A popular question in young adult ministry is: Should I divide my Bible study groups into demographics? This is a valuable question, especially since most young adult ministries span the ages of 18-34 and may include college students, single adults, and young married couples with or without children.
Like so many issues in the church, this one isn’t easily answered. The best way for you to answer this question is to specifically evaluate your ministry. In that process of evaluation, however, there are a few general principles to keep in mind:
- Authenticity is easier to achieve with people who are in the same life stage. People generally are going to make friends easiest with people who share similar interests, have similar struggles, and know generally what each other are talking about. In that sense, jump-starting a community can happen the easiest when you divide people into life-stage demographics.
- Getting to know new people is healthy and combats cliques in the ministry. If we only associate with people who look, think, act, and learn like us, we’ll inevitably turn inward and stop caring about anyone different. So even if you decide to divide your group along certain lines, keep in mind the need to foster relationships with those different than you.
- Community will happen whether or not groups are divided demographically. You can move confidently in either direction. And you can from time to time change the trajectory of your groups by mixing them, offering certain groups of one or the other, and planning times for your entire group to be together. Keeping in mind the above principles, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you plan which avenues of community you want to pursue in your ministry:
- What are the most pressing needs of the young adults in my care? Are there issues of sexual purity? Missional living? Parenting? Identifying the pressing needs will naturally give you some direction for what you need to offer.
- What relationships do I see developing on their own? You can try to capitalize on the momentum already in your ministry by encouraging a particular demographic to be together as much as possible rather than unintentionally stifling it.
- What relationships need to be stretched in my ministry? If you notice cliques starting to form in the people within your care, then break them up a little bit. By putting people in groups outside their specific demographic, you can challenge them to get outside their comfort zone and interact with people who are a little different than they are.
This article was taken from the upcoming Threads release, Context: Engaging the Young Adults of Your Community. Context is a
practical manual built as a desk reference tool for leaders in young adult ministry, releasing September 1.