We’re often asked the following question from young adult ministry leaders: What do I do if my group has differing levels of spiritual maturity?
That’s a valid question, and a challenging one. For starters, separating groups according to their supposed spiritual maturity isn’t a good solution. It creates pride and division, and it prohibits community. But how do you lead a group with mixed levels of spiritual maturity when you want to make sure everyone is challenged? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Teach to the level at which you want people to be. In educational training, there is a classic argument: Do you teach to the lowest denominator, making sure to not leave anyone behind, or do you do just the opposite? We advocate teaching up rather than teaching down. Give people a vision of where they’re headed on the road to maturity rather than allowing them to live in a shallow experience of Jesus. You can do this through the level of content you present, the depth of questions you ask, and the level of introspection you model for your group.
2. Spread out the leadership. Who says you have to be in charge all the time? Trying to spread out the leadership base is really healthy for your ministry. By giving away some of the responsibility, you will be challenging those who are a little further along to take the next step into leadership. At the same time, you will ensure a variety of teaching and leadership styles. That varying influence will mean you have a greater chance to connect with all members of the group. While someone might not resonate with your leadership, they really might connect with another’s.
3. Ask multi-purposed questions. It’s possible to ask questions and then follow-up questions that allow for people of all spiritual maturities to both learn and contribute to the conversation. Here’s an example of how something like this might work:
Initial Question: “What’s the word we use when someone first enters into a relationship with Christ?”
Follow-up Question: “That’s true. But saved from what? And saved to what? Someone tell me why you think we use that word.”
See the logic? You’re challenging the more mature believers to articulate what they say they believe, forcing them to think more deeply about rote answers they’re giving. And at the same time, you’re inviting young Christians into the conversation to learn. You can easily follow this line of questioning with more personal questions, relating to people’s specific salvation experiences, to engage everyone in the discussion.
Based on your own experience, what would you add to the list?