One of the major trends that I see occurring across Canada and the United States in terms of youth ministry is the significance of the Junior High Ministry. It seems as though many are waking up to the reality that a shift has been occurring in the development to of today’s teens. Many key youth pastor/youth ministers have started to the make the shift from their emphasis on Senior High with Junior High as a second thought, to the emphasis on Junior High with Senior High as a place of empowerment of students.
With tons of research to show that the shift in learning and the lifestyle of teens today, we see that how youth ministry use to respond to Senior High is now most effective with Junior Highs (ie. small groups/home churches, large group teaching, music, and reflection), how we responded to Junior Highs is best for grade 3-5 (games, large teaching,events, practical learning) , and how we responded to young adults is now for Senior Highs (ie. empowerment in learning, larger group interactive learning, practical living out the message, investment into social needs, small group emphasis etc.). This downward shift would like;y be something that we as those who work with youth should look at more intently, especially in regards to a pastors leadership emphasis.
What would it look like in our youth ministries to begin a flip where our youth pastors see their key emphasis on investing into the Junior High ministry with allowing strong small group leaders and student leadership to give greater emphasis to Senior High Ministry.
Given that junior high is now the critical years, the reality is that if students are not fully connected or engaged in Junior High, then they will not connect with the Senior High ministry – so by putting all our effort into Senior High, when their schedules are already becoming so full, we could really miss out on both groups in the long run. Just as young adults who were not fully connected in senior high dropped off, this could become the future of our Senior High ministries unless we make the shift.
If we want to have a strong youth ministry it will be rooted in a fully functioning and engaging Junior High ministry.