I don’t know if you’ve heard about the Middle School Ministry Campference coming this fall (October 14-16, 2011) – it is a brand new event designed specifically for junior high/middle school youth workers, and it is a conference…and camp! So normal stuff like general sessions, workshops and great music – but also free-time activities like zip lines, paintball, ropes course etc. Sounds like fun … here’s a quick 3-question interview with Mark Oestreicher, one of the minds behind it:

1) Tell me about your observations about junior high ministry that led you to create this atmosphere for junior high youth workers to get recharged, trained and encouraged?
We junior high youth workers tend to have a paradoxical combination of total passion for what we do combined with an inferiority complex. In so many churches (and at so many youth ministry events), young teen ministry is seen as the youth ministry equivalent of that strange little homeschool kid you just wish someone else would deal with. But, man, we know. We know how critical and powerful this ministry is. We’ve seen how formative these middle school years are, and how students often choose a path for life. At the end of the day, being in a room with a bunch of people who share my strange and unique calling — who get me — is my happy place. A tribal gathering of junior high peeps sounds like a slice o’ heaven to me.

2) Sounds fun! What makes this more camp and less conference? And why wasn’t I invited?
You weren’t invited because you’re a high school sell-out, dude. Good luck with that “corrective ministry” while we kick it in our “preventive ministry.” (Actually, you – and other HS youth workers – would be more than welcome. Someone doesn’t have to be a full-time junior high person to join us — they just have to want to learn and contribute, and be with this awesome tribe.)

We thought about having a more traditional conference. But Kurt Johnston and I were chatting about it, and we thought we needed to do something unique. We decided that ‘camp for junior high youth workers’ was just the ticket. We’ll combine some of the best aspects of a conference (fantastic main sessions and seminars) with some things we couldn’t do elsewhere (experiential learning, for example) and the vibe of a camp (all our meals together, tons of wicked-awesome fun stuff to do that you can never fully enjoy when you’re responsible for a group of 12 year-olds).

3) Tell me a great, quick story that junior high youth workers out there would appreciate. Preferably something gross and/or silly.
Two quick ones:
1. My 8th grade guys small group was recently putting together our own “creed” — things we knew to be true. It was full of pithy statements like “Respect is earned” and “Maturity takes time.” But they insisted on including a very important final statement of what our small group collectively believes: “Farting is best done outside.”
2. I was standing in the baptismal, interviewing Blake in front of the congregation (just remembered this story the other day). I asked him, “Blake, tell us what difference your faith made when your dad died.” He responded, “Well, it made it suck less.” Ah, junior highers — gotta love that truth-telling, baby.

JG