A key to building concrete disciples is creating moments to process. Middle school students need conversations and space where they can process what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Due to their concrete nature, a tendency is to assume investing in their friends is making sure they make good choices. I recently had a conversation while slamming some good old Cici’s all you can eat pizza, about what it looks like for this student to invest in his 3.
We went back and forth – examining what ways he can help them understand the core truths of who Jesus is rather than just trying to change their actions. They have to know Jesus (heart change) before they will be capable of living in a truly changed way. One important thing we focused on was value. Middle school guys tend to care a lot about their worth – especially in sports. We’ve been talking about this on Sunday and I began to walk him through it.
#1 Challenge their process of who they are
I asked him what he feels when he loses a game? He began to walk through, saying he feels bad because he wants his coaches and parents to be pleased with his performance, because…and then he paused and grinned. He was about to say “so they don’t view me as crap.” He knew what I was getting at – I was trying to help him see how naturally the world tries to place value on us outside of Jesus. He had this fear, without knowing it, that if he didn’t succeed in sports he wasn’t valued – even though he could say clearly “God loves me no matter what.”
#2 Take a jump in time
I then asked him to pretend like he was old and pooping his pants in a nursing home. I asked how much value those middle school football games were? I asked how many people would be talking about it? In a second he grinned and started laughing. “No one.” He was beginning to get it, concretely – I may freak out about a situation but when I look at the big picture, it isn’t so bad. And suddenly, as he began to understand where his value lies he was challenged to share this same hope, this good news, with his three.
When his team loses, he has joy. Because he understands Jesus carries more weight than coaches, parents, or others who only care about him when he succeeds. Jesus represents true love, unconditional love – and he can be that representation to his 3.
We must create moments like the ones above for middle schoolers to process truth for themselves so they can then share that truth with their friends. Challenge them to think through their natural process of values, contrast that with God’s truth, and then take a little jump in time in order to help them concrete things in their mind. I am so excited for this student, watching him get a lot of what we have been speaking about, well, all summer. Which leads into tomorrows post. Sometimes you say and do the same things. A lot. But that is ok…it is all part of building concrete disciples.