We can't! We will! We did....kinda!

Yesterday, our junior high team holed up for about 8 hours worth of long term planning. We talked about virtually every aspect of our ministry but camped out for a significant amount of time discussing and, to some degree, debating our approach to 'educating' our students. We talked educational philosophy, learning styles, content, scope and vision, large group learning, small group learning, helping kids grow on their own etc. Several times throughout our conversation, Jaime would interject something along the lines of 'There's no way we'll all agree on this....entire school systems can't agree!' or 'Jen (his girlfriend) and her teacher friends have this exact same discussion all the time and they've never figured this out...that's why we have public schools, home schools, charter schools etc.' I would reply something along the lines of 'Sure we can!' or 'We'll figure it out because we have to figure it out' or some such arrogant statement.

In the end, we figured it out....kind of. I think (because it's only kind of figured out, I'm still not exactly sure...) we decided a few things when it comes to how we'll approach Christian education in our ministry:

- The 'feel' of junior high ministry is more important than the formal teaching time and content of that time. In other words, creating a safe place for students in early adolescence may be the best lesson we could teach.

- Our ministry is always teaching. Formal or not, just about everything that happens in our ministry is teaching our students something.

- We decided to begin the process of pinpointing the 10 topics that we want every junior higher to be exposed to in their two years in junior high. These topics will each consist of a three week large group curriculum, a 1-3 week small group curriculum and materials that students can use on their own for deeper learning. The rest of the curriculum will vary from year to year as we see fit.

So, instead of totally random/felt-need stuff or a concrete 2 year comprehensive curriculum we landed on a 'both/and' that has some stuff set in stone from year to year and other stuff that is much more flexible.

Here's where I'd love to hear some input: What are your 10 non-negotiable topics that you would want every junior high student to learn about over the course of their two-three year experience in your ministry?


Pastor Chris said...

My question is, how did you arrive at the number 10? Shouldn't the number be directly tied to the non-negotiable concepts or truths and not the other way around?

As for us, we are doing a similar plan where we teach the 7 Checkpoint topics and add our own ideas here and there.

Kurt Johnston said...

Chris...I agree. That's why I said "I think...." because we may very easily end up at a dozen or at eight instead of ten. I'd ask you the same question (not to challenge, but to learn): Did you arrive at the seven checkpoints because they match up with your pre-determined non-negotiable concepts or truths or was it the other way around?

Pastormarkee said...

This is extremely important and good stuff. Thanks Kurt for your post. This has been on my heart even before the Conference in Indy that you, Scott Ruben and your teams did there. Sorry it is so long but this is the #1 issue we are dealing with here in Cedar Rapids, IA.
Chris - I also have looked at and even started a year using the 7 check points but found them lacking when it came to early adolescent development in some areas. It’s a good start but there isn't a strong focus on helping kids with their self-esteem issues which I believe every jr hi kid deals with. Also the need they have for strong personal and Biblical relationships with adults (other than their parents), I believe, is extremely important. I don't think Andy really address this much.

Here is one of the "lists" I've worked with to help develop curriculum:

Tweenagers (I took this term from an old book called: “To young to drive to old to ride”) have basic needs:
a. Accepted – The need of acceptance will sometimes out weigh the need to do what is right.
b. Security – The teenager’s life is in constant flex. They are changing almost daily. They need to feel safe with the environment around them while they are going through so many changes.
c. Spiritual – They are working out their own faith.
d. Achievement – They need to feel they can accomplish things. A feeling of success.
e. Integrity – They need authenticity in the lives of those around them. They need to see honest, moral, Biblical lives around them.
f. Love – They often get love and sex confused. They need to be taught what intimacy is.

Also Marko put together this in his book: help I’m a jr hi youth worker:

Top Ten Topics
- God’s grace. Kids must re-understand this during their young teen years
Key thought – The spiritual development of young teens ties in directly with cognitive development. Because they gain the ability to think abstractly, everything about Christianity takes on fresh nuances and meanings.
Changes. Help them get a clue about what’s happening to them.
- Sexuality. Not just sex. Most junior highers, I’ve found, posses more misinformation than truth about their own sexuality. That they were created as sexual beings is a profound truth to junior highers.
- Living for God. Junior highers are capable of a deeper and more meaningful walk with Christ than most adults allow them to attain (and some adults have – my thoughts).
- Why believe? What’s the point of being a Christian? Every kid asks this question at some time during the teen years. Address it head-on.
- Making good decisions. More than anything else, kids want to make their own decisions. So the best long-range work you can do with junior highers is helping instill in them the habit of evaluating choices before they make them, and then making wise decisions from among the options.
- Friendships. How do they work? How do I start them? How do I keep them? What about cliques? What about fights?
- Family. It’s a war-zone out there for two-thirds of your kids; and a semi-blissful na├»ve home life for the other third.
- Basics of the Faith. Why church? What’s the deal with worship? Why should I pray? How do I pray? Is the Bible reliable (digestible, and useful?)
- Who are God and Jesus? Separate myths and childish misconceptions from the truth.

Kurt said...

Kurt it is so funny you just posted this, only in the past month my supervisor has put it on my 90 day to-do list to begin formulating such a list.

We too are considering adapting the 7 Checkpoints (as Pastor Chris uses) and making them our own. Not sure if everyone out there knows it or not, but they actually have year-round curriculum for those that become partners with their ministry.(http://www.7checkpoints.com) Now we wouldn't use ALL of it, and we would definitely make it our own...but I agree we need to become more intentional about what we teach, when we teach it and what stuff needs to be taught more than once.

I know one problem that we are facing is that a majority of our students attend twice a month, and usually not consecutive weeks. So they don't get all of a four week series. Do you notice this at Wildside?

Kurt Johnston said...

We have a whole lot of kids from similar scenarios. I guess no matter how we structure our teaching times, lots of kids are going to miss key lessons.

James Giroux said...

In the fall we're moving into the whole 7 checkpoints thing, heavily adapted of course but we've also included a list of 7 worship instincts as well (aesthetic, experiential, activist, contemplative, student, relational and naturalist). The worship instincts are a way of reminding ourselves that not everyone worships God in the same way with the same amount of passion.

It's still a work in progress and I can't guarantee that it will look like this when we launch again in September but so far so good. I like the 7 checkpoints curriculum because there's a lot of room to adapt it.

I guess the question is are you teaching just spiritual truths, is that what you want to boil it down to or are you thinking more wholistically? Does all your practical stuff fit under a spiritual truth? I think it's great you're trying to do this. Thanks for including us in your thinking.

James Giroux

kingmedia said...

this is seeming to spark a bit of interest. i hope that when your team figures out what and how many concepts that you will be focusing on that you will share with us here. pastormarkee's two long lists are good.

Darth Pastor said...

I like the idea of exposing students to certain topics within the time they are in your ministry. Student ministry is so much different than, say children’s because we get students from all faith levels at the same time.

Our team is heading to the Orange conference which is supposed to build a bridge between children's ministry and student ministry within churches. I'm not sure if it will be good or not but it will be great to be in the conversation.

I suppose my observation is that many times children's ministry curriculum is more sequential based where they build upon each topic. Student ministry is much more messy in the fact that we can have a student who's grown up in the church right next to a complete atheist and we get to try to reach both of them.

Ours is in process as well but our three main areas we focus in on are Up (relationship with Jesus), In (relationships with others), and Out (relationships with the world). We’re working on particular things we want students to be exposed to in each of those areas.

I'm looking forward to everyone's thoughts!

Mark said...

how does your list intergrate with HS? I mean, we middle school, have students 2-3 years. This is great as a base but, faith development continues. Do you talk with HS? Do they share your 10? I am trying to figure this out. I am a middle school pastor who's HS guy will not work with me. We have two seperate ministries, philosophies and goals. Just looking for ideas to bridge the gap.

Josh Mann said...

Great question Kurt, it's one we've been wrestling with for over a year on our whole student ministry team. For us it really landed first on what kind of students are we trying to see develop, what do they look like? That would inform what and how we taught more than anything. It was surprising to realize that we, nor did seemingly many others, have a clear description of the type of person they were trying to see students become. We collaborated for a while and came up with the list below that we believe is a big enough umbrella to cover all the biggies. We have then taken that list and it's underlying topics and formulated a plan to teach the five qualities at middle school and high school levels. So far it sounds good in theory, we'll see if it helps us make more and better disciples of middle school students.

Growing in what we believe and why we believe it.

• Certainty of salvation – Romans 10:9-10
• Articulate Testimony – 1 Peter 3:15
• Critical thinker – Matthew 22:37
• Life-long learner – 2 Peter 3:18, 2:2
• Commitment to Scripture/clarity of doctrine – 2 Timothy 3:16

Pursuing a deeper relationship with God and unity with other believers

• Intimacy with God – John 15:5, 1 John 5:20
- Spiritual disciplines (prayer, worship, Scripture, fasting…) 2 Timothy 1:7
• Community with believers – Acts 2:42, Hebrews 10:25

Conforming our lives to reflect Christ privately and publicly

• Influencer – 1 Peter 2:12, Matthew 5:16
• Holiness – 1 Peter 1:16
- Brokenness
- Humility
- Fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23
• Actions support conviction – James 2:17
- Inside matches outside
- Consistency

Recognizing and fulfilling our unique role in God’s greater purpose

• Identity
- Knows God gifted areas & God placed passion
- Spiritual gifts
- Living sacrifice
• Purpose
- Who has God wired me to be
- Intentionality

Responding to needs with a spirit of mercy and humility

• Servant – 2 Corinthians 9:12, 1 Peter 4:10, Mark 10:43-45
• Concern for lost & least – Matthew 25:40, Luke 19:10
• Justice seeker – Luke 4:18-19, Proverbs 29:7
• Missional–going attitude – Matthew 28:18-20 • Peacemaker – Mathew 5:8, Hebrews 12:14, Romans 12:18

Kurt Johnston said...

Josh, I like those categories. We currently do some stuff on Courage, Compassion and Charector.

Charector is knowing what's right in any given situation.

Courage is the ability to do what's right in any given situation.

Compassion is the understanding that life sucks for a lot of people and we need to have the charector and courage to do something about it.

A lot of what we teach can fall into that system, but what you listed is more complete.

Pastormarkee said...

Wow this is good. I wanted to echo Mark's post about what bridges are we using to connect our kids into the SH group. Also, what about bridges that connect us to the children's minstry since a bulk of our incoming new kids come from there. I think knowing those bridges will help us build our "we wills."