In the mid 2000's, the Barna Group did some research on the percentage of youth who remained engaged in their faith and in their church attendance as they transitioned into adulthood. They discovered that up to 85% of students who had attended dynamic kids and youth programs in their church ended up walking away from the church by age 18.
This led to the Barna group investigating whether there were any common threads among the 15% of young people who remained engaged in church into their young adult years. They discovered that there was in fact a common thread among this group: There was a five to one ratio between students and adult leaders.
Most kids and youth ministry pastors would brag to their ministry colleagues if they had one volunteer for every five students in their ministry...it's really difficult to recruit volunteers for that ratio. But the Barna group discovered that among those who remained in the church into their adult years, the ratio these young people experienced was actually in reverse of the five to one ratio. Among the 15% who continued with church into their adult years, they experienced a ratio of five authentic relationships with Jesus following adults for each student!
We live in a culture that has segregated the age groups for decades. People of all ages tend to feel more comfortable when they are around people from the same stage of life. It's less messy. There is less conflict between the age groups. It's where we naturally drift.
Is it Biblical though? And is it producing the results we want to see? We believe the answer is no on both counts.
The New Testament teaches that older believers ought to mentor younger believers (Titus 2:3-5, 2 Tim. 2:2, 1 Pet 5:1-5). We also know from experience how transformative it was when we ourselves were kids and teenagers and had adults in our lives who had no agenda with us other than to get to know us, love us, encourage us, and speak prophetically into our lives.
This is partly why we are so excited about our home church model. It is uniquely positioned to realistically allow students to have authentic relationships with at least 5 other adults other than their parents.
This only works however if the adults in a Catalyst Group understand the role they play in a students life, even if they aren't volunteers for the Nursery/K-4/Junior High students in the Catalyst Group. As such, we train and remind our adults regularly of an Acronym that helps us remember how to make our Catalyst Group a welcoming and fun environment for students. That Acronym is G-O-S-H-E-N.
Greet them by name
Open ended questions are best
Speak Prophetically (acknowledge their gifts and inspire them to use 'em)
Humility (Even if they don't express their appreciation, keep loving them)
Emotions Connect (Share how you're feeling and how God is helping you)
Never Judge (There's a way to speak truth in grace)
We are excited to offer a both/and approach to our kids and youth ministries at Catalyst. We know that it's very difficult for kids and adults to have meaningful learning time when they are together, and as such, we offer dedicated time for the age groups to learn and discuss age appropriate content. Our home church model however also offers ample time for adults and kids to have fun together and build relationships that have the potential to make all the difference in a young persons life as they transition into adulthood with adults who have been there for them since they were young.
We also schedule various age specific fun events throughout the year, and run a day camp in the summer that is a blast for kids as well as for their high school leaders.