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Junior High Youth Workers...

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.



If you work with middle school kids and don't read Mark Ostreicher's blog, you really need to. His post yesterday was a great reminder of why I respect him so much and enjoy reading whatever he writes.

I'm thankful for the friendship we have forged over the years, and even more thankful that it isn't a "cookie-cutter" relationship of complete like-mindedness. We differ theologically and methodologically (not even sure he knows what a "method" is), and he is one of the sharpest minds in youth ministry while I am one of the more simple-minded guys out there. A conversation between us is likely to look like this:

Marko: "Dude, (he'll start with that word to make you think he isn't all that smart), what do you think about the emerging, post-emergent, incarnational, communal, ecclesiastical, eschatological and formational implications of the current state of young teen ministry?" Note: I'm not sure I spelled all those big words correctly.

Me: "Dude, (I also start with that word to make you think I'm not all that smart) you wanna play dodge ball and then eat stuff?

Now THAT is an iron-sharpening iron relationship! This morning I'm thankful for Mark Ostreicher. I'm thankful that God is using him to shake me up a little bit and make me think outside my box. I'm VERY thankful that God is using him to do the same thing to the youth ministry world at large.

My question to you is this: Who do you have in your life who challenges you, forces you to question things, shakes up your paradigms and your status quo?


Things I'm Thinking About

I have no answers, and I'm not even sure WHAT I think about these things, but this is stuff on my mind today:

- Where is youth ministry really headed? Does it have to be headed anywhere specific? Is it our role to try to figure that out and direct it that way?

- When does being pragmatic become a liability? To me, theology and doctrine without practical application is somewhat pointless but I wonder at what point pragmatism gets in the way?

- If Christ were to whisper into my ear his top 5 priorities for youth ministry, what would they be (pragmatism at it's finest!)?

- If I eat two chili dogs for lunch, what are the odds I will suffer from heart burn later?


Random Randomness

- Last weekend was a fantastic one in our junior high program. We wrapped up our Three-week "Made" series with a lesson on 'becoming sheep'. The band did a fantastic job....led by a 9th grade guy who has one of the best/coolest/strongest/grungiest/ voices I've heard in a while. The only hic-up of the weekend occurred during our really large 6:30 service Saturday night. 6:30 on Saturday night is THE service to go to and is full of most of our highly connected and core kids plus a ton of community kids. Of course, it's our 'core' kids who can often be the rowdiest, not because they're punks, but because they are just so dang happy to be there, to see their friends etc. Anyway, I had to pause the program in the middle and give them a 5-minute "reminder" about appropriate behavior, respecting their peers who are leading the music, etc. IT WAS A TOTAL DRAG, but had to be done.

- I'm really excited about the GROUP conference this upcoming weekend! I think our 8-hour junior high ministry track is going to be super fun. Scott Rubin, Katie Edwards and I have planned some fun stuff.

- On a side note, Katie won't be able to join us which would be a TOTAL bummer if it weren't for the fact that she and her husband were given a foster child on Monday night so she needed to pull out of the conference.

- In two weeks, we start SCHOOL WARS which is our first-ever multi-week evangelistic push at our weekend program. We've put a ton of time and effort into the "series" and hopefully our students will respond by bringing their friends. The best way to describe it is a 3-week school-based competition (think American Gladiators meets Mad Max type atmosphere). The lesson each week will be a super short evangelistic message....same basic message all three weeks wrapped up a little differently.

- The latest SJH podcast is online now. You can watch it here.