Learning to Love Junior High

Five-second montage of the past month: graduated college, got a job in youth ministry, started that job, and too busy to post anything substantive here.

I’ve taken a position as Discipleship Director for 5th-8th grade at Riverwood Community Chapel in Kent, Ohio. I was familiar with the church before, having grown up in the area, attending Kent State, and having a few personal connections there, so when the position opened up and was offered to me, there wasn’t too much question about it. I love the focus and desire of the staff and community among three simple goals:

Worship God. Love People. Reflect Christ.

I’ll be honest, when I was working through my degree and searching for jobs, exclusively junior high ministry was not really on my radar. Junior high ministry tends to be the tag-along to any youth ministry job, but in the case of Riverwood, I’m working exclusively with the junior high age group, and a little younger. It’s come with a few unexpected challenges.

I’m only just realizing that, at least in my own mindset, I’d always treated junior high as secondary to senior high ministry, as if junior high ministry is about babysitting until they’re old enough to make big decisions and actually do something with their faith. I guess in that respect, I’m guilty of the very thing we tend to decry the church for when it comes to youth ministry as a whole.

Unconscious assumptions like these I have toward junior high youth ministry are surfacing as I’m getting acclimated to the new position, and I’m grateful for it. The exclusively-junior high focus of the position gives me the chance to work out the skills and habits that I’ve been most lacking in: connecting with parents, empowering volunteers, and simplifying my teaching. Not to mention the fact that junior highers will appreciate my at-times ridiculous side with a bit more humor than senior highers have in the past.

I’m just about finished reading through Wayne Rice’s Junior High Ministry. At the suggestion of a mentor, I read it as a quick crash-course in junior high world to prep for the position. In it, he suggests that anyone working in junior high do their very best to recall in detail who they were in junior high. Thankfully, my junior high years came before the explosion of social media to document everything in photos and comments. But I’m working out a few posts about what I can recall from junior high, maybe with a few old pictures. Stay tuned!

Question: What do you remember most vividly about your experience in junior high?

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