This past weekend I took my JR High students to Forest Home Winter Camp. Not only do I love ministering to middle school students, but I love Forest Home Christian Camps—out of all of the Christian camps I have been to, Forest Home knows how to do it right. The food is great, facilities are great, programming is great, JR director is great, location is great, and the worship and teaching are always right on!
Ministering to middle school students is also great. Middle school students actually listen , respect, and obey you. If you say: “Hey, lets jump up and down and scream” they will do it. Middle school students are so dependent and clueless. It was sooo funny, throughout the entire weekend only one boy out of 14 took a shower. Needless to say our cabin stunk bad and it did not even phase any student that our cabin stunk, but they also stunk! The weekend was a blast! Although throughout the four camp worship sessions, I paid close attention to how the speaker was connecting, communicating, and illustrating his four messages to the middle school students.
In these four speaking session, I was asking the questions of: Do these students understand what is being said? What are great spiritual topics to teach to JR High students? What teaching/speaking method works the best for JR High? What stories should be shared? Can students understand the hard theological topics within the Bible? How long should a JR High message be? Does a JR High message need to include the JR High students’ participation and interaction?
Through my contemplating, reflecting, and asking I concluded that when delivering a message to JR High students it needs to be clear, concise, simple, narrative-based, short (15-20minutes), high energy including much randomness, and heavy usage of props, pictures, movies, and illustrations.
Communicating to JR High students is completely different than communicating to SR High students. JR High students are concrete thinkers while SR High students are abstract thinkers. JR High students are intuitive. They like to feel life. They need to feel Jesus, than learning about Him. A JR High communicator needs to layer his or her message in the affective. One can successfully do this by relying on the story of Jesus. All throughout the gospels Jesus uses stories to teach His followers. Jesus’ teachings are simple, but yet very profound. Jesus rarely tries to hammer out complicated doctrine for only the elite to understand. Bottom line: We as JR High communicators need to be sensitive to where JR High students are at spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and cognitively. Before we connect the middle school student to Jesus, we need to first connect with them. We need to establish a rapport with the students in order to achieve the task of delivering Jesus. It should be our goal as Youth Pastors to get middle school students to know, trust, experience, love, and obey Jesus.