How concrete is a middle schooler? When I pick my sports team I factor in abstract things such as where they are from (hometown loyalty baby) who is on the team, the skill level of those on the team, etc. However, I recently had a conversation with a soon to be seventh grader on his favorite NFL team. We are from Northeast Ohio and the majority of fans are Steelers (BOO) or Browns (YEA!) because of family ties to theses two areas. However, this particular student is a Seattle SeaHawks fan. I was curious as we sat eating ice cream about how he came to be such a fan. “Did you live in Seattle? Or why do you like them?” Maybe it was from a time living in the area. Maybe one of his favorite players was on the team. Maybe he new some statistic I didn’t know (they won a Super Bowl recently, I knew that much) “Well,” he said, then got a sheepish grin on his face. “I picked them because I really liked their colors and their logo and how they looked.” I grinned, realizing this speaks to the challenge we are up against but the excitement and fun of discipling middle school students. It hadn’t crossed his mind to think about statistics, players, how far away from where he grew up the team was. He saw what was in front of him: he liked their colors and they had a cool logo. That was good enough for him. It was concrete, it made sense. In his concrete world it was enough to like a team because they had cool colors and a cool logo.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9 I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (ESV) In order to disciple middle schoolers we must think concrete, because middle school is a different world than high school, college, or adults. But the reality is they can, and will, follow Jesus – if they have someone willing to pray for them as well as step out of their abstract understanding and walk alongside their concrete world.