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…
What is it that we want kids to know by the time they graduate from Jr. High? What Biblical principals do we want them to learn? What topics should we cover? What knowledge and understanding, skills, relationships do we hope they would have? How much developmentally CAN they understand? (this is a critical piece of it).
Have we spent so many years raising the bar in Jr. High ministry that it is more about justifying our own jobs and making our ministries and jobs look good in the eyes of our church and our own identity formation? Maybe we should lower the bar in terms of Jr. High ministry in terms of what is age-appropriate and fit for Jr. Highers as a whole and not just the 1 or 2 rare super-Christian kids.
Do we integrate our programs and topics – such as the large group and small groups teaching the same thing? How do you decide the core things and then take them into the different programs and make them fresh?
Large group teaching might look different than the small group teaching. Small groups will go deeper into application, but the large group just gets presented the idea. There is a certain level of application that can be hit in the large group, but a deeper level that can happen in the small groups.
When a Jr. Higher leaves 8th grade we want them to know that God is real in the world and in their world.
Use an actual scope and sequence, or some focusing value statements.
(JH = “real”; HS = “relevant”; Col = “Revolutionary”)
“Not Much, Just Chillin” by Linda Pearlstein – a great book about Jr. High Development
“Why they act that way” – another good book
“Teenage Girls” and “Teenage Boys”
“Inside the Teenage Brain” – Frontline TV Special
PBS website has a lot of this information as well
There is a lot of research out there on middle school and adolescence because of recent research on this issue. There is a lot of information on the internet.
We can teach with authority, but still encourage students that within that authority be bold enough to ask questions in the faith and wrestle with their doubts.
Even as you set your curriculum, as you are learning on your own, as you have a passion about something – if you teach on that, that passion will be transferred to your students (or at least they will see the passion you have about it).
Teaching that our faith is not a set of rules, but it is a RELATIONSHIP with Christ! This can change your perspective on how your faith can grow or the intimacy can grow.
Spirituality in the bible is never measured by how much you know, but by how much you love!
Be careful not to teach behaviors, but to teach to the heart – the heart needs to change.
What’s more important than the content you teach is the FEEL of your Jr. High ministry. In many ways, the values are more important in Jr. High than the topics. What we do in early teen and young teen ministry, how we teach kids to use their brain is how their brains will be hard-wired for the rest of their lives. So, if we stuff their brains with the 8 pieces of content, they will hard wire their brain to be content receptacles. If we hard wire them toward feeling, understanding and processing things – relationships, love, etc., then they are poised for a lifetime of development in that area.
Parents want to know what you are teaching and you tell parents what you believe the students need, but some parents have been through adolescents at a different time and place. how do we bring them on board with the issues their kids are dealing with?
Sometimes we use the scope and sequence to legitimize our own job. So how important is the scope and sequence in the grand scheme of things?
We need to help leaders and parents understand how the teaching and values work together and that we teach kids about God so they can not just have head knowledge about God but so that it will change their life. We reinforce the values in our teaching and vice versa.
CORE CURRICULUM TOPICS: (the absolute essentials, that if you are not covering, you are missing something)
1) 7 Checkpoints
a. Healthy friendships
b. Moral Boundaries
c. Others first
d. Ultimate Authority
e. Authentic Faith
f. Wise Choices
g. Spiritual Practices
2) Survey your students
3) Identity and Self Esteem
4) Embracing Doubt/Critical Thinking
6) Spiritual Disciplines
7) My faith in Jesus Christ/Relationship with Christ
8) Primary Doctrinal Issues/Attributes of God
9) Articulate their story/own your faith
11) Life of Jesus Christ – if Christ is the ultimate expression of God to us, if you want to know God, look at Christ.
12) Relationships with others/Sex
13) Prayer, Honor (worship) and Missions – the 3 things that are taught to set them up to be prepared for what they will encounter in High school.
14) Missions/World View
16) Where kids fit in God’s story overall
CORE CURRICULUM VALUES:
1) A Separate Curriculum for each grade and for each gender
2) That kids would know God is real in the world and in their world.
3) Ownership of faith: pushing the “why” behind the “what”
4) Use your brain/teach discernment
5) Embracing doubt/Questions/Wrestling
6) Relational Approach to teaching/curriculum
7) Goal is love, not knowledge
8) Beware of teaching behaviors just for behavior sake. this is a tricky one, because it is easy to build a case for one side or the other of this and buy into it. Because there is a sense that there are two sides to this, so don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We need spiritual disciplines in our life, but there is a reason for them, and not just doing the behavior with nothing behind it.
9) Fact -> Faith -> Feelings get reversed to: Feelings/Experiences -> Faith -> Fact