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Study GroupWhen I was a college minister, some people thought I was a youth minister. I found that strange, as did my coworker who led our church’s youth ministry. Despite assumptions to the contrary, high school students and college students have different experiences and needs. Youth ministry and college ministry share some similarities but are clearly different ministries.

The differences, however, don’t need to keep the groups apart. Combining high school and college groups is helpful. The groups can join for Bible classes and other activities, including opportunities to serve other groups of the church and service events in the neighboring community.

Such intergroup interaction has many blessings. Let me mention four.

Blessing 1: Intergenerational ministry is biblical and helpful.

The church has been intergenerational for a long time, and intergenerational ministry helps spiritual development and learning (Allen and Ross, Intergenerational Christian Formation.) This intergenerational aspect of faith communities existed long before the birth of Jesus (Deuteronomy 6; Psalm 145:4) and continued into the first-century church, as indicated by Paul’s words about different age groups (1 Timothy 5:1-3). For more on this, see Kara Jenkins’ article, “Biblical Support for Intergenerational Ministry.”

Blessing 2: Age-specific ministries need to be integrated parts of the church.

Providing opportunities for groups to interact helps this integration. While there are reasons to have different classes and activities for different age groups, combining groups for Bible study, service events, and other times of interaction can build understanding, appreciation, and relationships between generations.┬áKeeping age-specific groups always isolated from each other hinders that relational integration. If the church is to be the body of Christ in which each member plays an important and valued role (1 Corinthians 12), the diverse members need to know and influence each other. (To read about the difference between an intergenerational church and a church with intergenerational programs, see Kara Jenkins’ article, “Intergenerational Ministry in the Church.”)

Blessing 3: Friendships with college students can help high school graduates transition.

These relationships can help students be connected and have a place to belong in the church after high school graduation. Teenagers who graduate from high school without relational connections to the next age group of the church are likely to perceive that the church no longer has a place for them. Before high school graduates get to that point, they need to know that the church has room for their gifts and has a desire to continue helping them learn and grow.

Blessing 4: College students need to serve.

Teaching or assisting in intergroup events can offer valuable ministry opportunities for older students to help younger ones. College students are young adults who need to be nurtured, and they need to learn to equip younger friends for faith and ministry. College students in the church are learning and growing, and they benefit from opportunities to share their knowledge and experience.

Allen and Ross - Intergenerational Christian FormationDespite the blessings of bringing high school students and college students together, some people might have fears about mixing the groups. Here I present two possible fears and respond to each.

Fear 1: High school and college students are at different levels of maturity (knowledge, thinking, experiences).

This is a positive aspect of the whole church. As mentioned above, the church is the body of Christ. In that body, all parts are valuable. When we look at the church as a whole, we see members at various levels of maturity. That diversity does not need to be a curse; it can and should be a blessing. We learn from each other.

Also, age stages are fluid. Every group has members at different levels of spiritual, intellectual, and social development. Stereotyping a group of students as being at one maturity level is not helpful. Some high school students have maturity far beyond what we might expect in people of their age, and some people in their 80s are spiritual infants. When it comes to spiritual maturity, there are no accurate age group stereotypes.

Fear 2: High school students aren’t ready for the intellectual and spiritual challenges which college students experience.

With guidance, college students can help high school students with high school experiences. College students have been high school students, and sojourners can benefit from guides who have traveled longer in the right direction. Although we might not want to throw college-age new Christians into teaching roles in a high school Bible class, college students who have intentionally grown through study, service, and mentoring can share what they’ve learned.

Also, high school students need to be prepared for college experiences. When they become college students, they need to already have an idea of some of the challenges they’re about to face. We don’t need to hide those challenges from high school students. They need to be ready. Let’s not protect them from what’s next. Instead, let’s provide opportunities for them to discover what’s next and to do so in contexts of Christian friendship.

In the words of youth minister JD Morris, “both high school and college students need to be called to a much higher standard for spirituality, maturity, and responsibility than what our society is calling them. Kids today are growing up much slower because we are not just allowing, but expecting them to grow up much slower.”

Keeping people in classes and other activities catered to their levels can contribute to the “dumbing down” of the church. When we all walk together in Christ, supporting and strengthening each other on the way, God empowers us to grow beyond whatever ageist expectations our society might place on us.

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This Sunday morning I’m preaching from the third chapter of the biblical book of James. To help me prepare, I wrote this question in my Facebook status bar: “What are the characteristics of a good teacher?” Below the apple are comments from friends around the world. What do you think?


  • Experiential knowledge of the topic and an eagerness to share it AND experience it with the student.
  • Patience, creativity
  • willingness to listen to others
  • Probably does not ask the question on Facebook. Just kidding. Can make topics relevant to different types of people.
  • Speak in parables.
  • Knowing the material is almost useless without having the ability the communicate it effectively. There have been many professors and scholars of unparalleled genius whose students nevertheless sit in a fog of ignorance because the teacher could not transmit the knowledge.
  • A good teacher is also a good listener.
  • A good teacher provides material which is beneficial to his audience in a manner in which the student can assimilate it and put it into practice. That’s what separates a teacher from an entertainer.
  • A good teacher is willing to learn. A good teacher readily admits what she doesn’t know.
  • Being interesting! Someone might have good material but no one is going to like it if the delivery is boring. A good teacher doesn’t put you down when you don’t understand something. They are patient and eager to help you learn, understand, and grow.
  • “The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness. If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” Kahlil Gibran The Prophet
  • humility….see Philippians ­čÖé
  • Adjustable. Able to change oneself in a second to fit what the student needs at that moment.
  • To state the obvious…a good teacher is able to teach. Bottom line, if a student doesn’t learn anything, then no teaching was done.
  • The ability to listen, humility, being interesting, a willingness to learn, the ability to communicate . . . those qualities are needed in every profession.
  • Passion is important as well. A genuine enjoyment of the subject can often be infectious, and it is often the spark that ignites the student’s imagination and hunger for learning.
  • Passionate, caring, empathic, organized.
  • well versed in the subject, interested in the student’s learning, knows his audience
  • PASSIONATE without a DOUBT! People will listen to passion. If the teacher has no passion for what he/she teaches, then students will most likely not listen to him/her.
  • I was thinking of the way Christ taught this morning, and I think the Holy Spirit brought two examples to my mind. His leadership and organization when he instructed the disciples to sit in groups of (i think) 50 each in the feeding of the 5,000 and how he (led by the Spirit) taught with authority. He was confident and organized. I also think a good teacher is humble. I heard it said once (in essence) that a good teacher knows how little they know and seeks knowledge to learn more. Learning is a lifelong process, although you may have strengths, expertise and mastery of a certain area, you have to continue learning and seeking to know more. I also agree with the earlier answers of patience, a little creativity, flexibility and passion for what you teach.

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