One of the most difficult, rewarding, awkward and frustrating ages to work with is the 11 to 14 year old. Some of you love working with them and some of you find it very difficult.
Sometimes it feels like every annoying thing that could happen, happens when you are working with a Jr. High student. I want to encourage you to not become frustrated.
In fact you can thrive with this age bracket if you just understand one key point.
In their excellent book, Middle School Ministry, Mark Oestreicher and Scott Rubin write about what is going on with a Jr. High student.
Do you remember the last time you spent time with a 1 or 2 year old? When you gave them your iPhone, what did they do with it? They stuck it in their mouth of course. That is because they are in a sampling stage.
Oestreicher and Rubin argue that when a student is going through puberty that they go back to a 1 year old in some ways. They are sampling everything again. They are sampling;
- How to interact with parents
- What sports or hobbies to be part of
- What clothes to wear
- What subgroup of youth culture to be part
So what can you do?
1. Make it Normal
When a Jr. High student comes to youth with a different fashion each week don’t poke fun at them. Make it normal. Help the student realize that most students her age are trying to figure things out.
Oestreicher and Rubin argue that when you normalize a students experience you do not want to minimize it. You don’t want to tell them that it is no big deal because everyone is going through it. What you want to explain is that it is alright how they are feeling and it is even normal.
2. Walk Along Side
What a Jr. High student doesn’t need is for you leading out in the front. At this stage what they need is for you to walk along side of them. To be guiding, comforting and leading them from beside them.
This means lots of cokes, going to their activities and asking lots of questions and not preaching.
These two tactics will help you minister to Jr. Highs more effectively.