Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Oh, wait, read the next line then close your eyes and take a deep breath. When you think of student ministry, who is the student that you imagine? Ok, now close your eyes and imagine those students. When I do this exercise I imagine my upper-classmen. The students that I have knowns their entire adolescent careers. The students who I have the most invest in and the ones who are either starting to show some good fruit or have really dramatic stories as they spiral out of control.
The reason this exercise is important is because this is the demographic we program for and teach to. But the reality is that student ministry is not just these upper-classmen. They are the 11 and 12 year olds who are just starting the process of individuation, who have much less dramatic stories, who are still concrete thinkers, and are showing little spiritual fruit.
But it is these 11 and 12 year olds who hold the key to long term, healthy, and sustainable ministry. How does middle school ministry stack up to the rest of your student ministry? How much time do they get? How much money do they get? When you break down the hours and budget for our youth program, we have intentionally decided to give a 100% more job hours to that ministry than we do to our senior high ministry.
Because it is so easy for me to plan my ministry around my mental picture of student ministry, I need to intentionally look out for resources that also value the unique place developmentally and spiritually 11 and 12 year olds are in. I often find books and websites specifically geared for middle schoolers are actually the best resources to accurately care for the larger ministry in age and developmentally appropriate ways.
One of the resources that I have enjoyed reading this last month is a blog by Terry Goodwin called, JuniorHighMinistry.org. It is a beautiful site with great content. The blog is updated weekly and has everything from practical helps, game ideas, curriculum options, and general issues surrounding middle school ministry.
What are some of the books and websites that you have found helpful as you strive to do ministry to middle schoolers? Please share those with us :)
I encourage you to take a look and soak up this good content. I would also encourage your to intentionally reflect on the mental image of the student you are gearing your ministry towards. Chances are they are upper-classmen who are actually in your mind developed like sophmores in college.
Let's remind each other that we do student ministry. And that the bread and butter of student ministry are middle schoolers, and those middle schoolers are 11 and 12.