If your junior high ministry is like most, you are in need of help, and are constantly on the lookout for suckers (errr, qualified candidates) to join the cause. And, if your junior high ministry is like most, because you are in need of help, you likely accept just about anybody with the courage to say yes. And, if your junior high ministry is like most, because you accept just about anybody with the courage to say yes, you often find that you’ve worked way too hard to get way too many of the wrong type of volunteers!
The answer is simple. You need to determine in advance what type of volunteer you deem suitable for your junior high ministry. Just because somebody is willing, doesn’t mean they are qualified! And while there are lots of things to think about and some requirements will differ from church to church, I think there are four things I would suggest are universal and very important when considering who is allowed to lead young teenagers at your church.
Spiritual Maturity. It drives me crazy that many churches view junior high ministry as the perfect place for new believers or rookie servants to “cut their teeth”. It’s as if churches are saying, “We will let immature leaders serve in an area they can cause the least amount of damage”. And while I appreciate the desire to let immature leaders serve, I strongly disagree that it should be with junior highers! Young teenagers are in an incredibly important season of life that is marked by physical, social, spiritual, emotional and intellectual changes. They are full of doubts, insecurity and questions. Because of this, they deserve to be led by people of mature faith. This doesn’t mean younger believers can’t serve in junior high ministry, but it should certainly influence to what extent and in what capacity.
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A “Like” of Junior Highers. Don’t look for people who love junior highers, look for people who like them! Every Christian in your church is supposed to love junior highers because it’s a biblical mandate to love one another! But not everybody likes junior highers! Find people who actually like being around them, who enjoy their quirks, who are comfortable with their doubts and questions, who are frazzled and frustrated by their squirreliness.
A Highly Developed Skill For Listening. Good junior high youth workers listen…..a lot! Good junior high youth workers know how to ask great questions. Good junior high youth workersknow they need to earn the right to be heard, and earning that right usually involves way less lecturing and way more listening.
A Long-view. Something we remind our junior high volunteers of on a regular basis is that they are playing a part in the process. We remind them that God has our junior highers on a wonderful spiritual journey, and we get the joy of being part of it for a couple of years! Good junior high youth workers embrace this reality and don’t put pressure on themselves to make sure every boy and girl in their ministry is a “fully devoted follower of Jesus” by the time they graduate 8th grade. Instead, they plant seeds. They water. And on occasion they get to see a harvest! Good junior high youth workers help junior highers understand the long journey of life, that their faith-walk won’t be complete by the time they enter high school, that it’s okay to be an imperfect follower of Jesus as a twelve year old.
So, how do you ensure your junior high ministry team is filled with men and women with these four qualities? You use them as part of your interview criteria (yes, you need to be formally interviewing every junior high ministry candidate!), you formally train them in these areas, and you help them get better at each by intentionally pointing out areas of success and areas in need of growth.