Written by Mike Sheley

I want to share with you six back to school ideas for your junior high ministry.

If you take the time now to implement these ideas, they’ll be really helpful as you move into back to school, fall, and winter programing.

They’ll help you evaluate summer and be more effective at planning what’s ahead.

– Nick Diliberto, Junior High Ministry

Summer File

Whether you use a paper filing cabinet or a digital solution, you will thank yourself next spring if you take the time now to jot down a few notes about the summer.

I like to use evernote for just about everything. When I jot down notes for evaluating my summer, I have the best of intentions of looking these over this fall or winter. But I usually don’t look them over until it’s spring and I’m putting together my summer plans.

Evernote allows me to store them and then search for them, whether I had typed the note, written it on a dry erase board, or taken a picture of something.

However you choose to record notes, note the following about your summer now and you will have what you need when you plan next summer.

  • Highlights of the summer (especially anything you might want to repeat)
  • Lessons learned this summer (especially anything you don’t want to repeat)
  • People, organizations, or resources that were helpful
  • Explanations for any changes you made compared with previous summers
  • Suggested changes to make in the future with their explanations


Summer can be a crazier-than-normal time in youth ministry.

How are you feeling? How are the junior highers and their families in your ministry feeling?

Evaluate how well you did at this summer’s calendar and keep that in mind as you plan for this fall.

Allow the following to be key points you highlight:

  • Did everything cost money or did you have free options?
  • Did students have fun and build relationships with peers and leaders?
  • Did you provide opportunities for students to serve and help others?
  • Was there a purpose to each listing or were you just keeping kids busy?
  • Would the word “healthy” describe your overall calendar?

Weekly Programming & Small Groups

As you look ahead at the fall, think back over how your weekly programming and small groups went last year. Use these questions to help you evaluate the past to give you wisdom in planning the future:

  • Did you have enough leaders in place?
  • Did new students feel welcome and have a good experience?
  • Was there a blend of serious Bible study and junior high fun?
  • Did students just attend or did they truly build community and ownership?

Curriculum or Content Plan

As we would share on this site, there are some really good resources out there for junior high ministry, if you know where to look.

However, no publisher knows your students like you do.

So the best thing you can do is sit down and plan out what you want to teach, what the most important content is for your students this year, and then evaluate what is out there as you choose what to purchase and/or what to create.

  • How well did you do last year at teaching what you wanted students to learn?
  • Did you have a blend of methods that helped the variety of learning styles?
  • Did you have the supplies you and small group leaders needed for activities?
  • Which curriculum providers or publishers had resources that worked best for you?
  • Anything new you want to check out? (samples!)


From the people who greet at the door to your tech team to your small group leaders to the folks who serve food, take time to evaluate your team of volunteer leaders.

  • Does anyone need a break?  Better to offer rest than to force burnout.
  • Does anyone want to change roles this year?
  • What needs do you need to fill to have an effective and healthy ministry?
  • Do you have a recruiting plan in place?
  • Have you planned formal and informal training?
  • Have you planned time for appreciation and relationship building (fun)?


From the middle school students in our ministry to the volunteers who lead them to their parents who have the greatest influence on them, are you doing a good job communicating with each group?  Side note: I have found that asking what schools do well in this area can provide great ideas for ministry!

Are you using the right method to communicate best with students? Which social media are they on? Do they visit your website? Do you have printed materials available in your space?

What is the best way to connect with parents? Is it worth all the work of a postcard in the mail or could you get the same or better results through an email service like mailchimp?

Would updates be done best over social media or directly through a text service like remind?

Were your volunteers on the same page as you and prepared last year? Or were they confused? Could a separate email list, Facebook group, or text service help you be more unified as a team in ministry?

Final Thoughts

You can go through this whole process on your own, but you will probably find it is better and more helpful to walk through this with some key parents and volunteers.

They help us see our blind spots. Don’t feel like you have to make changes or “fix” everything that comes out as a result of your evaluation. However, make sure you use what you learn and start with one thing at a time.

It’s probably good to remind you that some of the improvements may involve you giving someone else the opportunity to be involved and help. Don’t let the “e-word” scare you.

It’s a process to help us get better at helping students know and follow Jesus. And that is worth thinking about.

Liked this blog post? You’ll also enjoy this one:

Why Timing is Everything in Youth Ministry

BubbleMikeMike is the Middle School Pastor at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana, where he oversees their ministries for 5th-8th graders.  He’s been in full-time youth ministry over 15 years with most of that time focused on preteens and junior highers.