Question:  How do you divide an existing singles group into younger and older groups?
(Asked by Tim van Helvert, SAM Coordinator, Bethany Community Church, St. Catharines, ONT)

Answer: Here are my conclusions based on experience in a medium-size and a larger ministry
(Reports Craig Henry, Pastor of Single Adults, Canton First Friends Church,

                            1. People are generally dissatisfied if they perceive that they are too old for the lower aged group, but the youngest
                            in the older group. One potential solution is to overlap the age ranges and allow these people to choose to go up or down
                            [i.e. - 25-35/ 30-45/ 40+, etc.].
                            2. Men sometimes want to "raid" the class younger than their own age, looking for someone ten or twenty years younger to
                            marry. This often "creeps out" the women in that group and can be very disruptive and counter-productive to the survival of
                            the group. Therefore it is impractical to just let people go to whatever group they want to, regardless of age.
                            3. You are never going to make everyone happy [especially those who are on a mate-hunt], so you must make your focus on
                            dividing up the groups according to what is best for the ministry.
                            4. If your ministry is large enough, you may also want to offer some non-age-specific groups, such as a discipleship class or a
                            single parent fellowship where age is irrelevant.
                            5. Another approach is to allow the groups to "age" and to keep starting new classes on the younger end of the spectrum
                            [i.e. - in 1995 the classes may have been divided as such 25-35/ 36-45/ 46+; then in 2000 30-40/ 41-50/ 51+ and add a new class
                            for people in their 20s].  That way people don't get kicked out of their group when they have a birthday!
                            6. Some people just hate boundaries and may try to ignore age ranges. You need to decide ahead of time how you are going to
                            handle it.
                            7. Some singles ministries are content to allow the lines to be blurred and that works fine for them; others are very strict about
                            age ranges and feel that it prevents potential problems. You have to decide what is right for your situation.

                            The success of this type of transition depends on a few things:

                            1. That you have a very good leader for the new group. "Everything rises and falls on leadership." They ought to be
                            well-connected with their peers, have teaching ability, charisma, as well as spiritual depth and discernment.
                            2.  That you make clear that you support the birth of the new group and that the younger crowd is not being disloyal to you if
                            they join the new class.
                            3.  It is clear that there is no competition or animosity between the two groups.
                            4. Speak to some of the people in that age-range privately to find what it is that they are looking for. Don't announce a new
                            group before you find out if that is what they really want.
                            5. Allow the new group to develop into a ministry in its own image. For example, younger singles are interested in more active
                            activities than older ones. That doesn't mean you can't do joint activities, but let the group evolve in its own direction.