I’m sitting in a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop near my daughter’s college (Azusa Pacific University), anxious for a lunch date with her! While I wait, I’m doing some long-term planning and trying to catch up on some bigger projects that are hanging over my head, the biggest being preparing our ministry for the launch of 12 international churches. Yep, a chunk of my time these days is (or should be) spent on the process of figuring out what, exactly, is necessary for a youth ministry to truly be a “saddleback youth ministry”, and then…unpacking what that looks like in each of our 12 target cities. A job at which I’m dangerously behind and severely unqualified!
So this morning, as I sip a black cherry tea latte, my tired mind is wandering to our junior high ministry…and all the exciting things going on. Here are a few:
- Jesus. We’ve dedicated our entire two-year small group curriculum solely to Jesus. Every small group lesson a 7th or 8th grade student will discuss in our small group system is Jesus-centric. If parents ask us what their child will learn in small group we now simply say: “They will learn about Jesus Christ…in great depth”. I like that!
- School Wars is coming. We aren’t a big “team competition” culture. Sure, we play games and give away prizes, but we don’t do ongoing competitions with points and all that fun stuff…unless it’s the first two Sundays in March each year. Then it’s on, Baby! “School Wars” is our annual 2-week long school-based competition that pits our schools against each other in crazy physical and mental challenges. Our volunteers dress up as gladiators, students come in their school colors and things get entirely out of control for two weeks.
- Grade Groups. A couple of years ago, to make our large group gatherings feel a little smaller, we started Grade Groups. Grade Groups are nothing more than a 10-minute break-out time during our program where students gather by grade and gender for announcements, to welcome guests, and play a quick game or discuss a few questions that set up the lesson. What started out as a short experiment has morphed into a key part of our weekend strategy.
- IMPACT. Impact is our informal junior high student leadership program. Anybody can join and they meet once a month to help plan our weekend services, invent new ministry opportunities, brainstorm how to impact their schools, etc.
- Sticky Faith. We are taking seriously the challenge to create an entire church culture dedicated to helping teenagers own and hold onto their faith after high school graduation, and much of those efforts start in junior high. My new, very lofty, goal is to help Saddleback become a church where the entire body “lives, grows, and gives” together. And by “together” I mostly mean in attitude and appreciation of each other. BUT things like Worship Together Weekend, where we cancel our youth services once a month in order for the whole congregation to worship together, are tangible examples of a church living, growing and giving together.
Gotta go…my lunch date with Kayla is at 12:00 and I’ve got between now and then to figure out what a Purpose-driven youth ministry looks like in Manilla.