At Summer camp last month, one of our counselors faced a classic dilemma but at an increased level of intensity. One of the 7th grade boys in his cabin was homesick. But this young man wasn’t the “normal” kind of homesick. He was the “kicking, screaming, face-melting, I’m gonna break things if I don’t get to go home” kind of homesick. Faced with that scenario, what would you have done? I know what I would have done, and it wouldn’t have been as wise and warm as the response of his counselor (my response would have included some sort of mocking and shame…but that’s for another article).
First, the counselor decided to call the young man’s parents to get their input. We have a fairly strict “No calls home” policy, so HE made the phone call instead of allowing the boy to. He enlisted the dad’s advice which was, “Tell Junior that we love him and miss him and that he is absolutely not coming home.” Way to go, Dad! The counselor then delivered this “bad news” to his young friend and followed it up with what I believe was the best youth ministry question of the summer, “Since you can’t go home, is there anything I can do for you to help you make it through the night?”
The answer is one of the reasons I love junior high ministry so much.
“Well, I think a warm shower and a root beer would work,” the student replied.
So while Junior took a warm shower, his counselor made a late-night trek to the vending machine and bought the most strategic root beer in the history of youth ministry. Problem solved. The evening routine for the rest of the week? A warm shower followed by a root beer night cap.
This little story reminds me of numerous junior high ministry principles, especially this one:
Junior high ministry is made up of all sorts of junior highers, and that requires us to be willing to minister in all sorts of ways.
A mistake junior high youth workers often make is viewing every young teen through the same developmental lense. While it’s true that, for the most part, the junior highers in your ministry are going through the same developmental changes, they are going through them in vastly different ways.
Some students need you to talk to them about sex and dating.
Some students need you to nudge them toward their next spiritual step.
Some students need you to help them see themselves as normal.
Some students need you to coach them on their friendship choices.
Some students… well, some students just need a warm shower and a root beer.