Jr. High -

All junior high youth workers should read this book —

By Kurt Johnston

Created on 09/10/2019

I wrote a book 17 years ago because at the time there wasn’t a whole lot of highly practical resources for people who focus on junior high ministry. 

We’ve updated and expanded “Controlled Chaos: Making Sense of Junior High Ministry,” and made it more applicable to today’s junior high youth worker because there’s still a need.


So many of the principles of the book are timeless. As much as stuff changes in junior high ministry, a lot of stuff stays the same. The adolescent development piece, the uniqueness, the stage of life – the world around them changes – but who they are and the junior high entity doesn’t.


One of the bigger changes in the book is the emphasis on partnership with parents. At the time of the first book, I wasn’t thinking of parent ministry as much. I think what changed that is how we think about youth ministry now. The mindset was, “bring your kids to the experts.” It’s been an educational 16 years for the Church to realize healthy parents help raise healthy kids. It’s not the Church’s job to disciple kids – it’s mom and dad.


Some youth ministries were victims to their own success. We did it so well that parents subcontracted that spiritual development to the Church, and that can cause a lot of damage. The book goes into how to partner with parents more, how to help parents win, how to work with them and not against them. I wrote a whole chapter from my perspective as a parent. It’s to help youth workers understand the parents’ unique needs and working with them instead of compartmentalizing the care behind it all.


I also went into the principle of programming. A big section is based on the question of, “Do you have a well-defined strategy?” If there’s not a clear vision or mission everybody’s agenda is equal, and it could change tomorrow because it makes sense tomorrow. Your vision becomes the ministry filter. The book encourages youth workers to program in a way that fulfills why we exist and discourages doing stuff that doesn’t help the ministry’s purpose.


I’m honored the Controlled Chaos podcast is named after my first book. Justin Herman is a great friend who has just hit the ground running with it. We want to help the podcast grow and build a community with the re-release the book. It’s all meant to work together to help build this tribe of junior high workers to collaborate and be supported.


10_27_Kurt_Johnston.jpgKurt Johnston is the student pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California and author of “Controlled Chaos: Making Sense of Junior High Ministry.” The new book, as well as the original that was released in 2001, are available on Amazon.com and YouthCartel.com.