Only a week into my career, I learned something: Tension makes me uncomfortable, and youth ministry (especially junior high ministry) is great at creating it. Like most people, I have a built-in desire to avoid discomfort, so I spent many years trying to avoid ministry-related tensions.
Then I realized tension is actually a good thing . It keeps me on my toes, relying on Jesus and constantly learning. Consider these common tensions that junior high ministers experience—and why they’re beneficial:
• Spending time with kids vs. being in the office—Without this tension, you’d spend a disproportionate amount of time doing what comes easiest to you and neglect the other area. This tension keeps you effective and keeps your schedule somewhat balanced.
• Scheduling youth group events vs. honoring family schedules—Should you plan lots of activities and let kids pick and choose? Are super-busy families and overscheduled students your ministry’s problem? Either a busy or sparse calendar is fine, in my opinion. Embracing the tension you feel while thinking this through will help you land on the best solution for your setting.
• Fun and games vs. “deeper” youth group stuff—This tension is often rooted in our own insecurities as junior high ministers: We want to be taken seriously, so we do serious stuff. But this tension forces us to constantly be aware of young teenagers’ needs. As we get older, we’ll probably enjoy the fun and games less and less, so this tension serves as a “protector of stuff our audience likes.”
• Feeling content in junior high ministry vs. “moving up”—Most churches view junior high ministry as the place where young leaders cut their teeth; after all, these kids are resilient, and it’s tough to mess them up much. Eventually, a church leader will give you the opportunity to move up to another ministry. If you feel a calling to junior highers, you’ll experience instant tension; you want to stay true to your calling and passions but also desire the respect of leadership. This tension helps you determine when it’s time to move on and when it’s okay to stay…even though others might not understand that decision.
I’ve listed four tensions but could’ve listed 40. Here’s an assignment: Sometime this week, make a list of the bigger tensions you feel. Then note why each is actually a good thing.