The universal word for junior high is: FUN. When junior high students have FUN they are more likely to feel like they’ve found a place to belong, no matter where they are at in their relationship with Jesus. So, we program our ministries with FUN events, services, camps and more!

We sit down, think outside the box, and start creating with the resources we have around us: the internet, volunteer leaders, friends, television, word of mouth, the latest trends, our staff team, etc. We spend hours creatively programming to create FUN for junior high students.

In the Gospels, Jesus is FUN. He turns water into wine, He breaks laws, turns 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish into a meal for 5,000+, walks on water – there’s never a dull moment with Jesus. But, there is never a time Jesus does something without a purpose. Behind everything He does is a reason. A big stake-holding reason.

So, the question is this: What is the purpose for our FUN events, services, camps, ect? Without a purpose for our FUN event, our FUN event is just that: a FUN event. Without a purpose, our FUN service is just a FUN service. For what stake-holding reason am I programming this for junior high students? What does God want for them? What do I want for them?

When we look at our ministry program holistically, we enter into the most creative part of planning: strategic planning. Strategic planning gives purpose behind everything we do. Through it, we are able to see the bigger picture. With strategic planning, we are able to plan FUN with a purpose and make the most of our FUN. We are able to see where our efforts go, and what we can drop, because if something FUN does not fit our purpose, it doesn’t need to be there. Without it, we create room for making program elements with purpose that’s much more of a momentum builder. When we are able to do this, we have the ability to see through a clearer and focused lens, focus our attention on things that will have the greatest impact, and be able to strive after the vision God has given for our ministry even better.

So, start with your vision. Then, think about what needs to happen to be able to accomplish that. Come up with 1-4 needs and list those things in order of priority. Then build your program to reflect those needs.

At Mariners Church South County, we aim to inspire people to follow Jesus and fearlessly change the world. For junior high, our people are junior high students. What needs to happen is for junior high students to have a safe place to connect with each other and experience Jesus. In order to create that, they need to know that they belong. Our weekend service is the front door to our ministry, the place people invite others to come for the very first time. Knowing that, we have Connect Cards, that students who have never been before fill out and receive a welcome gift. We send them a handwritten welcome in the mail and text them the next week. Because students only grow so much in rows, we mention Life Groups every week because it is the next step that will help them connect beyond what a weekend service could do. We then create the FUN elements: bits, games, and tricks out of that strategy that are just as FUN as if we had just creatively planned. The students just don’t know that.

FUN is FUN, but it is more FUN when we are able to do something with a purpose and see the transformation God can do through it.

-Kristen Carter

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does our ministry err more on the side of planning FUN or planning strategically? How can we be better at the one we embrace less of?
  2. What parts of our ministry do not have a stake-holding reason? Where else could you invest your time if you were to cut it?
  3. What parts of our ministry have a stake-holding reason, but need to be more FUN? How can you build momentum for and from it?