Some time ago, I noticed that how I describe what a junior youth group is, has not changed over the passed years. This made me think, should we not evolve and perfect how we describe the junior youth program as we gain more experience and learn more? Surely, our understanding today is more than five years ago. Maybe how we understand and therefore describe the junior youth program evolves or maybe not. However, here is a very small compilation of how the junior youth group has been described (chronologically ordered). Also, below the extracts, there are links to webpages that describe the junior youth program.

 

Extracts (from the year 2000 to 2013)

Even though children’s activities have been a part of past Plans, these have fallen short of the need. Spiritual education of children and junior youth are of paramount importance to the further progress of the community. …

Among the young ones in the community are those known as junior youth, who fall between the ages of, say, 12 and 15. They represent a special group with special needs as they are somewhat in between childhood and youth when many changes are occurring within them. Creative attention must be devoted to involving them in programmes of activity that will engage their interests, mold their capacities for teaching and service, and involve them in social interaction with older youth. The employment of the arts in various forms can be of great value in such activity. [Ridvan Message 2000]

Initial efforts for the spiritual empowerment of junior youth are meeting with success. [Ridvan Message 2004]

Whatever the nature of the cluster, it is imperative to pay close attention to children and junior youth everywhere. Concern for the moral and spiritual education of young people is asserting itself forcefully on the consciousness of humanity, and no attempt at community building can afford to ignore it. What has become especially apparent during the current Five Year Plan is the efficacy of educational programmes aimed at the spiritual empowerment of junior youth. When accompanied for three years through a programme that enhances their spiritual perception, and encouraged to enter the main sequence of institute courses at the age of fifteen, they represent a vast reservoir of energy and talent that can be devoted to the advancement of spiritual and material civilization. So impressed are we by the results already achieved, and so compelling is the need, that we will urge all National Assemblies to consider the junior youth groups formed through programmes implemented by their training institutes a fourth core activity in its own right and to promote its wide-scale multiplication. [Dec 27 2005 Letter to Counsellors]

The proposed changes in your administrative structure that address the education of children and junior youth provide another useful example. Your decision to conclude the training function of the National children’s Education and Research Center is a constructive step. [Letter from the Universal House of Justice dated Jan 5   to the NSA of USA on Decentralization]

It has devised programs for the spiritual and moral education of its younger members and has extended them not only to its own children and junior youth but also to those of the wider community. [Ridván Message 2006]

With this in mind, the House of Justice has advised that “strategies to advance the process of entry by troops cannot ignore children and junior youth.”30 Junior youth, of course, “represent a special group with special needs as they are somewhat in between childhood and youth when many changes are occurring within them.”31 The Bahá’í world will be focused on the aim of advancing the process of entry by troops until the end of the first century of the Faith’s Formative Age, when today’s children and junior youth will be young adults—the future teachers and administrators of the Faith. Auxiliary Board members have been urged to ensure that the friends raised up by training institutes are mobilized “to meet the spiritual requirements of children and junior youth.”32 “The youth, in particular, constitute a vast reservoir of energy and talent,”33 the House of Justice has indicated. “Developing and utilizing this immensely valuable resource”34 to meet the needs of children and junior youth, specifically, and to further the aim of the global Plans, in general, is surely one of the most pressing challenges ahead. [Learning to Plan and to Mobilize in Turning Point page 320]

Recognizing the need for a fundamental transformation of attitudes and behaviors—to effect change in the dynamics of human interaction—the worldwide Bahá’í community has focused on the spiritual and moral education of children, helping them to form a strong moral identity and the capacity to demonstrate the principle of the equality of men and women. A particular emphasis has been placed on the education of children, aged 12-15—the junior youth. At this pivotal age, young people are beginning to develop a sense of personal moral responsibility and decision making, are refining their critical thinking skills and are eager to explore the many issues to which their consciences are slowly awakening. In many parts of the world, they already bear the weight of life’s hardships and have the ability to think deeply about the world around them. As they navigate this critical period in their lives, they must be given the tools to recognize the moral issues underlying the choices they make. [Bahai International Community Statement; Striving Towards Justice- Transforming the Dynamics of Human Interaction dated 2009-02-28]

The rapid spread of the programme for the spiritual empowerment of junior youth is yet another expression of cultural advance in the Bahá’í community. While global trends project an image of this age group as problematic, lost in the throes of tumultuous physical and emotional change, unresponsive and self- consumed, the Bahá’í community–in the language it employs and the approaches it adopts–is moving decidedly in the opposite direction, seeing in junior youth instead altruism, an acute sense of justice, eagerness to learn about the universe and a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world. Account after account, in which junior youth in countries all over the planet give voice to their thoughts as participants in the programme, testifies to the validity of this vision. There is every indication that the programme engages their expanding consciousness in an exploration of reality that helps them to analyse the constructive and destructive forces operating in society and to recognize the influence these forces exert on their thoughts and actions, sharpening their spiritual perception, enhancing their powers of expression and reinforcing moral structures that will serve them throughout their lives. At an age when burgeoning intellectual, spiritual and physical powers become accessible to them, they are being given the tools needed to combat the forces that would rob them of their true identity as noble beings and to work for the common good.

That the major component of the programme explores themes from a Bahá’í perspective, but not in the mode of religious instruction, has opened the way for its extension to junior youth in a variety of settings and circumstances. In many such instances, then, those who implement the programme enter confidently into the area of social action, encountering a range of questions and possibilities, which are being followed and organized in a global process of learning by the Office of Social and Economic Development in the Holy Land. Already the accumulating body of knowledge and experience has given rise to the capacity in several clusters scattered across the globe to each sustain over one thousand junior youth in the programme. To help others advance swiftly in this direction, the Office is establishing a network of sites in all continents, with the assistance of a corps of believers, that can be used to provide training to coordinators from scores upon scores of clusters. These resource persons continue to support coordinators upon their return to their respective clusters, enabling them to create a spiritually charged environment in which the junior youth programme can take root. [Ridvan Message 2010]

Further, they are able to keep two complementary perspectives on the pattern of action developing in the cluster firmly in view: one, the three-month cycles of activity–the rhythmic pulse of the programme of growth–and the other, the distinct stages of a process of education for children, for junior youth, and for youth and adults. [Ridvan Message 2013]

Webpages that describe the junior youth program

http://bahaibenton.org/youth/

http://www.bahai.us/community-life/teens-and-preteens/

http://www.ruhi.org/materials/list.php

http://ca.bahai.org/junior-youth

http://bahaiblog.net/site/2012/01/09/junior-youth-matter-4-principles-for-social-transformation/

http://www.oxfordbahais.com/2009/02/social-action-junior-youth-empowerment-project/

http://www.phillybahai.org/junior-youth-groups.html

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