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?