So there is this movement. And it is a good movement, right? Back to creating disciples who live out the mission of God every day. People who don’t just “do church” but who have rhythms in their life that identify with the Gospel, as Family of God, who live on mission with God. I have been blessed to shepherd middle school students and wrestle each day with what this looks like for a 6th, 7th, or 8th grader. And I will admit – it seems hard enough wrestling through this new identity with high schoolers or adults who seem to have already set their identity. Middle schoolers should be easy then, right?
Middle Schoolers are naturally searching, seeking, finding – but because they are young they won’t necessarily set who they are. In fact – its more what everyone else is doing. Whoever has the most time gets the identity.
I laugh because I see this – during football season their life is defined by their football team. They are tight. They do everything together. But once the season ends until the next team they seem to lose this sense of family and identity. They set each other off one day and are no longer talking and the next are best of friends. It is really tough to keep up. I find myself constantly sharing the same core truths over and over again. And that is okay. Maybe some parents want me to go deeper. Maybe some students are tired of hearing it. But my desire is a middle school student would be saturated in the core truth of the Gospel, being a part of Family of God, and living on Mission with Him – so that by the time they are a freshman no matter what sport they play, job they get, or AP class they take – these truths of Jesus are at their core.
Living on mission with Middle Schoolers means 25% focus and 75% other.
I am the biggest supporter of middle schoolers following Jesus and living for Him. I have taken them to food banks and community centers where they are better volunteers than the adults in our church (true story.) But at the midst of this, middle schoolers really want to have fun. Middle school is stressful and figuring out who they are is stressful, and feeling like…so and on so on. They need a chance to have fun – and people they can have fun with in a Christ-centered environment. My dudes will pack hundreds of potatos – but do so by joking about the faces they see and the weird shapes. My gals will mop the floors but while giggling about Starbucks. They will pray for their friends – and then proceed to dress up in every costume imaginable found in the basement of the host home.
Living on mission with middle schoolers means someone else will get most of the credit later
You are going to be planting a lot of seeds. And not much else. And that is tough for a lot of people to deal with. Middle school ministry is a lot of times seen as the lesser. There is no glory in it. I am going to talk a lot about following Jesus but not see a lot of middle schoolers who can actively do this – now don’t get me wrong. I fully believe they can but I also believe they are in such a crazy developmental stage of life that it looks a lot different than a high schooler, or a college student, or a young couple, or a retired worker. They have these natural tendencies to default into “fun mode,” you can be honed in on a group of them, maintaining nearly 100% focus and then one of the girls will say “should I pack pants to camp?” But there is this amazing thing about trusting God – He is faithful and working in ways we could never imagine.
I am so blessed to have a team of adults who are willing to press through the crowds, the followers, the whatevers and live on mission with middle school students. There isn’t a lot of glory or satisfaction in it – except knowing we are being faithful to what God has called us to – make disciples of all nations – including all middle schoolers. A concrete disciple is the basic foundation, that first step, the most primitive. Its that under-layer of paint on the canvas before it turns into a beautiful portrait, digging the hole before your pool gets put in, planting the seed and not being the one to share in its fruit. But its worth it to play this role God has allowed us to share in His kingdom. Create concrete disciples, slowly and surely, trusting God for growth – do not be discouraged at those who think less because “all you do is have fun” or “all you do is control chaos.” You bring the hope of Jesus to those in darkness who others would say “its not worth it.” But our God is greater than their consideration of time – middle schoolers are worth more than what those doubts others place would say. God is faithful. Remain steady. Do not give up.