Let’s face it, there is a ginormous difference between a 7th grader and a 12th grader. There is a height difference, maturity difference, social difference, intellectual difference, and often a spiritual depth difference. But many of the youth groups across the nation, including my own until recently, lump these grades together.
Public schools figured this out a long time ago, that the education model at its best, features a separation between kids, junior high students, and high school students. So why do many church models feature a much different alignment? Factors include size of the youth group, lack of youth leaders, limited facility space, or just simply lack of time.
But what if you do not face those issues, and you realize it is time to launch a junior high (JH) ministry. Here are 5 steps to help with the launch:
- Dedicated Couple. This is the most important. It is listed first on the list, because without a dedicated couple, your JH ministry will most likely fail. Your first task in launching a JH ministry is to hit the recruiting trail. Look for a couple in your church that has a heart for young people. They don’t have to be theologians. They don’t have to be young. They don’t have to be hip, cool, jive (or whatever the kids are saying these days)…the main criteria is a deep love for God, and a love for young people. That’s what JH students need – a consistent, caring, and dedicated person in their life. And if the couple is not dedicated, they will quit next Tuesday, because JH students are a rare breed that require patience and dedication. Did I mention dedicated?
- Special Events. Junior high events, where do you start? Begin to look at your student ministry calendar and find those weeks where the high school students have something, and the junior high students do not. Those are the weeks you need to start brainstorming what events can be held for your junior high students so they do not feel left out and you show them they are a big part of the youth ministry too.
- Teach to Reach. Let me drop a bomb on you. Most worldviews are established by the 8th Yikes. So you think you should focus your teaching on 7th and 8th graders. Say it with me, “You betcha”. Who says “You betcha” anymore? Well, you just did. But seriously, teach on their level of understanding, but challenge them in their faith. Raise the bar in evangelism training, service, and theological intake.
- Brace for Impact. Immediately work with your dedicated couple to begin recruiting. I do not think it is a coincidence that the 1st year we are doing JH ministry, it is the largest JH group we have ever had. I haven’t taken a math class in a while, but it seems to be addition by division, so you better multiply or it could subtract. Get it? Help will be needed in quick order, so don’t lag on recruiting help. Begin praying and thinking of who can join the JH team right away.
- 6th Grade Jump. 1st thing you will want to teach is a transition class to the 6th Include in the curriculum all the basics: behavior in the worship service, communion, baptism, giving/offering, service, Bible study, worship, etc. Do not just assume your JH students know how to worship, have a firm grasp on the ordinances of the church, and have a desire to serve. Teach them!
These are not all-inclusive steps, but these will give you a firm foundation for establishing a JH ministry. In a small church, like mine, we still combine regularly. Without a full-time JH pastor or worker, it would be difficult to completely separate. But having dedicated teaching times, events, and ministry to JH is something that you can still accomplish even at a smaller church. Begin praying for that couple, and when God brings them to you, buckle up and trust God with this new adventure.
Recommended Resources: Controlled Chaos – Kurt Johnston, Kurt & Scott’s Junior High Adventure – Johnston & Rubin