Junior highers are my people.
For most of ministry career I’ve had the privilege (did I really just say junior high ministry is a PRIVILEGE?) of focusing exclusively on this age group, and even as my role has changed this wonderful little tribe has remained the closest to my heart!
So you’d think that after 26 years of teaching junior highers in virtually every setting imaginable I’d be an expert; that I’d be the Peyton Manning of teaching young teens. Hardly. But I have learned a few things over the years, and this month I’m going to share some of what I’ve discovered. I don’t have a formula…just a boat load of tips, tricks and tidbits that you may find helpful in your efforts to teach junior highers without losing your mind, or your salvation, in the process. Each week I’ll share three somewhat related thoughts.
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KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
One of the most important things any communicator can do is have a thorough understanding of his/her audience, and never is that principle more important than when preparing to teach a group of junior highers. You need to know the stuff that is true for EVERY junior high audience such as having a good understanding of adolescent development and the universal junior high journey as well as a good understanding of YOUR junior high audience because it is unique and your students are different than mine. Remember, junior highers are twelve to fourteen years old, and as such have completely different needs in a teaching setting than a room full of thirty year olds.
Practical Tip: Knowing your audience starts with approaching your lesson prep with “what they want to hear”, not “what you want to say”.
KNOW YOUR POINT.
What do you want your audience to walk away with? You don’t need a 5-point sermon. You don’t need creative nuance and elaborate illustrations. What you do need is a point! The best junior high lessons are those with a clearly articulate point or “goal” of the lesson; a “takeaway” that every student in the circle will understand. Don’t be so creative that you are no longer clear. Don’t worry about being impressive, concentrate on lessons that make an impression! Keep It Simple, Stupid. Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them…and then tell them what you just told them!
Practical Tip: Start with the end in mind, then build every piece of your learning experience in a way that points toward that ending.
KNOW YOUR CHURCH.
How well do you know your church’s theology? Do you have a firm grasp on your Senior Pastor’s take on various subjects, social issues etc.? What subjects would be considered taboo or inappropriate for church? What type of jokes and language is “off limits” in your setting? A little understanding of your context will help prevent big headaches.
Practical Tip: Better safe than sorry. If you don’t know…ask!
Have a great week!