my latest middle school ministry column for youthworker journal is online, here. i talk about the value of (sometimes) separating guys and girls.
here’s a tease (you’ll have to click through to the youthworker site to read the whole thing):
It’s difficult to find a middle schooler who doesn’t believe he or she is the center of the universe—a pre-Copernican ego-centered world.
For example, let’s say you rarely will experience a young teen sharing something in a group when he or she is not first-and-foremost thinking of how others perceive him or her. He or she might be horribly misguided in that perception (they often are); but it’s still the lenses through which they view themselves. This is a good shift, by the way, as it reveals their new ability to see themselves in third-person (a psychological skill that comes with abstract thinking).
So such self-obsession is normal, and it’s even present when there aren’t distractions; but one of the biggest distractions for a young teen who’s opening his or her mouth to share a thought, prayer, idea or question, are those pesky other-gender kids: “What are they thinking about me as I’m saying this!??!”
So I like to separate the genders occasionally. Specifically, I think it’s wise to have single-gender small groups.