Baha’i communities all over the world love to create, sponsor and encourage grassroots, neighborhood- and school-based junior youth groups.
Designed to help young adolescents between the ages of 11-14 develop into focused, happy and productive teenagers and young adults, junior youth groups teach the crucial moral, spiritual and ethical skills society often fails to transmit to this important age group.
In between childhood and the first stages of maturity, junior youth have unique developmental needs. They begin their preparation for the future, and start to think about the meaning of life, asking themselves the big questions about identity, purpose and destiny that each person tries to answer in early adolescence. That’s why Baha’is expend their volunteer energy to offer these classes:
Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity….
Among the young ones in the community are those known as junior youth, who… 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 programs of activity that will engage their interests, mold their capacities for teaching and service, and involve them in social interaction with older youth. – The Universal House of Justice, 2000, p. 8.
Baha’i-sponsored junior youth classes, free and open to everyone regardless of their beliefs, help teach spiritual, moral and ethical decision-making skills. Usually facilitated by an older adolescent or young adult, junior youth classes empower the development of inner transformation based on an altruistic sense of higher purpose. Encouraging idealistic as well as practical goals, junior youth classes emphasize the growth of spiritual capacity as a path to fun, friendship, happiness, fulfillment and positive social change.
Nurturing those capacities in junior youth groups tends to bring out the best and most noble aspects of the adolescent soul, mind and spirit.