student ministry, youth ministry, youth worker

Must Haves for Jr. High Ministry

By Doug Franklin January 4, 2011

My first six years of youth ministry were spent as a jr. high small group leader. I heard a ton about youth ministry in those days. I learned about the power of group identity, the importance of herd movements and how expectations drive spiritual growth. The most important skill I learned in those days was relationship building. First with students and then with parents. I know most youth workers think they know how to build a relationship with a student. I thought I did, but the truth is, I had no idea. I knew how to make a student like me but I didn’t know how to create a transformational relationship. If you want to see students’ lives changed then you need to know how to craft a relationship in such a way that the focus of the relationship is Christ. It’s hard to do; you must walk the fine line between mentor and friend and you have to be willing to bet the friendship every time you say hard things. These are some of the things I have learned along the way.

1. Say hard things on day one
Don’t buy into that idea that you have to be friends first and then you can say tough stuff. Students are looking for authenticity and they can figure out in about ten minutes if you are real of not so go for it and say stuff they don’t expect or ask questions that no good Christian would ever ask. This communicates that you want a different kind of relationship.

2. Ask Questions – never talk about yourself
To be a master question asker is really hard. I still work at this day and night. Students like talking about themselves, so let them. Guide them and then ask deep meaningful questions. These questions will lead to deep and powerful conversations. This is where real relationship starts.

3.  Spend more time than you have
Relationships with students always take more time than you want to spend, but are always worth it. It’s been twenty years since I started in jr. high ministry but even today I was Facebooking with a former student. If you really want to go deep and have a life long impact then it’s going to take lots of time.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More