Junior Youth Spiritual
Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value.
Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit there from.
What is the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program?
The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program(JYSEP) brings together junior youth between the ages of 12-14 into small groups and offers them a setting in which young people can discuss ideas and form a strong moral identity. The basic premise behind the program is the belief that junior youth are capable of thinking deeply about the world and their place within it and that they need an environment that gives them support and encouragement.
The age of 12-14 is a critical time in the development of young people. It is during this time that they begin to think about their place in the world and to make decisions and develop patterns of behavior they will likely carry with them for the rest of their lives. Baha’is recognize this critical stage and see young people of this age as potentially powerful sources of inspired action in their communities. Towards the realization of this goal, junior youth gatherings use cultural stories, discussion and age appropriate activities to help them develop their powers of expression, develop their leadership capacities and learn to focus attention to service of humanity and contribute to solving the problems of their communities. These groups are lead by qualified youth leaders who are themselves inspiring and high minded young people who dedicate themselves to three consecutive years of encouragement and support of junior youth.
The program has three interconnected components:
- Developing the power of Expression
- Developing Human Potential
- Service to the Community
Though the moral concepts in the materials are drawn from the Bahá’í teachings, they are not religious in nature, nor do they treat subjects that are specifically Bahá’í.
The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program (JYSEP) is a part of an educational process that seeks to raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development. This program is open to all young people aged between 12-14, of every religious or non-religious background, and assists them to navigate through this crucial stage in their lives. The program explores themes from a Bahá’í perspective but not in the mode of religious instruction. Engaging junior youth in this program will serve to enhance their spiritual and intellectual capacities and to prepare them to participate effectively in the affairs of their communities.
- Foster the junior youth’s spiritual identity and empower them to serve humanity.
- Create a moral structure in their lives.
- Develop their power of expression.
- Help them recognize the moral issues underlying everyday decisions and identify the moral implications of speech and actions.
- Raise them up as human resources within the community.
- Devotional session where prayers and readings from the world’s religions are shared.
- Book study for developing important communication skills designed to train the junior youth to articulate abstract concepts into intelligent and coherent language.
- Discussion, planning, and reflection on the activities of the group.
- Focus on art, drama, and music to introduce the junior youth to various artistic modalities to foster and encourage structured creativity.
- Physical activities, healthy recreation, and sports are an integral part of the meetings.
- Social time as the meeting wraps up.
The first in the series of Junior Youth books that strives to create within the youth the moral structures that will underlie their decisions and guide their actions as they mature into young adults and active members of society. The materials seek to impart essential moral concepts and build certain attitudes required to live a fruitful and rewarding life.
Breezes of Confirmation represents a modest beginning in this long-term educational process. It tells the story of Musonda, a young girl who has just turned 13, and her older cousin Rose, who has come to visit for the school holidays. Together with Musonda's brother Godwin and his friend Chishimba, the girls think about their future and discuss their hopes and possibilities. A theme that runs throughout the story is that of making an effort and receiving God's confirmations. This is just one of the many possible themes on which young people need to reflect in order to develop sound moral reasoning.
How do these groups work?
The power and substance of the group actually happens outside the confines of the structured meetings. Studying spiritual principles, art, cooperation, and leadership are important; however, by themselves they are limited in effectively training change agents within our communities. The real work is seen in the various service projects undertaken by the junior youth.
The youth are trained to observe the condition of their community and look for things that they would like to see changed. As a group, ideas are discussed and a service project is born. The projects can be simple and immediate like picking up trash in a park or they can be highly involved and require significant planning such as addressing homelessness or a drug problem within a community, or rebuilding a playground with the cooperation of the local government and civic community.
It is during these service projects that learning actually takes place. By creating a real-world context, discussions around spiritual, moral, and ethical education are brought to life and the youth start to make the connection between theory and application. This gives the animators powerful tools to make the program work and solidify the spiritual and moral principles in the minds of the junior youth. The ultimate goal is to effectively guide the junior youth in the process of creating a strong moral compass that will assist them in navigating the arduous adolescent years and create habits of excellence and service as they take their place as leaders in our communities.
How does this affect the lives of junior youth?
As a fledgling group starts the process of identifying possibilities for their first service project the animators and youth become excited and actively engaged in the project. Imagine a group of 11-year-olds walking around purposefully looking for a way to make their community a better place and knowing they are going to cause the change. Now imagine hundreds of thousands of youth all over the world resolutely looking for opportunities to make their communities better. Armed with the experience, skills, and desire, they will implement projects that will effect change in the community. It won’t be long before these youth become adults, millions strong, actively striving to improve the human condition; knowing beyond a doubt that they can, must, and will make a difference. This thought gives hope and it is why animators throughout the world give their time to strangers; to make a difference.
In each group, there is the need for an older person who is a true friend to the junior youth and can assist them in the development of their capacities. Those who perform such a function are known as animators of junior youth groups. As a friend, he or she helps to create an environment in which each group member feels comfortable expressing his or her thoughts, free from the fear of censure or ridicule. The animator is a trained, unpaid mentor who treats junior youth not as children but as equals.