The Better Buddy System | UMC YoungPeople
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August 2017

The Better Buddy System

By Neal Bowes

The good ole “buddy system” is tried and true: pair up and always have your buddy with you. The thing is, some of our ministries include some younger participants, and there are times when two 6th graders being “out there” together doesn’t quite seem like enough. So, check out the better buddy system

1. Assign Everybody a “Safety Number.”
For example:

  • 6th and 7th graders: 1.
  • 8th and 9th graders: 2.
  • 10th and 11th graders: 3.
  • 12th graders: 4.

If you have a smaller number of participants or if your group spans a lesser age range, alter the groupings or only assign safety numbers up to “3.”

2. Announce the Minimum “Safety Number” Required
Depending on the location, decide the minimum safety number that your group members need to maintain in order to move around freely. They figure this out by adding the “safety numbers” of each person in the group. So a 6th grader (safety number 1) traveling with an 8th grader (Safety number 2) =3. If you decide on a minimum safety number of 5, that would require two 6th graders to travel with a 10th grader, a 9th grader to travel with a 10th grader, or a 7th graders to travel with a 12th grader.

This also sends a signal to your older members that you are expecting them to take some responsibility for the care of your younger members.

Adjust the “Safety Number” for the Circumstances
This system allows you the flexibility to adjust for different scenarios. Perhaps your group is at a location, such as inside a museum, where it would be safe for a high school senior to travel on his own. Adjust your safety number down to 4. This puts one 6th grader together with one 10th grader, or two 8th graders together.

Of course, you can always adjust the safety number up, if the situation warrants.

Neal has had the privilege of being in ministry with the youth at Jesse Lee for the last 15 years. He also works through the New York Annual Conference to train and support volunteer youth workers in local churches. He loves speaking at youth gatherings--group retreats or conference-wide events.