WHAT MAKES MINISTRY TO JUNIOR HIGHERS UNIQUE?
Written by Nick Diliberto
As you know, junior high students are unique in many ways. Whether or not you have a specific junior high ministry separate from high school, you probably recognize the need to approach this age group in unique ways.
Most of us listen to podcasts, read books, go to conferences, and glean from our own experience about what makes them unique and how to structure a ministry around their specific needs. And that’s all really good.
But the one thing missing in all of this is getting feedback from other youth ministry leaders. Realizing that other leaders see the same thing validates what we think is true. And sometimes we might even learn something new.
That’s why I posted this question on our Facebook page last week:
In your opinion, what’s the #1 thing that makes ministry to junior highers unique?
I’m going to share with you some of the top comments from that post, and then challenge you to do some reflection on how to address those needs with your students.
Let’s do this…
Kevin Banberger wrote:
“They are the most impressionable. It is the time of their life and your ministry that you can have the biggest impact. It is at this age they will lay the foundation for whether or not they will invest their teenage years in their spiritual development or not.”
Question to reflect on:
What foundation are you intentionally laying for junior highers in your ministry? How does that affect your teaching themes/series throughout the year?
What can you do to inspire students to own their relationship with God for themselves?
What specific life skills that are rooted in a Biblical worldview do your students need help with to navigate early adolescence?
What big theological/Biblical concepts will best lay a firm foundation for junior highers?
Anna Miller wrote:
“They’re somewhat mature but not jaded, they still know how to have fun without worrying about appearance, and they’re impressionable which makes them eager to listen and learn!”
Carlos Rebollo wrote:
“They ‘imitate’. They want a real role model. A mentor.”
I love this quality of junior highers. Whether you know it or not, you and all the leaders in your ministry are role models to every single student. Not just the ones that are intentionally mentored.
I recently listened to Episode 30 of the Controlled Chaos Podcast, and Kurt Johnston elaborated on this point.
He said that junior highers learn more from the behavior they see others exhibit than they do a teaching or message.
In other words, you’re constantly teaching students by the way you react to discipline issues, how you handle conflict, how you treat difficult kids, how you respond to authority, etc.
They soak up the behavior of those in authority around them. They’re impressionable.
And then, of course, you increase your impact in student’s lives when you mentor students 1-1 and in small groups. And this is really critical in the junior high years.
Some questions to chew on:
What are students learning from your actions/attitude when it comes to:
- Handling conflict?
- Acceptance towards those that are different?
- Dealing with difficult students?
- Respecting authority?
- Tolerance of those that have different values and beliefs than you?
How are you intentionally mentoring junior highers 1-1 or in small groups? Are you doing anything? If so, what’s working and what’s not working for you right now?
Many comments referenced the popularity of Fortnite.
Ha ha ha. Love it. So true! Seems like the Fortnite craze continues, and in my experience, high schoolers are just as addicted.
My two teenage boys (9th grade and 11th grade) continue to spend most of their free time playing the game.
I think just about every youth leader is on top of this one. Coming up with games, events, messages, etc. that are Fortnite themed.
(Side note: If Fortnite lessons interest you, then check out our new Be Brave series. It’s a 4-week series that draws upon themes from the popular Fortnite video game, teaching students that they can be brave, strong, confident and bold because God is with them.)
So, there’s not much to say here. Other than to continue to keep a pulse on what’s going on in the lives of students. When something new hits, always look for a way to use it to grab students’ attention.
I think this is especially true in junior high ministry. More so than in high school.
Kyle Boward wrote:
“I teach/lead kids of all ages. I have Children’s Church for 3rd and below, Junior High Youth and High School youth. Junior High is my absolute favorite group. I have deep conversations about faith with my high school kids, but when something clicks for a junior higher, it is the best feeling in the world. They are still so young in their faith and a lot of times they aren’t sure about where God is leading them. I see the biggest growth within this group. I work at a church of about 100-150 members… I have about 30-50 youth in my program. When a meaningful conversation is had in junior high, it makes me believe that God put me in the right place to make a difference.”
I’ll pretty much let Kyle’s words speak for themselves. Good stuff.
Well, there you have it. That sums up the top comments from the Facebook post.
Obviously, there is a lot more to say about junior high students. There are entire books that have been written about the subject over the years.
We didn’t even scratch the surface in this blog post.
A few parting words.
First of all, I hope you take some time to reflect and take action on at least one thing that was mentioned in this blog post.
Seriously. Pause. Reflect. Pray about what you just read.
If you could tweak just one thing, that would be a win.
Second, I’ve got some good news.
We’re going to start focusing more on junior high ministry here at Ministry to Youth.
You may or may not know that Ministry to Youth is more than just this website. It’s a family of youth ministry resource websites.
Our junior high website is a part of that family and is 100% focused on junior high ministry.
Although the website has been around for about 6 years now, our team has recently made a decision to give it much more attention.
And that means we’ll be releasing a lot more free junior high lessons/games and be creating more online content centered around various approaches to junior high ministry.
We’ll also be releasing a lot more junior high series (like our brand new 4-week series, Life Hacks) and bundles.
It’s going to be awesome, and our team is really excited about the new direction.
On that note…
We’re pretty excited to announce a special junior high bundle that goes live for one week, October 19-25. Save 92% on 3 years and $1,400 worth of junior high ministry lessons and games.
Be sure to check out the bundle.
– Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth
Nick Diliberto is the creator of Ministry to Youth, a collection of youth ministry websites (including this one). He’s married to gnarly triathlete and dad to three teenagers. He’s been involved in church leadership for nearly 20 years.