After spending three days with some really wonderful junior high/middle school youth workers, I am reminded of a few things. Generally, junior high youth workers...
- Are incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about this age group. This makes sense considering the fact that most of them are volunteer or part-time, that junior high ministry is still considered the place to "cut your teeth", and that junior high ministry still, in many churches, is almost a "purgatory" between children's ministry and high school ministry. There really aren't a whole lot of external reasons to be involved in this ministry which I think makes those who are a little more passionate about what they do.
- Are good thinkers. I had so many good conversations about young teen ministry with fellow youth workers who really want to do it right and make an impact. It truly felt like an "iron sharpening iron" weekend.
- Are staying involved longer. It felt like a larger-than-usual percentage of attendees were junior high ministry veterans. Because junior high ministry is often the entry point to youth ministry, the turn-over rate is really high. That trend feels like it is slowing down a bit and it seems that there are A) more full time junior high youth workers who feel called to stay in it longer, B) More part time positions at churches which allows the church to keep somebody involved longer, and C) more volunteers who have fallen in love with this age group and are simply refusing to move out!
- Are feeling more appreciated than ever before. Despite the lack of external motivators, it does seem like more and more junior high youth workers feel like they are valued and appreciated by the church they serve and the church leaders they serve with.
- Are so dang fun! I can't remember the last time I laughed as much, as hard, and as consistently as I did this weekend.
As usually happens when one goes somewhere to "minister to others", I ended up feeling like I got the most out of the weekend. God used this weekend to remind me of the importance of young teen ministry. I didn't really think I needed a reminder, but perhaps I did and I'm thankful for it.