If you’re a Jr. high or middle school minister, you know one thing to be true: Jr. high students are fun!
Yes, they’re also full of drama and they smell bad—but there’s no denying that they’re some of the most fun students you can have in your youth ministry. God created them to be that way, and as ministers to this age we get to revel in that fun! Don’t act like you don’t love it, because we all know getting to swallow an entire spray can of whip cream is one of your favorite things to do.
Fun for fun’s sake should always be a part of your Jr. high or middle school ministry, and here are five reasons why:
- It gives you access to a Jr. high kid. Young teenagers are at an age when they want wise advice from a caring adult, but they also want to make sure you’re “legit.” Some of that comes from your knowledge of the Bible and your ability to make sense when talking about life issues. But more of it comes from your willingness to meet them where they are. And for a Jr. high kid, where they are more often than not is a place of fun. When you play with them—whether it be video games or kick ball—you show them that you care about what they like. And access to that world leads to access to the deeper things, like the faith-filled conversations you want to have with them at the end of the day.
- It’s part of their DNA. A Jr. high kid HAS TO play. They have to. They can’t sit still because physiologically they need to be moving. Their bodies are constantly growing, their brains are on rapid-fire and they have so much adrenaline that it needs to be released. The best kinds of Jr. high ministries are those that can incorporate fun and movement into a lesson, utilizing something that is natural to them in a way that’s teaching them without them even realizing it.
- It helps to keep their attention. Most middle school kids are like Doug from the Pixar movie “UP”—they’ll be paying attention to you one moment and then chasing a squirrel they saw out of the corner of their eye the next. And though they’re at an age where they can grab hold of some abstract ideas, it’s developmentally difficult for them to pay attention to things for extended periods of time. Moment of fun peppered throughout your teaching times helps to keep their attention at all times.
- It breaks down their defenses. Similar to gaining you access to a Jr. high kid’s heart, fun has a natural way of letting someone’s guard down. It’s hard to be defensive with someone when you’re laughing with them. This is especially true of a Jr. high kid. We’ve heard story after story from youth leaders who have tried for months to get through to a particularly tough kid, only to have the kid open up unexpectedly in the middle of a dodge ball tournament or a paintball battle. By being present in the midst of their fun moments, you’re allowing yourself to be present in the midst of their transparency—and those are the moments where the Holy Sprit can do His best work. And isn’t that what youth ministry is all about?
- God is FUN! We adults sometimes forget one very important thing about God—GOD CREATED FUN! We serve a God who loves to have fun. He’s a God with a great sense of humor. He created us to run and jump and eat crazy foods and swim in creeks and even to dive into a kiddie pool full of chocolate pudding from time-to-time (your Jr. high kids would love it)! Too often our churches portray a portrait of a God who is still and unyielding and not a whole lot of fun to be around. But that’s not our God at all. He’s a God who wants to have a relationship with us and to share in our joy for life. So model this type of fun to your students, and embrace it. It’s one of the most beautiful things God made us for.
At Christ In Youth, one of our core principals is fun. Our staff even has a Staff Fun Day every May, just to embrace this core ideal. We work hard to incorporate it into our Jr. high weekend event Believe, and our summer Jr. high conference, MIX. If you want to find out more about these programs, click here!