Whenever I am with people, even ministry people, and the question gets posed “what do you do for a work” and i say Jr. High Ministry it gets welcomed with gasps and comments like “better you than me” or “man their crazy”. Now it is because of the mis-eduaction of Jr. High that I feel this takes place. Because of that in some churches Jr. High ministry gets sold short, or sold out to Childrens, or to the little brothers of the churches Hight School Ministry. While there are great pastors and leaders like Marko (whyismarko.com) and Kurt (juniorhighministry.com) who blaze the way in the education and implementation of great Jr. High Ministry it is still by some miss understood. I, like them vote that Jr. High is vital in the life of a church and the churches role in their lives and the lives of their family. I am sure those guys could share a ton that we could all still learn from I have picked 3 things that are very important that i feel should just get the conversation going if you are still suspicious of the of how vital Jr. High Ministry really is.
Now Big moments is what you find in Jr. High, and were not talking about all nighters, or the wild crazy run around reach events. We are talking in the development of their lives with families, friends and themselves. Here are the big 2 to me.
They separate from parents, and while this does not seem like a big deal it actually is a huge one. This type of separation is one that will define the kinds of students they will be the rest of their lives. In this time of their life they will start to question their parents and out of that new thirst for knowledge they will start to look. It is unquenched until they find it. They also lack the “BS” meter that adults have perfected over the years, so they are more willing to buy what others are selling. It is usually their friends at school or on sports teams. Sticky Faith with the Fuller Youth Institute talks about the need for 5>1 ratio. 5 healthy relationships in the lives of students to help lead and develop them. Up till this point they always rely on their parents for everything, this is the first moment of really separating from them. It is the biggest moment of their little lives up to this point. It is vital not to drop the ball and just wait until they are in High School to have the big relationships and big spiritual moments, Jr. High is vital.
They have freedom. This may sound small but its not, at our church for instance k-5 students are checked in every week by parents, stickers are given via our fellowship one and it is a sealed building in all ways with security volunteers there to make sure everyone is safe. Jr. High is very different, they sign themselves in, they come themselves to the Student Center and they leave when service is over. It would be true to say we don’t see parents as much as we would like to in our building but thats all part of the freedom that they have now. But there are others areas of freedom too, they is there first time have social freedoms too. Maybe the first time they have been able to go to the movies, or grab a burger or go to the mall just them and their friends. Maybe the first time they have been able to walk home from school or just hit their bike on a saturday and go where they want. This freedom is not handed out to fast for some and it is a perfect time to make some very poor choices. This is a freedom that is undeniable and needs our attention. Lessons regarding topis like, “healthy friendships, Sharing your faith, Thinking like Jesus, Being like Jesus, Character, Gods watching, even when your youth pastors not” kinds of messages. This is the first time of their life that they will have this kinds of choices in their newly found freedom, they will either make a lot of great choices or start this time of their life with a lot of bad choices. Jr. High is vital.
These are the building blocks of your ministry. One thing I love in Jr. High is that every year you get a new group of 6 graders. A group with the freedom and the parent separation. But also a group that you know will one day be seniors who got to grow up under this new freedom and God willing grew up to be awesome followers of Jesus. I am shocked when Jr. High students get forgotten about. They get assigned like the half brother to one of the ministries and it never really fits. That makes sense since the language of Jr. High is very unique. When i was in college i hear a statistic that after the Jr. High and High school years the percentage chance of coming to christ as adults is around 17% or something insane like that, the point is that these years matter is a huge way. How we help them reach their friends, the method in which we connect them with other Christians, How we help them grow in their faith and discover their gifts with the goal of honoring God with their life. All of that matters. Invest early and invest often and it will have practical ministry and huge kingdom impact that you will never be able to calculate. What we help them do and give them the ability to do will change their lives forever. Jr. High is vital.