Youth Ministry

Do We Need A Junior High Youth Group?

The high school students who gather at our church once a week seem to find in one another an important cohort where they feel they belong and can be themselves. Junior high students not so much.

Youth ministry with junior high kids has been tricky for as long as I’ve been here. Middle school is 7th and 8th grade in this community, so you’ve got half the target community as high school. But there are other obstacles. This age is characterized for most junior highers by such a high level of self-consciousness that it takes a leader more skilled than I to engage students in conversations in which they will offer anything more than a glum nod or stream-of-consciousness rant. That’s junior high for you. It’s beautiful. It’s a nightmare.

Talking with my colleague today, I started to wonder if the weekly junior high youth group is useful to our students at all right now. Maybe we can serve them better by offering them occasional gatherings that are low-risk and yet still interactive, that blend the bubbly girls with the Eor boys and the All Star boys with the wallflower girls, that are easy entry points to relationships for students and their friends with adults in the church who care about them. Maybe once a month?

Is this a junior high ministry model anywhere that you know of?

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5 thoughts on “Do We Need A Junior High Youth Group?

  1. You asked; “Is this a junior high ministry model anywhere that you know of?” Sure – for boys there’s Christian Service Brigade, Calvin Cadets, Trail Life USA, Royal Rangers, even scouts. For gals, there’s Pioneer Girls, GEMS, Missionettes, and American Heritage Girls. Most of these programs are designed to be operated as a direct ministry of the local church, and offer curriculum options from K thru 12 and some extend thru college/career (ideally age 25). These bring in older men and women as helpers and mentors, and most put the older students directly in charge of the younger — to practice responsibility, mentoring, teaching, friendship, kindness, caring, et.al. (1 Tim 5:1-2; Titus 2:1-8, et.al.) All the while, providing a platform for sharing the gospel, leading bible study, and having fun with crafts, outdoor activities, skill programs, etc. Giving the junior highers something to do and having them work side by side with older boys/girls helps them break the ice, extend out of isolation, and keep them focused on good things as they navigate through the awkward (social) transition years. These sorts of programs helped my dad when he was “that age”, my sister (13 years my senior), my older brother (9 years my senior), me and my sons (17 and 19 now). Just my 2 cents.

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  3. We’ve begun a Friday night middle school youth gathering that includes parents and siblings once per month. We meet at youth homes, have dessert, and do a 15-20 minute faith building activity that includes parents. Then we allow some time for games or conversation. So far it seems to be working well. Having parents there seems to provide comfort and additional adults for the youth to build relationships with. Good feedback and participation so far. I’ve been using the Way to Live leader guide by Dorothy Bass for topics, prayers and activities.

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