the ys middle school ministry summit took place at spring hill camp in evart, michigan, in mid-september. 45 paid junior high or middle school-only youth workers attended. these are the mostly unedited notes. remember, they’re notes on a dialogue of 45 voices, not a refined set of ideas…
A HANDFUL OF QUICK TOPICS…
A. Student Leaders (Jr. High Student Leaders)
a. We have students teach the lesson for us
b. We have a monthly team that meets, and they are greeters, announcements, games, up front time, but also higher accountability.
c. All of our student leaders are given our expectations to focus on where they are going to be a missionary and helping them focus on being missional. We meet every 3 weeks.
d. Catchthis.net stuff – our students go out to their schools and start their own ministry.
e. Café team and tech team and are connected with the larger church as well to help with the coffee shop and also the big church tech stuff.
f. Tech team, encouragement team, follow up team (Barnabus 5), programming team (helps with big events).
g. No formal leadership team because our kids got too cocky about it. So we have a 2 hour bible study about leadership skills and going deeper. They don’t even know they are on a leadership team.
h. Cancelled leadership team because he couldn’t meet with them regularly enough, so have designed an organic form of being leaders in the regular group.
B. What is your definition of “Leadership” and what does a student leader look like in 7th grade?
a. Every student is given an opportunity to serve in various ways, also we have prayer groups that meet before every event that is open for the students to come and be a part of that prayer.
b. They don’t have to be “super church kids” but have leadership gifts – and I try and help them to lead in the right way.
i. When kids follow them, that can be a leadership gift.
c. Anyone can be in worship band, announcements, etc. but to be on the leadership team you have to be willing to do the “dirty” jobs. They have to be willing to come early, set up chairs, take attendance. The focus of our teams is servant stuff. This has changed the dynamic of our leadership team tremendously.
d. Getting other people to do what you want them to do is leadership.
e. Is leadership anything more than an opinion of what you have of yourself and what others have about you.
f. A leader is someone who inspires others.
g. We have some students who are just servants who want to serve on teams, and others who are servant leaders who want to lead those teams.
h. You have to force your leaders to be servants. But, are we hurting the shy kid who serves to be a “leader” when they may not want to be a “leader.”
i. At their developmental age, this whole concept can be a confusing thing for the students.
C. What are you doing to train these kids who are your student leaders?
a. They have to take risks and report about them. Risks of a social, emotional, or spiritual nature, centered on the kingdom of God.
b. We have teams and we have asked them to be committed for 6 weeks on a Sunday night and they start in their teams for 45 minutes working with a leader, then we come back for the last 30 minutes together and talk about what it means to be a servant and a leader – and talk about the heart of the matter. Then the last thing is to take them to a place in Fort Wayne where they will utilize those things in a mission trip type way.
c. We go on a leadership retreat at the beginning of the summer, which sets them apart a bit. It is 8th grader only. They are the pattern setter. This is a selective process.
d. With our students who are on one of our servant teams, they go on the mission trip during the summer and they come back, and normally the others who go on that trip end up joining the leadership team.
e. Sometimes if feels as if we are put under pressure to make a leadership team a program element versus just putting pressure on the students to step up and be natural leaders.
f. We do one-on-one mentoring with our leaders. We let our students experience all of the different teams instead of having separate teams that they stay on. We let them rotate around to figure out what they really like.
a. Pre-teen to Middle School
i. Our 6th graders were part of the children’s ministry, but they were so tired of children’s ministry and the Jr. High guy didn’t want to incorporate them in, so they created their own pre-teen ministry. There is some children’s stuff and some student ministry stuff. The 6th grade year is the transition.
ii. Our 5-6 graders are in our student ministry. One thing we are trying this year is trying to create more of a middle school model where we bring them together with the Jr. Highers to do something special. We don’t do a lot of these during the year.
iii. We have created a separate 4th and 5th grade program because a lot of them are not doing well with the 1st – 3rd graders in the large program. There are a couple nights during the school year where the 4th and 5th graders are invited to join the Jr. High group for just a regular night for observing and getting excited about what is to come.
iv. Our youth pastor tries to plug in to the lower level for a few events to build those relationships early and get comfortable. It is all about the relationships, and that can make the transition a lot easier. This has been helpful. Also, we started doing events that are a big event where we will invite the 6th graders to go with us. We also invite all of the volunteer leaders from that group to come along too though.
b. Middle School to High School
i. We use the summer for our big transition and do the 8th grade escapes where we do 8 events and have high schoolers come in to help lead. The relationship I have with the Sr. high guy and children’s guy is great and that has helped HUGE in how we handle these hand-offs.
ii. Communicating with parents, especially as 6th graders are coming in and same for the 8th graders. Give the parents the most information possible.
iii. We have the Sr. high guy teach on a Sunday and Wednesday and we push High school camp for the 8th graders for that great relationship building in the summer after 8th grade.
iv. We bring in key leaders that the high school has so they can begin to relate to the students and make connections with them.
v. Even though I am on a different page with the High School guy, I do talk to him all of the time. I talk positively about him to the Jr. High students as well.
vi. I don’t get along well with the sr. High guy, but we play nice. Especially since we are in the same office. We don’t work together, and I take both the incoming 6th and outgoing 8th graders to camp with me because the high school guy wants to focus only on those students he already has involved.
E. Staying Healthy in Youth Ministry. You are asked to give and give and give, so how do you keep a balance in ministry of keeping a spiritual life, not taking stuff home, and not drying out and having nothing left to give? What do you face and do (or need to do)?
a. We get one spiritual day per month where we cannot come into the office or do any business, but we go off on our own and take that whole day for a spiritual retreat. It is amazing.
b. I started a go-away, 3-day retreats once a year. This has done amazing things for me. I just go and shut up for 3 days. I give myself a ton of permission where I don’t need God to speak to me, but I make a rule to just shut up, get off email and be quiet. It is a matter of choosing to do this. I do this by myself, not with my family. I can’t slow down in a ½ day, so I need at least a day to detox.
c. There is no way I could survive in a ministry without a relationship with the Sr. High guy and the Children’s ministry guy – so I make it a point to spend time with them building relationships with them. I aggressively take time away as well, as it is essential to my ministry, health, and growth.
d. A consistent Sabbath. Once a month I do a ½ day retreat and journal, read, laying things out before God, etc. I do that once a month to get away from the office and the having to be and do stuff.
e. A critical one for me is meaningful, life-giving fun friendships that have nothing to do with ministry. People who are not impressed by me at all.
f. I have a date night with my wife that I hold to very tightly and don’t let anything get in the way of that date night. My wife and I made a policy that on date night we will not talk about our jobs at all.
g. With the marriage thing, we can feel a lot of pressure to do marriage the way others tell us to do it. We need to figure out what works for our own marriage, which each one is different. Know your spouse, know yourself, and build into your marriage what is healthy for both of you.