between the middle and the high school for who can bring the most new people to the launch night. Splitting the groups is setting yourself up for success because students want to feel comfortable with people their age and do activities that are tailored towards them so it is important to launch it well and get as much exposure as possible. Once students know there is something for them they are more likely to stay and make the split a success.
-Do the work, and trust God
Most of the middle/high splits that don’t work are because the youth pastor or youth director who does them is not willing to put in the work it requires. Splitting the groups is one of the best things you can do for your ministry but it also basically doubles your work load. It is NOT easy. You need to make sure you are putting on two quality youth groups each week, not one quality one and one poorly done one, or two mediocre ones. Put in the work necessary to make the split a success.
And lastly, but most importantly, TRUST GOD!! Taking one group that is not growing and splitting it into two groups can be scary. I mean, won’t it just give you two even smaller groups? No, thats not how it actually works. Over and over again I have seen groups double in size by splitting. Multiplication through division. But, like I said, it is scary!!! Trust God, it is His youth ministry anyway. He is in control and He wants to see students come and experience His love even more than we do.
As you head into this semester and you have been thinking about separating the groups, do it! Build your teams, set a date for the split, promote it for a few weeks and launch it. Give yourself a better chance at reaching students by providing them with age appropriate material, activities, and making the invite easier.
If you would like to ask questions or get coaching on a split email firstname.lastname@example.org