The Future Of Junior High Ministry

Yesterday I spent about an hour being interviewed by a publishing company who is trying to take a fairly comprehensive look at the state of youth and children's ministry. Over the course of our time, I was asked a bunch of great questions that I felt fairly confident in answering. I was beginning to feel like quite the expert when she asked her final question...a question that really shouldn't have stumped me: "What do you think ministry to young teens will look like in 5 or 10 years?" Maybe it was the fact that I was 'on the record' and knew that my predictions might be read by my peers, or maybe just that I was tired after a 60 minute interview. I don't know why...all I know is that my answer that now is 'on the record' was pretty weak. "Ah...I'm no futurist but I could see the return of the big event that is balanced this time around with a stronger small group structure to back it up." STUPID! Don't get me wrong, I do think the big program/outreach/lights, camera, action approach to ministry is due for a comeback (not so much because I think it works but, because like everything else, youth ministry tends to run in cycles) and I think we've learned the importance of small groups and won't trade the small for the big, but might come up with a good blend of the two. But this was my chance to say something significant and profound...to sound really smart.
So, to all you out there who are profound and smart: What will junior high ministry look like in 5 or 10 years?


chad s. said...

I have been in full time student ministry for eleven years and that’s a hard question for anyone to answer on a national scale. I can however tell you what we're looking at in our community.

For us, we will be challenged in the next five to ten years to resource, manage, and partner with new satellites that our “mother” church develops within neighboring or regional branches (sounds like a bank). As a result of that we will be training current volunteers to become and transition to those satellites as they develop. We will be more of a central hub which shares and partners with those satellites for everything from teaching to events. I will look more like an excutive pastor than a middle school pastor.

Outside of that internal structural change I don’t think that our student ministry will see any changes (hopefully) that will steer us away from the fundamentals of nurturing relationships and providing quality environments for our students to be effectively challenged with God’s Word. There may be many more options that we will need to create to help facilitate those two areas but those options will only result in those two core arenas; relationships and receptive environments.

I think that those options are going to require us as youth workers to grapple with the challenges of rewiring our student’s natural and generational desire to disengage and resist interaction with people (church) beyond the surface level where there is no immediate or expressed value evident to them. Outside of relationships the right to be heard will have to be seasoned with more sensory based and relationally shared experiences that create more "soul searching" than the easily forgettable talk or event. Now, I love talks and big events but realize that our students are going to have to be taken away from their world more and out of environments where they gravitate toward predetermined and almost scripted responses that are not honestly heart felt.

Deneice said...

One change (and I know this is generalization...not all churches are like this...mine included) I pray for is that "people" would stop underestimating Jr. Highers and what they are capable of doing, understanding, etc. Seriously, the 4th-5th graders I took on a retreat were given more "meat" than the Jr. Highers the next week at their retreat! There are those who think that Jr. High/Middle Schoolers can only handle the "fun, upbeat" songs and no nothing about worship. AUUUGHHHHH!

I would also like see (and again...I know not all churches do this...like Saddleback) 6th grade taken back OUT of Middle School/Jr. High programs.

Sean said...

Gee, you are all a lot smarter than me. I would have boldly predicted that our X-Box 360's would all be replaced by X-Box 3000's and probably have left it at that.

muzik316 said...

I'm still stuck trying to figure out if God is calling me to ministry let alone 10 years down the road, but man if He is then I hope that whatever it looks like down the road that it reflects Christ and not self because that’s all it's really about anyway right? You could take away the glitter and the lights but the message remains the same. Sure it sounds cheesy and shallow but think about it, Jesus said love God & love others. It’s simple and effective. We should base our ministries on those simple points and see where God leads. We have no clue what 10 years will bring or the next year for that matter. What about tomorrow are we promised that? What changes will the world see? As long as we love God and love others, ministry will be effective. If not, then the church dies with this generation. I’m reminded of a simple yet profound bit of verse. The first time I heard it I feel on my face and wept.

Share this brief quiet moment with me.
Let the lights and smoke all fade away.
And there's nothing left but Jesus,
And no one left but you.
Where will you go from here?

Welcome to the end of time well spent.
I hope the words I'm singin' find you well.
But, don't miss the message.
There's no greater truth.
Take refuge in His heart.

:: Refuge :: The Supertones ::

markeades said...

My small thought on this is it's all about relationship. "All ministry happens in the context of relationships" - Ray Barrett our former Sr Pastor who went to be with our Lord almost 3 years ago. Everything we do should be on developing relationships. Ever message, event, activity, talk, interaction etc. should be focused on developing relationships. If we can do this and stay constant with it the jr hi ministry of the future will be incredible.

.justin said...

a lot like "high school ministry" does now.

kids are growing older younger.

middle school/jr. high ministry is living proof of this.

late elementary will be the new jr. high in 5-10 years.

even the on set of puberty [GOD's development program is beginning younger]. of course there reaches a moot point, and their REAL maturity is or isn't really developing younger, but that's what i see happening.

muzik316 said...

Justin your very right... they are growing older younger. It kills me when I have students come in for lessons (I teach music privately) and they make comments, gestures, etc... that just blow my mind. I also think that people can blame it on whatever they like but I attribute it to the lack of parenting i.e. parental involvement within the child’s life.

B Skiff said...

There is a lot here, talk about a loaded question... I'm glad I'm not a famous youth pastor and don't have to sound smart an interview.

Per recent developmental trends (for more on all this and other cool stuff check out Chap Clark's stuff)... I couldn't agree more that there are new lines between age groups.. As a middle school pastor I have had a TON of 5th graders showing up to our programs. I love that age group... and I would agree with Deneice 6th graders are in a different world thatn 7th and 8th graders. I think ideally 5th and 6th and maybe half of 7th would be together and then maybe 9th 8th and the other half of 7th ... but there are infinite refinements and divisions and at some point I think it's better not to try to narrowcast everything and separate everyone and instead just have everyone together and go for it...
A lot depends on the size(relational, programatical, organizational) of the group and church...
I think the emerging church/worship trends are trickling down, although it looks differently. Ultimately I don't think there will be any REAL changes to the cores of personal reltationships, dynamic/strategic presentation, based in the message of real life change through the real, personal, God-man Jesus.
In the realm of the packaging, the LOOK of min. I had an interesting discussion just last night for two hours with a group of 30 middle schoolers about their expectations and hopes for our main outreach program. Naturally with MSers there are always (weekly, daily, hourly) complaints about activities, programs, boredom, stupidness, etc. Through the conversation and a lot of listening and clarifying on my part... we arrived at very much the same basic LOOK for the ministry but after two hours of working through all the issues and concerns the difference is that now they own it and it has become what they want what they have come up with and had some control over instead of just what I have foisted on them.
I think that students are looking for big change, i think they are just looking for something they can have some authority and autonomy in, which comes down to a lot of listening on the part of leaders. It's the most counter-intuitive thing to a teacher, especially types who want to solve every problem and answer every question, and explain away every concern or complaint. Middle schoolers don't buy it and when you take the time to listen without rebuttle and just confirm that you understand what they are saying, file it away and listen some more... it builds an amazing bridge, and trust that allows for great cooperation.