Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why Junior High

When I first felt called to youth ministry full time, I think I had equated "youth ministry" with "high school ministry" in the back of my mind. Middle school ministry wasn't even on the radar. It was called junior high for a reason; it was a substandard version of high school, right?

So when I was asked by Mark (ministry mentor and close friend) to help in the middle school ministry at our church in Portland, I had my reservations. But it didn't take long to fall in love with early adolescents, eventually devoting myself full-time to them as a junior high director.

Why I do I love junior high ministry? Here's why:

Potential. Every junior high student is filled to the brim with potential. They're just beginning to think abstractly, question authority, and ask questions about their own identity. Their lives are defined by possibilities and they're just mature enough to articulate their hopes and fears about themselves. The hard part is that this potential is often not realized until adulthood; we rarely see the fruit from our ministry until many years later.

Malleable. There is a unique teachability and openness to growth in early adolescence, mostly due to the fact that they're just starting to figure out life on their own. Most adults are quite set in their ways, and even many high school students seem to have already chosen the path they want to travel. In my experience, young teens are quite open to the insights of mentors and loving adults (and adults have a lot to learn from junior highers as well!).

Energy. There is a vibrant eagerness in junior high students that is simply contagious. Even the quiet shy kid will find themselves brimming with excitement with the right song, video game, or activity. Sure, there are moments where students look like they're about to pass out (like at 9:00 AM church gatherings on Sundays), but they still contain an incredible supply of energy. If we could somehow bottle this stuff up, we'd solve the world's energy problems.

Impact. I can only speak for myself, but I'm convinced that our junior high years are some of the most defining moments in our lives. I still have insecurities and bad habits that stem from the seventh grade. I also gained some valuable social tools and formed friendships that have lasted long into adulthood. In junior high ministry, we can have incredible impact on a person's entire life. These are defining moments, and especially defining if students choose to put their faith in Jesus.

Laughter. Junior highers are hilarious. Their lack of social inhibitions and deep fondness for silliness make them some of the most delightful people you will ever meet. I have one of the most fun-filled vocations around.

Why junior high? I get to hang out with incredible people and point them to Jesus. It doesn't get much better than that.

2 comments:

  1. Jr. High is def. my favorite, for the very reasons you mentioned. They are just fun.

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  2. I am thankful that you "do what you do" and are where God has called you. You are an important part of Craig's life and we pray for you as you lead him and his friends. There is never a dull moment in the life of a Jr. Higher!

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