Junior High Ministry: Heart Surgery

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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.

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“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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