Simply Insider

Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4% of his time.

Hey friends!

Below is another fantastic post from Junior High Ministry Veteran, Scott Rubin.

thinkerIt seemed like a great idea.
Bringing six 7th grade boys to the food pantry to serve under-resourced people in our community. Help them appreciate what they’ve been given. Grow a little compassion in their hearts. Do you see where this is going?

My mood might have been 2% down at the start, after getting an email from a mom a couple hours before. She was basically scolding me for not including her email address on my communication about the night’s details I’d sent 2 weeks before, and again 2 days before. I had sent the email to her husband’s address, but apparently sometimes he doesn’t forward them to her. My bad.

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It was great to see all the guys as they arrived, and we goofed around for a few minutes before I pulled them all to the side to give them a real short “vision pep talk” about what we’d be doing and why. I felt like I was really rallying the troops for this night of service! One of the 6 put his hand up to stop me; I was ready for him to make an insightful observation about our serving. His comment? “I can juggle”. Ok! Glad we’re getting pumped up about helping neighbors in need.

Things started out decently; the “regular adult volunteers” at the pantry were really happy to have some extra help from our guys. We got assigned to pack some vegetables first. We had fun while we did it – and it was good to catch up with each of the guys. Our shift was only about 90 minutes … but after about 45, some complaining started. “I’m hungry!” “Didn’t you eat before you came?” “Yeah, but that was like 2 hours ago!” OK… I’m glad we’re getting the point of serving people who are really hungry. And then “I don’t want to touch those carrots. They’re wet! I hate carrots. Can’t we do something else?? Why do those guys get to do that, while we have to do this?”

Now without bragging, I’ve got to tell you that I’m pretty good with middle schoolers. Redirecting, refocusing, listening & adjusting. But for most of these guys, nothing was working. I really was feeling like this night was failing. At one point, I honestly wondered “Why am I doing this? There are plenty of other things I could be doing.”

But… there were 2 of the 6 who were almost completely dialed in, the whole night. When we took a break midway through, and I walked them around the facility showing them how it all worked, these two kept eye contact with me, and were really engaged, even if they didn’t say much. And they were trying their middle school best to not just help, but to help the other guys stay on task. But you know what I wanted? I wanted all 6 of them to be motivated like that. I didn’t want 4 pulling the other 2 into goofy-land. So it felt like “mostly failure” to me.

I don’t have a neat little tie-it-up-in-a-bow ending for this post. But on the way home, I felt like God was telling me, “I did more than you could see in those 2 seventh graders. And maybe in the other 4, as well.”

What feels like failure isn’t always failure…right? Right?

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  • Jody says:

    Love it man! This past summer on our Middle School mission trip I asked one of our 7th grade boys what God was teaching him. He replied “I can’t do everything on my own. I need others in my life to help me.” I felt as if the heavens had opened and angels were playing harps in the distance. I decided to take it a step further and asked, “so how will you apply that when we get back?” His response…”like when I get stuck on a video game, I will call a friend for help.” …Oh yeah, this is a middle schooler. Love middle school students. You never know what is coming next. Still a great lesson that I’m certain God will build on in his life. Thanks for the post.

  • Scott Rubin says:

    Ha! Thanks for sharing that, Jody. Good to know I’m not the only one. 🙂

  • Christianprincess says:


    Our youth ministry just went through a transition in who is coming to Bible Study. They are mostly middle school students. At the beginning of this transition, God and I had some serious conversations about my calling to minister to students. lol. Seriously, the lack of focus and 500 topics in 1 hour caught me off guard after getting used to high school and college students. One of the things I have learned in the midst of this is that the most precious moments and memorable for them come in these moments that seem so frantic to our adult minds. I have heard them mention things at a later date that I was sure they hadn’t heard because they appeared unfocused and even self-centered (literally) at the time. I was wrong. The fact that 2 were totally dialed in was a miracle. The other 4 may have gotten more than you believe. Be encouraged and great way of teaching an incredible lesson that effected these young men and those who were helped and fed.

    Thank you for loving students and ministering to their lives.

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