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How to Successfully Combine Age Groups in Sunday School

For small churches, it may be the best option. Many churches combine age groups because they don’t have enough people to staff individual classes. Others combine their groups for special events or activities. If you combine age groups, how can you ensure a good experience for all ages?

We talked to Lois Keffer, author of the mixed-age-group curriculum All-in-One Sunday School series and the All Together Now Sunday School series. Here’s what she said about how to successfully combine age groups.

CM: Why combine age groups?

Lois: A lot of times it’s just a matter of practicality, because you don’t always have teachers for all the age levels. [In small churches], it’s more fun for kids to be in a larger class than just to have one or two at each age level.

CM: What activities would you have mixed-age groups do?

Lois: Well, everything from songs to any kind of active learning. We’ve just done all kinds of things. I remember one time we went into the parking lot of the church and had the kids toss [an unopened] pop can. And each time they caught it, they had to tell what made them really angry. And all the kids were able to do that. Everyone got into it from the 4-year-olds up to the seventh graders. And then we popped the well-shaken-up pop can open, and it went all over the place. And we talked about “How is that like what happens when you get mad?” And it was a really wonderful session for all the kids, and everybody learned something.

CM: What are some of the benefits of combining ages?

Lois: The benefits are when you put kids together, the older kids help spur thought processes in the younger kids. It’s just like when a real accomplished musician and a beginner play together; the accomplished musician elevates the play of the less-skilled person. And that’s how it works with older and younger kids. The older kids think of things in a different way and they express their thoughts and it helps to make a bridge for the younger kids from abstract concepts to real, life-changing learning.

When you have older and younger kids working together, they develop an appreciation for each other. And a lot of times, for instance, with writing or reading activities that might be too difficult for the younger kids, the older kids can act in a tutorial role. It gives the older kids a strong sense of self-esteem—that I am really able to make a difference for this little kid. And the little kids enjoy the attention.

CM: What are the drawbacks of combining age groups?

Lois: You have to be careful about not letting older kids dominate. You need to be skilled in bouncing the discussion from one child to another. And if there’s a particular age group that feels intimidated, you need to draw them out. When you do active things, you have to warn the older children to be gentle. You just need to remind the older kids that they are much larger and stronger, and that they need to have consideration for the feelings and the size of little ones.

CM: When are special times to combine age groups?

Lois: I think it’s really good to do it on Sundays when you know attendance is going to be down—like sometimes the Sunday of spring break.

It’s good to combine any time you’re going to have a special Sunday in the life of the church. And then it’s really fun not only to mix children of different age levels, but to add adults into the mix and do a completely intergenerational approach just because everybody enjoys a change. And the same benefits that apply to older and younger kids work with adults and children.

Also combine for the opening of Sunday school or for the opening of a Wednesday night club where you don’t want to start off the classes right away because you know that stragglers will be coming in.

Lois Keffer is the author of the mixed-age-group curriculum All-in-One Sunday School series and the All Together Now Sunday School series.

Looking for more teaching tips? Check out these ideas!

3 thoughts on “How to Successfully Combine Age Groups in Sunday School

  1. Thank you for this article. I am in the process of deciding which age groups to mix for our first service this Easter. Typically, we have only one service; but, with two services, it’s a little harder to find workers. Your article encouraged me to mix the groups.


    Judy Fairchild
    Children’s Ministry Director
    New Life Church of Denton

  2. Charlene Smith

    Good day,
    I am in the children ministry for a long time and we have a relate big church in an average size town. Presently we have 3 groups; the tiny ones form 3 up to grade 1 (6 Years). A second group grade 2 to grade 6 (7/8 years up to 12/13) and teens from grade 7 (13/14) up to Grade 10.
    I am in the Middle group from grade 2 – grade 6. We have a very colorful technology equipped children ministry venue. Average of 60 kids and more per Sunday.

    They feel to restructure and divide this group in 2 due to the fact that the grade 6 kids say they are board and they are to small to move over tho the teens. Is there a need lately to separate this group from the smaller children. I am use to the big group and always try to cover all the ages with the messages that we have.

    I personally feel that if you have to do this, the new venue need to be equipped with the same type of technology , color and comfort as the venue for the smaller children and that one cannot take the bigger children out of the venue to a small litter room or office, it feels like school and I feel very strong about the fact that one need to make children’s church more exciting and inviting as any other activity outside.

    Some experts feel that due to technology children are more exposed lately and you need to separate the smaller group not to loose the interest of the bigger child.
    I read your article and found it very satisfying to think that there are other people that share you passion and interest where it comes to the ministry of children.

    What is the suitable age to divide this difficult age group and is this really necessary?

    Hope you can share your ideas



      Hi Charlene! Thank you for sharing your situation. We have seen success in both dividing kids out into smaller age ranges and keeping a larger group with more ages. One thing you could try before you separate the group is to keep all the kids together for the main lesson but provide different, age-appropriate activities for the different grades. You could also try giving more responsibility to the older kids, like circle leaders. This might engage the older children better. What it all comes down to is what works best for your church. Don’t be afraid to try new things!

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