The Recipe for Developing an Authentic Faith of Their Own
If you have worked with middle schoolers for more than a week, I would bet my bank account (which let’s face it, isn’t all that much) that after you tell people what you do and who you serve, they look at you and say, “Oh bless your heart. I’m sorry. That’s a hard job that I’d never want.”
Early in my career of middle school ministry, I would just respond with a simple, “Oh yeah, thanks.” But over the years I have learned to respond differently. Now, when someone gives me that sad, defeated look, I respond proudly, “No, I choose middle schoolers! I love this age group! Let me tell you why.”
I realize a lot of times the reason people feel the way they do about middle schoolers is because they simply don’t understand them. That’s why part of what I feel called to do is educate people on the middle school phase.
I've been working with middle school students for 14 years now. I absolutely love them. I love who they are, just as they are. It’s the way they’re made! I mean besides being hours of free entertainment, middle schoolers are a fascinating group developmentally. They’re going through so many changes not just in their bodies, but in their brain, as well.
For example, middle schoolers are given the gift of abstract thinking when they hit puberty. And with that abstract thinking comes self-awarness. Suddenly they have the ability to see things from another person’s perspective. And with that, they have their first introduction to doubt. While that all may sound like a lot for some people, I think those three things—self-awareness, other perspectives, and doubt—are the recipe for developing an authentic faith of their own. What an honor to walk alongside students in this important phase of faith!
When you start to understand what’s happening in the mind of a middle schooler, you start to love them. Why? Because you realize that they desperately need role models to guide them as they grow. I think you can have the biggest impact and influence on students from 11-14 than you can at any other ages. And that’s what keeps drawing me in.
Sure, it can be totally exhausting at times! But at the end of the day, middle schoolers are the most life-giving group of people I’ve had the chance to work with. And I think, if you give it a chance, you’ll feel the same way, too!
So this is my plea: Don’t let middle schoolers be the forgotten in your student ministry. Don’t fall prey to the line of thinking that says, “When they get to high school, then I’ll start ministering to them.” Instead, step out and try to understand them. Recognize the place you could have in their lives right now. I promise when you do, you’ll grow to love the middle schoolers in your world as much as I have.