Middle School

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.


That’s right, I said it. There are actually tons of perks those of us fortunate enough to work primarily with young teens enjoy that the rest of the youth ministry nation doesn’t. For example:

– Parents are somewhat interested in what we are teaching on Sunday, where we are going to camp, and what movie we are showing at the lock-in. Yep, that’s actually a perk.

– Most of the stuff you teach is brand new to them! For the rest of their lives when they hear old, worn out, illustrations and stories they’ll think to themselves, “Hey, this dude stole my junior high pastor’s story!”

Invite teenagers into an epic adventure with Jesus. Check out Pierced: The New Testament today!

– Their enthusiasm and energy. I know it drives you crazy sometimes (errrr, most of the time), but the fact that junior highers are almost always “all in” is a wonderful thing.

– They almost always look back at their time in the junior high ministry favorably. For some reason, the further removed from the ministry they get…the better the junior high ministry was!

– You get to cherry pick high school and college age volunteers who already understand your ministry and want to follow your leadership because they spent two or three years in it themselves.

– Junior highers say really funny/awkward stuff:
“Rachel, our van stopped on the way to the girls trip to feed a Hobo.”
“Kurt, your nose is big! But that’s cool ‘cuz there’s lots of great smells out there.”

– You are viewed as a Martyr in your church. Sure, many of the adults in your congregation don’t understand why you do what you do, or what you actually do…but they LOVE that you are the one doing it, not them!

– You get paid piles of cash! Ummm….scratch that one.

Add your favorite “perk” of working with junior highers in the comments!

How service-minded are your teenagers? Take this short quiz to find out!


  • Matt Beeman says:

    It allows an outlet from the serious adult world where we can act a little gross, a little crazy, and a little ridiculous, and have so much fun, you keep laughing for days (and weeks or months or years later when you reminisce on that experience)

    • Michael Kelly says:

      I agree! I’m in the Navy and being immersed in that scene, it’s so nice to be able to break away from the militarization.

    • Kurt Johnston says:

      So true! It’s like a “God Approved” way to escape the realities of grown up life!

  • Kevin Libick says:

    You fly under the radar. Sure you don’t always get the visibility, but that means you can get away with more changes and take more risks because people are scrutinizing you as much.

    • Kurt Johnston says:

      Ha! Sometimes I feel neglected due to the lack attention…but the reality is that we have a TON of freedom because of it.

  • Michael Kelly says:

    One of the coolest things I’ve experienced as a volunteer youth worker is when the 8th graders become 9th graders and come back and ask for advice in this new world of high school. It’s great to have had such an impact on them that they value my advice.

    P.S. Kurt, thanks for everything junior high here. Even as a volunteer, and not the youth pastor, I have gained so much insight to take to the troops!

  • James Davis says:

    Taking some of the junior high students out to a coke. That was the 1) cheapest youth event I have ever done and 2) the most profitable time I think I’ve had with them in a long time. It was really great to sit back and talk about Jr. High life and God and relationships.

  • Paul Anderson says:

    They WANT to do things together. If it were picking up pine straw with chopsticks, they would be all in. It’s awesome to have enthusiastic kids. Oh, they also think my house is cool.

  • This will be my fifth year to lead our middle school ministry at my church and I LOVE IT!! The part of the ministry of I love the most is the relationship building & how they just let you know what they are thinking and truly feel about things like you mentioned in your blog! During one of our announcements last Sunday I walk up on the stage & I am getting ready to teach and one of the boys raised his hand to ask a question and naturally I thought is was about our upcoming event- no it was about my hair cut and how it looked shorter than a few weeks ago!! HAA HAA! My own son who is in his last year of middle school said, “Mom your message was good but your hair reminded me of that old mullet style tonight!!” Honestly, it is such an honor to lead them to Christ & to help them grow as Christ followers!

  • Thank you Kurt for sharing your wisdom with us! I have truly been blessed by your books and blogs!

  • David Gibson says:

    True stuff about the funny/awkward stuff they say. One of the more recent things I overheard from one of my guys on a 12 hour van ride back from camp was, “Where’s my deoderant, my feet stink.”

    It’s a challenging ministry, but one I would never trade. The more I do it, the more I fall in love with it.

  • Craig Dumas says:

    my favorite perks of junior Youth ministry is having a arsenal of Nerf blasters, or dancing like an awkward 13 year old (again), and being the craziest adult they have ever met.

  • Leave a Comment

    Please keep in mind that comments are moderated and rel="nofollow" is in use. So, please do not use a spammy keyword or a domain as your name, or it will be deleted. Let us have a personal and meaningful conversation instead.