Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Making Adjustments

Mesa public schools are making a change. Currently, we've been under a grade 7-9 junior high and grade 10-12 high school. Our church has followed suit. Starting in the fall of 2011, all of Mesa high schools will switch to grades 9-12, shifting hundreds of ninth grade students into high school. Two years of junior high, four years of high school.

This is one of those rare cases where it seems culture--school district changes--can define ministry structure. At the very least, we must reevaluate our current youth ministry structure in light of these changes and attempt to make the best decision for the sake of students' spiritual growth. So do we shift with the cultural shifts, making junior high ministry only two years? The difficulty for me is that it takes nearly two years for staff to build strong relationships with students; their ninth grade year is typically a time of significant spiritual growth. Yet would ninth graders really choose to spend time with junior highers within the church body if they were considered high schoolers by the culture? I'm unsure.

So we'll have to make some adjustments. And I'm honestly excited. It's a moment where we can dream, where a cultural shift allows us at Red Mountain to toss everything we're doing in the air and see what's really important. Any folks in youth ministry who read this, I'd love to have your input. What are the costs/benefits of shifting with the culture? Have you ever had to make similar adjustments?


  1. When I lived in Baltimore, elementary school was K-5, middle school was 6-8, and high school was 9-12. When I moved back to Washington state, I couldn't get my head around how 9th graders were still in junior high when they were supposed to be in high school as freshmen.

    Mesa is seriously going to make it so that you only have two years of junior high? That's even more wacky. IMO.

  2. I wonder what would happen if you gave students (9th graders) the option of choosing between staying in the jr high ministry, or going to the high school ministry. Some of the students may have more connections iwth the younger students and appreciate an extra year with them, and some might be `eager to get up there with the "big fish." It might provide a smoother transition if they don't feel forced? Just some thoughts - but I'm not in youth ministry and I've recently become aware of the fact that I am old and "not cool" anymore. (Something about owning a minivan and having a kid... oops).