Imagine a place where junior high students come together in meaningful community, form long-lasting friendships, and grow in their relationship with God in a healthy, drama-free environment.
That is either a parallel to your current situation (and we’re all kind of jealous right now), or you’re just not quite there yet (that’s the rest of us).
Our students desire “community” with each other.
It’s that feeling you belong and are on the same page as everyone else in your group.
It doesn’t mean that everyone is the same or even have similar interests, but you share the same desire, which in our case, is to grow closer to God.
As leaders, part of our responsibility is to build community and serve as “culture curators.”
We influence the atmosphere, not just the look of our youth spaces and the aesthetic of our social media pages, but also the attitudes and feelings that are expressed within our groups.
Now, as you think about the junior highers in your group right now, you may not agree that you have cultivated the attitudes within your particular group of students.
And that may be true – you may have inherited the behaviors that were accepted under a former ministry leader, or you might be part of a start-up group that has yet to develop its own unique group identity.
But, if you have been the leader of a group for more than a few months, your group is a reflection of the attitudes and behaviors you have allowed or demonstrated.
Are you frustrated that you always start your services late?
Sorry, that’s probably on you.
We know… no one comes on time.
Start on time anyway!
They will figure it out when you move the best parts of the service within the first ten minutes of start time.
Have you ever thought about how students can make it to a movie on time?
It’s because they have bugged their parents to make sure they make sure they won’t be late.
Trust us… it can happen for a youth service too.
The point is you have an indelible effect on what happens in your junior high ministry.
When Jeffrey Katzenberg was brought in to turn around Disney’s Animation Studio in the 1980s, he noted, “You’ve got 90 days to change culture before it starts changing you.”
So, ask yourself this: Have you changed your ministry culture, or has it changed you?
Because you know that when you started in your ministry position, you had dreams and expectations.
If they don’t match up to your current reality, ask yourself, “why?”
It happens not by chance, but by taking intentional and purposeful steps to create the Junior High Ministry culture you desire, and you believe God desires for your particular group.
If you can build “community” within your group, that’s a great start to getting to a place where you can begin to change the culture.
When everyoneis on board and working together as a team, you can affect your culture and your overall ministry effectiveness.
So, here are 3 WAYS TO BUILD COMMUNITY IN YOUR JUNIOR HIGH MINISTRY
1. Decide what “community” looks like for your unique junior high ministry.
We can’t tell you what a junior high ministry community should look like because we don’t know your students the way you do.
Often, we want other leaders, more prominent churches, seminars, or books to show us a formula for our groups.
And while those tools are useful, they don’t specifically match your personality, your ministry style as a leader, or your students.
You decide what community looks like through prayer, talking to your students, getting to know their parents (their biggest influencers), and looking at the overall community of your particular church – because they are going to look pretty similar.
It’s helpful to write down the qualities of the community you dream of within your group…
Do you want students to feel instantly welcomed and part of the “family” or is it a process that has deeper meaning as they spend time with you and the other students?
Is community built through events, services, or small groups?
Because that will influence how you make plans in the future.
Ask God to show you a picture of what
2. Develop a plan of intentional steps to build community within your group.
It’s not just going to happen on its own.
Think about the time that you invest within your family unit that helps build togetherness.
It takes a ton of intentionality.
After you have a picture of what community looks like, then share it with your leaders and volunteers, asking them to help you develop a plan that will help get you to that place.
It’s also important to share the heart behind the community you desire for your group with your Lead Pastor.
If you have their support, it will be an encouragement to you when it doesn’t go the way you want it to, and a person to celebrate with when things go right.
3. Help your students understand the value of community and what it can mean to your group.
Your students want to be part of something; often they don’t know what that something is, which is why they search for it in areas that are not always godly.
Community feels good.
Everyone wants to belong to something.
If they can get the vision of what a healthy, growing community can look like and jump on board, then you’re halfway there.
Students that are part of a healthy church community as teenagers will continue to look for it and desire it as they grow older.
Your junior high community can be the stability that many of your students are longing for and a safe place where they can share their weaknesses and grow in their relationship with the Lord.
If you’re already there and are enjoying a healthy community, then look for ways to help that community to last long after you’re gone.
Raise up leaders that can carry the torch and place value on community for the future of the ministry.
If you’re struggling in an unhealthy junior high ministry culture, ask God to help you.
It’s the most apparent, overlooked solution to many of the areas we struggle with in life and ministry.
Sometimes we don’t know what to do, simply because we haven’t asked God to help us.
God’s strength and wisdom can provide the answers we need to understand how to create a God-centered community within our group.
Community takes time, but you can begin to take steps in building a healthy, thriving junior high ministry community whose impact will be seen for generations.
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