I had the incredible privilege to speak this past week at junior high camp! For almost all of my youth ministry career I’ve concentrated on working with high school students, even more since coming to Saddleback 10 years ago and now almost completely as the high school pastor. So the idea of speaking at our junior high camp was especially exciting and challenging for me. Here’s 4 quick things I learned about junior high students this past week:

Short is strong
I kept all of the 4 talks last week to 22 minutes or less. I spent some really significant time prepping the talks, and wanted to pack as much into those 20ish minutes. Pushing it beyond that … you start to lose them. I also concentrated on the “arc” of the series and didn’t feel the need to pack it all into one message since I had the whole week. Often times speakers make the mistake of teaching 3 messages in 1, and losing the impact of the whole night!

Not as much snickering
Working with high school students all of the time it was refreshing to not hear students snickering when a sentence could be taken in another less appropriate direction. When I speak to high school students I choose words and phrases very carefully to avoid making a mistake of distracting them with a phrase or term that could be taken off color.

Object lessons for the win
This past week I used an object lesson practically every night – and filled the rest with stories and illustrations from my life. Jesus loved stories, and so do junior highers! I taught with a squirt gun and a Super Soaker the first night, used a recurring bit on stage with a chocolate malt and a bucket and sponge in one of the talks as well (sorry Bryce, pictured above).

They’re not that different from high school students
Here’s the real scoop – at the end of the day they’re both teenage students who need Jesus. Sure they handle shorter talks better and can quickly relate to stories or object lessons but what high school student isn’t the same way? At the end of the day it was incredibly fulfilling and fun to speak to our junior high ministry. And hey, I’ll have them in HSM in a few short years so what a great start to building those relationships, too!

What are some other differences/similarities you’ve noticed when speaking to junior high and high school students?