Jr. High -

Understanding the Chaos of junior high —

By Becca Haines

Created on 09/12/2019

CIY’s events, trips and resources are age-specific, with programming that is intentionally created with language and topics that hit right at the heart of young acts of Kingdom work.

Believe, for instance, is partnering with some amazing junior high ministry experts for its 2018/19 tour – from rapper KJ-52, to illusionist Zak Mirzadeh, to the fast-rising worship collective Revenant Worship. And joining those incredible ministry partners are Kurt Johnston and Justin Herman with the Controlled Chaos Junior High Ministry Podcast.


“CIY believes the Controlled Chaos podcast is one of the best podcasts out there for youth ministers,” said Eryn Aubey, CIY’s senior director of customer development. “It focuses solely on junior high, which aligns with the values and beliefs of our Believe and MIX programs. All our programs are age-intentional, with the understanding that there are big differences between junior high and high school students. Controlled Chaos specifically offers commentary from some of the greatest people out there right now in junior high ministry, and we are proud to partner with the podcast and encourage youth ministers to listen to it to glean new ideas and important knowledge for their ministries.”


Herman said the weekly podcast began in February as a fun project with his mentor and junior high ministry veteran, Kurt Johnston, who wholeheartedly agreed to name the new podcast after his first book that was published in 2001 in order to create a supportive network for junior high youth workers.


“CIY does great things for junior high ministry and I’ve seen up close that they care,” Herman said. “That’s who I want to partner with – someone who really cares and considers what works in this phase of kids’ lives. They understand the digital space with youth and how to leverage it the right way that connects with them. They also love youth workers.”


The Controlled Chaos podcast is full of conversations, advice, ideas and glimpses into the hearts of junior high youth workers. At the mic is Herman, a native of Buffalo, New York and current junior high pastor at Sandals Church in Irvine, California; and Johnston, the student pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Together Johnston and Herman have hosted many special guests on the podcast – such as Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Ministries – and published several books. The latest book is a revised version of “Controlled Chaos: Making Sense of Junior High Ministry,” which was published in October. These publications are available on Amazon.com and YouthCartel.com.


“This is an updated and expanded version of the book that came out 17 years ago,” Johnston said. “So many of the principles of the book are timeless. The world around junior highers changes, but who they are and the age intentionality doesn’t. One of the bigger changes in the book is the emphasis on the partnership with parents. It’s been an educational 17 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.”


The book provides insight into the trenches of junior high ministry from Johnston’s perspective not only as a youth worker, but as a parent. He said he hopes it will help youth leaders continue the conversation on how to connect students to Christ, how to set parents up to win and how to encourage churches to establish well-defined missions and strategies.


“I think what sets this book apart from others is that it’s been tested over the course of a decade and it still works,” Herman said. “It’s not a fad of youth ministry – it’s classic, quality, tested youth ministry philosophy. It’s relatable, practical and you can have conversations around it. There are questions in the back of every chapter, and I really like that.”


The Controlled Chaos team is looking to the future with a new blog and other new resources for junior high ministers across the world. Herman said he is excited for the youth ministry that’s happening around the world – especially after hearing podcast feedback from listeners in 38 countries.


“I don’t know what’s going to be next, but I do know that we’re going to keep going – more resourcing, more coaching and more training,” Herman said. “And if it were to all end tomorrow, Kurt and I would still do the podcast. It was the generosity and validation of others that helped move the podcast forward. A lot of youth workers want to develop as leaders, and the most important things I pray for them are discernment and wisdom. For volunteers, I pray for their perspective on the long view. When they’re feeling hopeless, I hope they can take a step back and think about this stage of life and know they’re making a difference.”


Find the Controlled Chaos podcast at controlledchaospodcast.com.