By Jeremy Kirby
There are many situations in life that are not ideal. Living with your parents or in-laws while being married, being sick during a major presentation in school, or being stuck in traffic while needing to get to a vital meeting are a few examples. In the world of student ministry, there is another situation that occurs which is not ideal. The situation that arises involves combining middle school and high school students.
To many student directors, including myself, this is not a fun scenario to be in. Let’s be honest, there are few similarities between a 6th grade student and a 12th grade student. Life experiences, life expectations, and life examples are night and day between the two age groups. Now sure, there are more mature middle school students and less mature high school students; however, the maturity level, for the most part, is completely different. The question arises, what do you do if you are in a situation where you have to have a combined middle school and high school environment? At Rock Point Community Church, this is a task that we have had to tackle.
At Rock Point, we use the student curriculum provided by XP3, and our communicator follows the script while adapting it for each particular Sunday. There is a middle school adaptation, but the question still arises, how do you communicate to both middle school and high school students together. The answer to this question does not necessarily fall completely on the communicator. The communicator needs to be relevant, engaging, and age-appropriate to the best of his or her ability with the mixture of ages, but more can be done to be relevant, engaging, and appropriate to each age group. This is where our small group leaders play an essential part.
Our small groups are divided up by age and gender. Along with the small group leader facilitating discussion within the group, the small group leader also breaks down, or goes deeper with the communicator’s talk that day, depending on what age he or she leads. Our small group leaders make the topic of the day more applicable to each student’s life. Here is how the small group leader knows which way to go: break down or discuss deeper.
Each Sunday, the communicator strives to aim the topic that day to a 10th grade level. Why a 10th grade level you may ask? We feel that a 10th grade level is a good middle ground level to aim for. It is usually easier, but not always the case, for students to rise up to a challenge, than for students to listen to a talk that is far below them. That is why our communicator aims for a 10th grade level. Middle school students will rise up, while it is not too much of a strain to our high school seniors to listen.
If our small group leaders are leading students below the 10th grade, then the talk needs to be explained more. If our small group leaders lead above the 10th grade level, then a deeper discussion needs to take place during group time. For 10th graders, it just falls on their year in school!
By no means is this a perfected idea. We are heading in the direction of having two different environments for the middle school and high school. As we continue to grow, I am constantly evaluating the way we do ministry in order to partner with parents and impact students. So for now, in this season of student ministry at Rock Point, we have found this the best way to be relevant to both middle school and high school students.
My name is Jeremy Kirby. I am 25 years old. I am married to Bekah Kirby. I graduated from Shorter College (now University). I am working on my Master’s degree in leadership from Luther Rice University. I am the student’s director at Rock Point Community Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We are a partnership church of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.