Yesterday we heard from Pastor Alan Brooks about how to reach KIDS for Christ. He shared some great insight from his years of experience with a booming Kids Ministry.
Next up: AJ Villegas, Velocity Student Ministries middle-school youth pastor from Calvary Albuquerque. Not only are mid-schoolers near and dear to my heart, but so is AJ. I had always prayed that when it was my time to move on to plant a church that God would raise someone up to take over for me – a Joshua-like guy. AJ is that guy. I passed the baton to him when I left Albuqerque to move to Clarksville. He’s an incredible guy with some great ideas and a booming mid-school ministry with around 300 students!
1. As someone striving to reach mid-schoolers (6th-8th grade), what are some creative ways to reach them on their level?
Our goal is for each student to be able to get involved – to make it more than a once a week thing. We have a BaseLine (sports ministry), Mountain (outdoor) ministry, 421(prayer and service ministry), Element (Girls ministry) just to name a few and we are in the works of hooking up with the skate park one night a week to minister to skaters and musicians as well. We want to try to provide something for all students and use what they enjoy to encourage them to live for Jesus and invite others to church. We want to show them they don’t have to lose their identity to live for God but use those things for His glory.
2. When developing a mid-school ministry, what are some important things to keep in mind?
Preaching the Word is the most important thing done at church. So many times we figure that everyone is at the same level, but clearly they are not. It is important to feed the sheep on all levels. Remembering to explain even simple things as well as introduce them to heavier topics. If the food is too much, so to speak, they will choke, but if it isn’t enough they won’t develop properly. Another thing is to remember no matter how cool you are to the students or how in touch you feel, you’re still not in mid-school. The world is changing rapidly and we need to stay in touch with the issues that mid-schoolers are dealing with. Yes much is the same as when you were in school but plenty has changed too! Ask them, make a survey, and read some books on the topics.
3. How important are volunteers when it comes to ministering to mid-schoolers?
Volunteers are so important in distributing the weight of a ministry but never depend solely on them. Volunteers are just that. I have to remind myself a lot that this isn’t their only commitment. God is the One who keeps it all together. Focus on Him, pray for Godly support, and let Him bring the leaders. My good friend Kevin Miller once told me don’t campaign for leaders let those who feel called to youth ministry find you.
4. What are 1 or 2 lessons that you learned the hard way that stand out to you about ministering to mid-schoolers?
That I can work all the hours I want to achieve ministry success but without God’s blessing what is the point? Not by strength but by God’s Spirit, so to speak. Also prayer makes the most difference in your teaching. If you don’t pray about your sermon and ask God to bless it and open hearts you just wasted a lot of hours studying.
5. Since you normally see the students only once or twice a week, do you have any tips with helping parents follow-up at home?
Hold them accountable. Make them bring home bulletins to see what they are learning, encourage them to take notes and get involved in events, and make an action plan with your student on Sunday night on a couple of things they can do in the week to really drive it home.