6 Ways You Can Support the Junior Youth Program – Even if You’re Not an Animator

Junior Youth in Banting Malaysia. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Junior Youth in Banting Malaysia. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

Most Baha’is, both young and old, can accept that the future of our community and the driving force behind its growth will be the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program – or JYSEP.

What fewer Baha’is can reconcile with is their role within this movement. There are children who become junior youth, and junior youth who become participants, and “older” youth who become the animators that accompany them.

And then there’s the rest of us.

If you’re a youth in spirit though not in reality, you may feel you are on the periphery of a phenomenon. As we are encouraged more and more to support the youth, to support this Program, it is easy to ask, “But, how?” if you are neither a youth nor part of this Program.

It is, of course, never too late to become an animator of a junior youth group, particularly if you are in a cluster, community or neighbourhood, in which the need outweighs the available resources.

If, for whatever reason, serving as an animator is not feasible for you, there are still a number of ways you are able to contribute to the JYSEP.

1. Know your product

As mentioned in the Insights from the Frontiers of Learning document…

…not all the believers, of course, are able to work directly with junior youth groups… Nevertheless, a sound knowledge of the programme has proved to be invaluable for all those engaged in the work of the Plan, since the insights acquired help to shape the discourse with the wider community about the mission of the Faith to contribute to the betterment of the world.1

Having a sound and thorough knowledge of the JYSEP and being able to articulate this to the wider community will play a significant role in establishing a presence within a neighbourhood, creating an awareness of the JYSEP and its effects, and contributing to a culture, in which junior youth are perceived as active agents of social change.

An example of this is given in the “Insights” document mentioned above:

In the East Valley cluster in the United States, the friends serving in teaching teams and as animators concentrated for a period on learning how to effectively engage young people and their families from a receptive neighbourhood in an elevated and effective conversation about the junior youth programme. Over time, as their efforts bore fruit, this conversation began to spread to all the friends engaged in activities throughout the cluster, whether associated with the junior youth groups or not. This not only contributed to the multiplication of groups but also enriched the entire programme of growth by helping the friends visualize and describe their efforts in broader terms of community building and social transformation.2


2. All roads lead to Rome

Coherence among core activities is both an approach and an outcome of effective growth. Pursuing lines of action in a coherent manner by centering activities around a particular point of focus can be a strategic way of achieving organic growth. At the same time, “initiating one activity, can, quite naturally, lead to the emergence of others”3 or enhance already existing activities. A potential offshoot of a junior youth group, for example, may be a children’s class for their younger siblings.

The Universal House of Justice states, that “By multiplying vibrant junior youth groups, a community learns a great deal about, for instance, how capable human resources are increased and deployed” and “how capacity for service is raised within cohorts of individuals”4.

As junior youth move through the program, they widen the pool of human resources available to a community by becoming engaged in service. There must, therefore, be activities to channel their energies – study circles to participate in, tutors to accompany them, children’s classes for them to teach, junior youth groups for them to animate. The educational process is a community-wide effort and though we may look to the junior youth to spearhead community-building efforts, the community itself will be made up of more than just junior youth: As such, each and every member has a role to play and an equal – though not identical – contribution to make within it.

Supporting the JYSEP may look like supporting your community in general and responding to its varying needs. Assisting a children’s class, starting a Book 1, making regular home-visits, participating in a collective teaching campaign –all these efforts will eventually feed into the advancement of the JYSEP as will the JYSEP mutually advance the efforts of a community.


3. The ornaments of a home are the guests who frequent it.

For every actively engaged junior youth, there will be a parent concerned about their welfare – whether they are members of the Baha’i or wider community. Ruhi Book 5 states that:

An important requirement for maintaining a dynamic junior youth group is building trust and friendship with the parents. Animators need to visit them either before or soon after the junior youth have formed their group and explain to them the purpose of the program. They should continue to visit the parents regularly thereafter, share with them the various themes related to the lives of the junior youth that the program explores…and consult with them about the well-being and progress of their children.5

Home-visiting parents is something that can be co-ordinated with members of the community. Particularly when animators are younger youth, it is helpful to have a mature adult to accompany them on a home visit to a parent.


4. It’s not what you know, but who you know.

The most difficult aspect of running a junior youth group is starting one. Finding enough participants to form a sizable group is challenging – particularly in the Western countries, where approaching a junior youth you do not know can feel unwise or inappropriate.

Using an existing relationship as a starting point can be advantageous. Do you know a junior youth or do you know a family with children of junior youth age? Your contacts may be the greatest contribution you can make to a budding junior youth group.


5.…Okay, and also a bit of what you know.

In Book 5, it asks:

How do you ensure that childish games are not presented as a substitute for arts and crafts and that young people are assisted to gain a true appreciation of “arts, crafts and sciences” that “uplift the world of being, and are conducive to its exaltation”?6

An essential part of the JYSEP is the incorporation of creative endeavours and activities. If you have a particular skill, craft, talent or passion that you are able to share, then facilitating a work-shop in either one or part of a session may be your way of assisting the lateral development of a junior youth.


6. Let deeds, not words be your adorning

Finally, JY groups will always constitute endless logistical considerations: lifts to be organized, food to be prepared, art supplies to be transported, parents to be called, venues to be secured…

Offer your home, offer your car, offer your food but more importantly offer your time, your energy and your service because without it, no community can hope to prosper and with it, we can only grow.


  1. Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, A document prepared by The International Teaching Centre, Baha’i World Centre, April, 2013, p.15 []
  2. Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, A document prepared by The International Teaching Centre, Baha’i World Centre, April, 2013, p.15 []
  3. Letter dated 14 November 2012 written on 
behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States. []
  4. Letter dated 14 November 2012 written on 
behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States. []
  5. Ruhi Book 5: Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth, Unit 3, Section 25. []
  6. Ruhi Book 5: Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth, Unit 3, Section 22. []

About the Author

Zayda is a Baha'i living and serving in Australia's capital, Canberra.

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Discussion 11 Comments

  1. One aspect that is important to realize as that the Junior Youth Program is not meant to work in isolation. This as well as other core activities are all part of the Community building effort. So for example, the parents and junior youth also participate in devotionals in the given neighborhood. Study circles happen with the older siblings and parents.. but most importantly all find ways to contribute to each of the activities be it by participating, by helping with food, funds, invitations, visits, etc.. etc.. With this deep ties of friendship evolve between people of all ages and the neighborhood changes.

  2. On Sunday, January 12th, from 2 till 4, I held a Jewelry making party using large hole, Pandora Style beads and charms. It was combined with a tea party in my home. Sharon Ballard bought Subway sandwiches and the necklaces and bracelets, and I donated 10 beads per child as well as
    two each pave (sparkly beads) and one charm each. The designs were lovely and the Jr. Youth made them for Ayyam-i-Ha gifts for parents, grandparents, and their teachers. There were two parents present, a lovely woman who accompanies but hasn’t declared yet, and Sharon Ballard and her husband.

    Next, I will host a card making class with rubber stamps and punches to decorate the cards. I teach this in an after school achivement program.

    And since I am an author, in the future, I will teach a creative writing class to the Jr. Youth. Thank you for the wonderful suggestions at this site.

  3. When I do the Creative Writing Program, I will pick out a story from Baha’i history and have them identify the three “P’s”. People, Place and Plot and have them try to tell the story in their own words, using a “balloon system,” with connecting blank circles that they fill in with names, (i.e. the three “P’s”). It’s a technique I learned a long time ago. It helps one to have all the links on paper in order to write the story.

  4. “The most difficult aspect of running a junior youth group is starting one.”

    In my experience, starting a junior youth group is by far the *easiest* part of having one. Animating, visiting all the junior youth and their families on a regular basis, maintaining a constant presence in the neighborhood, developing ongoing relationships with the junior youth, helping them to understand the Institute process and the main sequence of courses to be pursued after turning 15, keeping adequate records, engaging in regular expansion to make up for attrition, and mentoring new animators is an exhausting process, and keeping it up for three years even more so. Starting a group might take a month in a really resistant neighborhood, or between hours and a couple of weeks in a highly receptive one, depending on how much time you have to devote to home visits.

    In the end, “who you know” is much less important than “who you’re willing to get to know.”

    1. On-going effort is definitely required for the entire duration of the process, from starting a group to maintaining one through to transitioning each of the participants on to find their path of service. You are right in pointing out that starting a group may be the first step but from that point on, it will require many, many more.

      Inviting a junior youth to a group that does not yet exist can be daunting. Asking a stranger to have faith in a process that has not yet begun even moreso. In that sense, as you rightly emphasised, a willingness to “get to know” people is vital.

      1. “Inviting a junior youth to a group that does not yet exist can be daunting. Asking a stranger to have faith in a process that has not yet begun even moreso. ”

        All the more reason why we need to be visiting receptive families and having conversations of spiritual import all the time. So when there are enough resources to support a new group, the social unit already exists, and there are no strangers in it. 🙂

  5. The Junior Youth Spiritual Programme is an ever-advancing phenom wich we cant end learning out of it. Am 21 and once upon a time l was a junior youth, at the age of 16 l was trained as an animtor, and now have 3 years experience as an animator. I can see that the programme is expidient, and it has actually changed my life both spiritualy and intellectualy, l can say it actually fulfilled its purpose on me!, Now with that little knowlege and experince l have in the programme, l was called upon as a regional Junior Youth Coordinator, a responsibilty that l know was shouldered upon me not becoz l hve much knowlege in the programme but its actually an opportunity to learn. I always come across massive improvisons in the JYSEP everyday!

  6. Hi I’m working on starting a JY group in Corfu Greece and have approached parents I know well and sent a mini video I found to reinforce my explanation. However for the parents I don’t know that well, I’d like to see some ideas of what to say to parents. Is there anything like that available? Would be love to hear from you. With warmest wishes, Stephi

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