In a typical junior high ministry gathering, two things are almost always present: a game and a lesson. And believe it or not, the keys to success are mostly the same for each!
LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE: A short lesson is almost always better than a long one! Nobody ever complained that the lesson was too short. Plus, a short lesson leaves your junior highers actually wanting to hear more. Short games are almost always better than long ones too. Playing their favorite game too often ends up making it a game they are tired of and no longer get excited to play.
THE PAYOFF NEEDS TO EQUAL THE SET UP: The longer it takes to tell a story in your lesson, the better the “punchline” or application needs to be. When you start by saying, “I’ve got the most hilarious story in the world to share … ” it better be a pretty stinkin’ hilarious story. If you say, “Today’s lesson could be the most important one I’ve ever taught … ” it better be really important! A game that takes 10 minutes to explain and 35 seconds to play is a fail … the payoff didn’t equal the set up. When you send out a text claiming, “Tonight in JH ministry we will play a game of epic proportions … ” only to have the game be a rousing game of musical chairs, you lose.
REMEMBER YOUR AUDIENCE: Junior high ministry is about them, not you. The lessons you teach need to speak to the world junior highers find themselves navigating. Teach them what they want/need to learn, not what you want/need to teach. Likewise, your games need to be age appropriate and conscientious of the developmental stage and insecurities of young teens. Games that are overly competitive, overly physical and have the potential to be overly embarrassing are best avoided.
IF YOU WOULDN’T DO IT WITH PARENTS IN THE ROOM, DON’T DO IT! Would you tell that story in the lesson if parents were there? Would you make such a strong proclamation or manipulate your students toward a desired response as aggressively if a handful of moms and dads were sitting in the crowd? No? Then don’t do it in their absence. Would you play such an outrageous game if parents were present? Would it be as gross, edgy, dangerous, etc? No? Then pass.
What would you add to the list of “rules” that apply both to lessons and to games?