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Junior High Ministry: Heart Surgery

Kurt Johnston

About six months ago, I had heart surgery. It happened suddenly, I didn't see it coming, and I haven't discussed it much. But I think it's time to go public.

"Bree," an eighth-grader, drives me crazy. She's clingy, immature, insecure, doesn't understand the concept of personal space, and is in a never-ending search for affirmation and acceptance. If I took another minute or two, I could add many more items to my list of "Things About Bree That Drive Kurt Nuts." Throughout Bree's first year in our junior high ministry, my heart grew fairly hard toward her. I hate to admit this, but I probably would've been okay if she'd just gone away -- not totally away, of course, just away to somebody else's youth group!

About six months ago I was eating lunch and planning a lesson at Chick-fil-A (why wouldn't you work at a location that provides free refills on sweet tea?). As I ate, I heard some commotion in a nearby booth. At first it sounded like a typical conversation between a dad and his teenage daughter, but things quickly went downhill. Soon the father's tone shifted to angry, sarcastic, demeaning, petty, and volatile all at the same time. The girl didn't say much in response, but I could hear her crying as he continued chipping away at her. It became obvious that what I was overhearing wasn't an isolated incident but standard operating procedure in that relationship.

Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to sneak a peek. I couldn't avoid the temptation to put faces to the awkward voices I'd been overhearing for the past 15 minutes. The heart surgery caught me off guard. As I stole a glance at the booth, I instantly recognized Bree. Because she didn't see me, I quickly hurried out of the restaurant. On my drive back to church, God continued to work on me; he replaced my dislike of Bree with a profound love for her. I really can't explain it. I just know it happened.

My hunch is that you have a "Bree" or two in your junior high ministry. If you're like me, you hope and pray that God will somehow intervene and change those kids' situations. I hope you'll also pray for yourself, asking God to perform the same heart surgery on you that he performed on me. After all, he is the Great Physician. n


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kurt is the junior high minister at Saddleback Church and founder of Simply Jr. High Ministry.



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