For some people, the words “middle schoolers” can create some pretty intense feelings of fear, panic, and sheer terror. If faced with spending time with them they would rather have a root canal. However, for those of us in ministry we not only spend time with middle school students, we actually enjoy it! Crazy thought huh? Well, it’s true. We look forward to time with these students as we get to walk with them through the many challenges and blessings of that phase of life.
Middle schoolers often get a bad rap. In our culture very little is expected of them or from them. If they can avoid destroying everything around them and showering a few times a week, we feel like they are exceptional. This is both sad and unfortunate as these students have unlimited potential and amazing gifts that can change the world right now for Jesus Christ.
In my 28 years in youth ministry here are just a few of the things I have witnessed middle schoolers doing:
- Bringing their non-Christian friends to youth group
- Leading church services
- Serving at homeless shelters, food banks, and other community organizations
- Leading children’s ministries
- Helping to build homes for those in need
- Leading their friends to Christ
- Asking questions of incredible depth and maturity
- Helping their friends as they struggle through things like their parents’ divorce, death of friends, addictions, depression, bullying
- Leading youth group
The list could go on and on. Many people say that students are the leaders of the future, and to that, I say they are leader’s now- if we let them be. So how do we develop these young people who have amazing potential? Here are a few ideas.
1- Spend time with them:
Middle schoolers want your time and attention- give it to them. Spend time with them, get to know what makes them tick. They need adults to help walk with them through the multitude of changes they are going through- someone who will be there for them consistently that they can rely on and trust. We all want that ourselves and middle schoolers are no different. Set up a regular mentoring meeting with them and talk about life, faith, family, school, etc. Take them with you to what you normally do in your life- the gym, grocery store, movies, etc. Allow them to live life with you and you with them. If possible join them for lunch at their school or at least go to their events (sports, musical) at school. Be present in their lives and share yours with them as well.
2- Let them serve:
3- Let them lead:
Frank Newburn is a husband, father of 3, and youth director for Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomington, IL. His ministry focuses include mentoring and discipleship, student leadership, and missions and has over 28 years of youth ministry experience. He holds degrees in Psychology, Christian Education, Biblical and Theological Studies, and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, all from Wheaton College. Frank enjoys movies, cooking, working out, and spending time with his wife and kids.