“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20
So what does it look like for a middle school student to be a disciple who make disciples? This is a tricky think. Middle school students are still figuring out who they are, shaping and forming their identity. And while much of what we do is help them center their identity on the solid, unchanging truth of who they are in Christ – part of building concrete disciples is helping them figure out what it looks like for them to be on mission with God.
If you tell a middle school student – “Hey! Go and make disciples!” Most likely they won’t have a clue what you mean or how to do this. However – there are two questions you can ask which lay a concrete foundation of disciple making.
Who are you with?
Middle schoolers live in their own little world – like it or not. So the simple, concrete question of “who are you with?” is one that can be easily answered. Who are you with on the soccer field? Who are you with at the lunch table? Who are you with in the neighborhood? All of these names, friends, family members, are relationships a middle school student has right now. They are tangible people a middle school student lives in relationship with. Partner this with the simple, concrete commands Love God and Love Others and we begin to set them up to make disciples.
A middle schooler will most likely struggle with the words to say to those they are with – or they may not. A sixth grader or an eighth grader can share the Gospel, and it starts with those they are with. For those who struggle with the words to say or courage to say it, ask them this second question:
Who are you bringing with you?
Most likely some of your students are still figuring out their identity in Christ – and because we strive to make our middle school environments places where any student continually experiences the truth of the Gospel – we issue this second question. We encourage students to bring their friend who has never experienced the transformational love of Jesus with them. A concrete way for middle schoolers to be on mission with God is to bring their friends to experience the love of Christ. Again – this only works if your environment is set up for students to experience hope and the love of Christ.
We strive for this to happen – but it isn’t always the case. Because things get messy. A kid shows up who has beef with another kid and they fight. A kid shows up who thinks tonight is talk like a sailor night. A kid shows up really hungry…because they are high. And it butts up against the idea of your middle school environment being a safe space.
God is not safe. Jesus is not safe. He pushes up against safe Christianity and pushes up against worldliness. Middle schoolers bringing someone with them means the environment is no longer about being safe, comfortable, and easy. There will be students who challenge the limits of grace and mercy you extend. But many of the kids never experience unrelenting, unconditional love.
As middle schoolers live life on mission with God – examining who they are with and who they are bringing with them – we can create environments for middle schoolers to experience the love of Christ. The Gospel being lived out in the lives of middle schoolers begins with these two questions centered on Jesus. It moves beyond “that person on a missions trip in another city” to who are you with right now who needs to experience the love of Christ? Who are you bringing with you who has never known the love of Christ? We get to be a part of something great God is doing with middle school students as they live life on mission with Him.