Our junior high ministry is getting ready to take a very short break for Christmas. It’s heading into slow seasons that I typically find myself reflecting on our ministry. Today I spent some time thinking about the various people who make up our junior high ministry who have recently brought a smile to my face.

Parents- Parents tend to get a bad rap, don’t they? I’m often quick to point out their flaws such overly protective, overly judgmental of our ministry or overly under-committed to what we’re trying to do. But the reality is that, for the most part, the parents of junior highers in my church (and I’m willing to bet yours, too) are supportive and enthusiastic about the role our church is playing in the life of their child. More often than not, parents put a smile on my face.

The ‘Steal my friend’s baseball cap and run around the room’ kids – I always complain about the squirrely little 7th grade boys who get a kick out of playing any variety of chase games. But, really, it’s the innocence of such kids that draws me to young teen ministry. ‘Steal my friend’s baseball cap and run around the room’ kids put a smile on my face.

Kids who are shy but show up anyway – You know who they are. They are the student who is obviously taking a step of faith just to show up to youth group. It’s painfully evident that they would rather be anywhere else than in the crowd of your ministry (to a shy kid even a few people can feel like a crowd), but there they are. Every time I think about the shy kids in my ministry…the ones who could so easily choose not to attend, I get a smile on my face.

Volunteer leaders who actually like junior highers – They aren’t there to keep an eye on their child, they aren’t there to keep an eye on the other adults, they aren’t there to keep an eye on the building. They are simply there because they like being involved in the lives of young teens. Leaders who actually like junior highers always put a smile on my face.

Friend bringers – Most of our first-time visitors aren’t brought by the cool kids. Most of them aren’t brought by the ‘Super Christians’ in our ministry. Most of our first-timers are brought by our average Joes. Our ministry is full of a whole bunch of run-of-the-mill 12-14 year olds who really aren’t doing anything spectacular…unless, of course, you call bringing your lost friend to church spectacular. Friend bringers make me smile.

I’ve had what may have been the busiest, most stressful, month of my ministry career. To be honest, I haven’t felt much like smiling the last 30 days or so. But as I head into Christmas and I think about the ministry God has allowed me to lead, I am reminded that there is ALWAYS a reason to smile.

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