Last November I had the privilege to host a ‘Burning Issues’ seminar with Mark Janzen from Willingdon Church at the Canadian Youth Workers Convention. Our seminar and facilitated discussion was on Taking Early Adolescents Seriously.
Our vision is that Junior High students and leaders will recognize the potential they have TODAY to shape the world of TOMORROW by understanding God’s calling for them NOW. We need to become more creative, intentional, and passionate about the students we care for. The students are not simply a younger version of high school, but are unique in their thought processes, activity levels, and their concept of God and Christianity. We as a community need to rethink and restart that which is currently Jr. High ministry. And, we need your help. We need to be directly connecting the Jr. High students and how they conceptualize the world around them. More importantly, we (the youth workers and volunteers), need to evaluate how we are currently underestimating the Jr. High student and how we can best prepare them for high school while allowing them to be themselves.
It was a great afternoon of equipping, empowering and resourcing Jr. High Leaders of various roles and job descriptions as discussion flowed around the room. In the next few posts I am going to post the questions that we brought forth in regards to some of the burning issues that make Jr. High Ministry unique.
The first burning issue that we brought forward was in regards to mentorship. The main question we asked was are we as leaders intentionally fostering relationships between our students and adults who care for them.
We then asked what does this look like in your context. What does mentorship look like in your ministry. That is where we would like to hear your feedback, so that we can continue to grow and communicate as leaders what has worked and not worked so well within our ministry contexts.
Here are the issues we placed up in the seminar.
Issue: Do we KNOW our jr. high students?
Issue: Do we intentionally allow for mentoring relationships within our ministry?
Issue: Does mentorship work in your context?
Issue: Are we connecting our students with caring adults?
We identified the first issue as, do we know our students because when we truly know where they are, what they are passionate about and where they are mentally we can connect them with the right adult mentors that can build and maintain a positive adult relationship in their life. The common feeling among youth workers is that each youth can benefit from having five adult who speak into their life that is outside of their immediate family.
It is not only our students that can benefit from a mentor relationship, but we will grow as leaders when we actively pursue mentors in our own lives. Who teaches you? Who challenges you spiritually, professionally and who challenges you to become a better person everyday.
Our solution was to create four mentorship possibilities in the lives our students and in our lives as leaders as well.
First, the student.
There needs to be a connection with an adult that is connected to our Jr. High ministry that can walk with the student spiritually and can be available to teach them what it means to live life with a biblical worldview.
Secondly, they need friends both in the church and outside of the church that challenge them.
Lastly, as leaders we need to work with our Children’s ministries to connect our jr. high students with the younger students under them. The jr. high student can help by volunteering in whatever ways that are required. This starts the student on their own leadership walk as they become role models for the younger kids in our churches. We did this at camp this summer by having our jr. high students read to the four and five-year-olds. It was great to see them interact and allow for the jr. highers to teach reading and listening skills to the younger kids at camp.
Mentorship is a huge issue in Jr. High ministry. The potential for building lasting and caring relationships is huge for our students, but it has to be evident in our lives as well.
The same issues apply to us as leaders as they do with our students. We need someone that is older, or has been in ministry longer than we have speaking into our lives. That will stretch our leadership potential and grow us as leaders. We also need to be that type of mentor for someone that is younger, or has less ministry experience than we do. I have had the privilege to become a coach with Lead 222. Through this coaching and mentoring team they hope to change the culture of youth ministry through mentoring relationships. I have learned and have been challenged by many of the coaches, which has strengthened my leadership skills. We also need to make sure as leaders that we continue to grow relationships with people that are in the same season of life that we are in. These people need to be both inside the church and outside in our communities.
Mentorship, are we intentionally connecting our students and ourselves with individuals that will make us better than we are today.