Posted By Kurt Johnston

Last night I shared a short message with our junior high and high school volunteers. Here is a brief look at those thoughts:

The big picture idea was that God often allows unexpected things to show up in our ministry path…and these things usually provide a couple of opportunities.

1. The story of the good Samaritan reminds us that people will show up in on our path and provide unexpected opportunities for MINISTRY.

2. The story of the Israelites and the Red Sea reminds us that obstacles will show up in our path and provide unexpected opportunities for the MIRACULOUS.


As you journey along your ministry path this year, my hope and prayer for you is the same as it is for the men and women on my team: That when God puts an unexpected opportunity to minister or an unexpected obstacle in your path…you would be willing to take action and see what God does through you!

Just A Little Boost

 —  January 3, 2012 — 1 Comment

Posted by Kurt Johnston

Heading into the new year, and looking at the current condition of the youth ministry I lead at Saddleback Church, I gotta admit: I feel pretty good about things!

But, anytime you take an up-close look at things there are certain to be areas that could use a little extra attention…a little boost. As I spent time looking at the various aspects of our ministry, I identified three key areas that could use a little nudge….just a boost to keep us heading in the right direction. I thought I’d share them with you in hopes you would be encouraged to start 2012 by taking a look at your ministry too!

In 2012, we are going to give a little boost to:


- boost attendance

- boost attention to “excellence”

- boost attention to first and second time visitors

- boost volunteer involvement



- boost number of students serving in church-wide ministries

- boost number of students attending adult services

- boost number of “things” we do with adults instead of on our own



- boost our student’s biblical literacy, Christian worldview, etc.

- boost our student’s level of true missional living (express)

- boost the “experience” aspect of small groups.

Posted by Kurt Johnston and Scott Rubin

Just wanted to say a quick Thank You and Merry Christmas! We feel so blessed to be a part of the community of junior high youth workers who frequent this blog and faithfully serve young teens.

We won’t be back until the first week of January, but are looking forward to a great 2012 and can’t wait to share some of our insights and learnings with you.

Thankful for you,

Kurt and Scott

Posted By Kurt Johnston

If I was allowed one “silver bullet” for any aspect of junior high ministry, I know EXACTLY in which direction I would fire: I would take dead aim at the lesson time. Over the years, nothing about JH ministry has nagged at me like the ongoing effort to create good learning experiences.

But, I have had some good moments as a teacher and there seems to be a few things present almost every time things go well? Almost all of my good lessons are:

SHORT: the only people who like long sermons are preachers. And the same can be said about JH ministry…if your lessons are long, you are most likely the only one having fun. I have NEVER heard a JH student complain about a short lesson. I typically aim for 20 minutes. I know that sounds short, but it forces me to really think about what I want to include, and how to maximize the lesson time.

INTERACTIVE: almost every time the lesson goes well, there
has been some sort of interactive element. Things like allowing for questions, providing some discussion time, using students as “props”, creating some hands-on element to the leson, etc.

FUN: when learning is made fun, it is way more likely to stick. I have a good friend who teaches 7th grade math. She makes what could be arguably the most boring subject on planet earth incredibly fun by routinely dressing up as characters, writing rap songs etc to reinforce
the lessons. As a result, her math class is one of the most popular on her campus. Making your lessons fun doesn’t take much effort. In fact, if they are short and interactive you are halfway there! Here are some other ways to make it fun: tell personal stories…especially ones that poke fun at yourself. Use video clips to reinforce or illustrate a point. Become a master at the art of object lessons.

The truth is…there is no silver bullet for JH lessons, but keeping them short, interactive and fun is a pretty good plan B.

Posted By Kurt Johnston

Two days ago I listed a couple of examples of things that might help make a junior high ministry “uncommon”, with an explanation of both. I thought I’d make it into a little blog series, but don’t have the attention span to do so! So….part 2 of this “series” is the last…and I’m simply going to list some more “uncommon” things without explanation, and let you chew on them. Add a few to the list if you would like.

An uncommon JH ministry might…
- NOT be youth worker-centric, and driven by the leader’s personality.
- NOT allow adults to play roles JHers could easily play instead.
- only play games that are safe, encouraging and contribute positively.
- be led by some of the most mature leaders in the church.
- look for ways to embrace “big church” instead of fighting against it.
- tackle some of the tougher realities students face such as bullying, sexuality, pressure to perform, abandonment, etc.
- refuse to get a laugh from the crowd at the expense of one. (chubby jokes, pimple jokes, nerd jokes, etc.)
- become “Jesus-centric”.

Just a few to get you thinking…

Posted by Scott Rubin

I wonder how many students with Special Needs you’ve run across in your middle school ministry?

Even though we still have a long ways to go, this year we’ve made more strides towards serving students with special needs than any year I’ve been doing this. Lots of it is due to HELP that I’ve received from a FANTASTIC middle school teacher in our area; Laura’s degree is in this realm, and she responded to our invitation to put her knowledge to work in our ministry.

I can’t even express how God has used these students to touch MY heart in the process.

I got a note from Laura this week about a 6th grade girl, and their interaction this past weekend. This student has a small group, but also a 1-on-1 volunteer who helps her. She stays with her small group for as long as she can, but when it gets too much for her, she & her 1:1 go for a walk, & talk about things. This week, Grace’s 1:1 wasn’t here, so Laura stepped in. And Grace wanted to write a song. Here’s what her leader said, about what followed:

“I told her that was fine as long as it was about shepherds (or something we had talked about in the teaching). So, she started writing the first two lines on a piece of paper and then sang it …She had no help from me- this is what came out the first time she sang this”:

Sometimes I feel like no one likes me
But when I see the other kids being beat up
I know I should stand up for them
Because You stand up for me

God, you are my Shepherd
I am your loyal sheep
I am your servant

Sometimes I feel like no one likes me
Because I am different from the other kids
God will always stand up for me
Because He loves us so
And He will take care of us

I had hoped that we’d be able to serve special needs students a little better this year than we have in years past. But honestly, what I’m learning from them seems just as valuable.

Posted By Kurt Johnston

Somewhere in our conversation last week, Mark Riddle and I found ourselves talking about common denominators found in youth groups around the country.

As we talked, we realized that there are many things that seem “common”, that maybe shouldn’t be…or that, at the very least, should be looked at more carefully to see how these practices impact our ministry settings.

So, with that conversation as a backdrop, I began thinking about what a
more “uncommon” junior high ministry might look like. I hope to make a short blog series out of this….we will see. And please add your thoughts, push backs, etc. This truly is just me thinking out loud.

Too often I find myself saying things like, “junior highers ________” or “Our volunteers need____________” or “Nobody in our group _________”. As a result, I make ministry decisions for everybody based on trends of a few.
Obviously, we have to make sweeping policies, decisions etc, but an UNCOMMON way to approach JH ministry might be to look for every opportunity to do the hard work of ministering to people as individuals, and not only as part of the larger body.

Yep, I said it….I think many junior high ministries actually need to lower the bar. Instead of hoping our students live out their faith the way a more mature 17 year old follower of Jesus might, perhaps we should do what seems UNCOMMON, and lower the bar by simply helping students live out their faith in a 12-14 year old way. I’m not suggesting we always lower the bar for every student…but just be willing to. Doing this, by the way, happens best when we get to know students as individuals, rather than taking then spiritual pulse of our group and collectively raising or lowering the bar.

More UNCOMMON ideas to follow. Share your thoughts.

Posted By Kurt Johnston

Last week, I spent two fantastic days with Mark Riddle.. I wanted his insight as I continue to wrestle with my various roles and responsibilities that include leading the student ministry team at saddleback, sitting on the executive leadership team, giving direction to an ever-increasing number of regional campus youth ministries and a good share of outside speaking and writing opportunities.

A good friend said to me very early in my ministry career, “don’t go looking for bigger, better, more exciting ministry opportunities…but don’t be afraid of them, either.” Over the course of the past 25 years, I have used that sage advice as a compass of sorts over and over.

But recently ministry has felt bigger, better and more exciting than ever before. It has also felt more scary, more intense, more uncertain and more stressful! So I decided to do what doesn’t come easily: I asked for help! And I called Mark.

Oftentimes, leaders wait to ask for help until it is too late. It is only desperation that forces some to glean from others. I didn’t want to wait.

I like to consider myself a learner…and I have no problem learning from others. But, if I am honest, my posture of learning is almost always from a position of strength; I’m doing great, things are moving forward, and I’m really only hoping to “learn” a little bit here and there to nudge me along.

But this was different. I wasn’t desperate, but I needed help. Mark is smarter than me, isn’t impressed by me, doesn’t know much about my ministry and thinks (in many ways) entirely different than me. IT WAS

Here’s an idea: as you head into the new year, take some time to evaluate yourself and the ministry you lead. Are there areas you have been wrestling with, but too prideful to ask for help (because, at the end of the day, it is pride that gets in the way)?