Confession: I live in a Christian bubble. I work at a church, I regularly interact with church families, and most of my close friends go to my church. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for connecting with people outside of the church. This imbalance bothers me because Jesus calls his followers to make disciples of all nations, which includes the people right in front of me. Something is out of whack if I’m not making disciples in my personal life.
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Over the past year, God has begun to increase my desire to make connections with people who don’t know Jesus. I sense God calling me to increase my personal level of outreach in everyday life.
“They might as well have set a stack of porn magazines in my room.” That’s what my young adult friend said as he reflected on his parents allowing him to have a computer in his bedroom when he was a teenager. Looking back, he knows it was a bad idea.
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During middle and high school he got mired in pornography for a few years because of that computer. His porn addiction made him feel gross and ashamed and he had little self-confidence. His parents’ greatest fault was providing little to no accountability with his computer use.
I know you believe and hope for the best in your middle school son, as you should. However on behalf of all teenage boys I would plead that you don’t give him total freedom with a computer, iPad, iPod, or cell phone. Don’t make an exception for your son and turn a blind eye just because “he’s a good kid” or “he’d never look at porn” or “he’s not like other boys.”
Many of us look back on our own middle school experience and say, “You couldn’t pay me enough money to go back to that stage of life!” Middle school was a rough time for a lot of adults. What I find interesting is that so many of us have negative associations with those years but we don’t remember exactly why middle school was difficult.
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If that’s you, here’s a little refresher.
In my work with middle school boys I find myself repeatedly having the same conversations. It turns out they all struggle with a limited set of issues that just look slightly different for each boy based on his specific personality and specific life situation.
Every year in our middle school ministry we do a “Love Spectrum” series where we talk about love, sex, dating, and relationships for an entire month. At the end we always have a Q&A session where students can write questions and hear answers from volunteer leaders. Every year, multiple students ask “When should I start dating?”
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For clarity, when I use the word “dating” I’m referring to the middle school conception of dating, which is usually synonymous with the phrase “going out.” Middle school dating involves one boy and one girl going public with the fact that they like each other and their relationship is more than “just friends.” They may or may not communicate with each other more than normal friends and may or may not spend time together outside of school or church activities.
How would you react to either of the following scenarios involving your middle school son?
Scenario #1 (This is a story I observed first-hand): You are almost done cleaning the kitchen after dinner. The dishes have been rinsed and put in the dishwasher. The food has been put away in the refrigerator. You’ve wiped down the table and are attacking all the smudges and crumbs on the counter.
As you turn to wash your rag in the sink, your son and his friend start a Nerf war seemingly out of nowhere. In the blink of an eye, they have emerged from a back room each wielding a loaded Nerf gun and a pocket overflowing with extra darts. All you see is a blur of bodies ducking and hiding behind furniture and under the table. Occasionally you hear a yelp of delight when one of the boys gets hit.
Nerf darts are flying everywhere. They whiz by your head, land in the sink, and disappear behind pictures on the counter. To make things more chaotic, the boys are using you as a human shield while you maneuver around the center island to get the last of the crumbs.
How would you react?
This is a guest post written by my friend Susan Shisler
. She has had two boys in my ministry over the past few years. This post is overflowing with wisdom.
I am a boymom (a mother to only boys) and I absolutely love it. Along with my husband, I have the privilege of raising four boys into men. Currently we have an 19-year-old, a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old, and a bonus little guy who is 6 years old. By the time he is a teen I hope to have this whole “motherhood” thing down.
Susan and her boys.
I have learned a lot along the way but have by no means perfected my parenting. Despite the varying personalities of our sons there are several things that have remained the same while raising them as teenagers.
Here are the top10 things I have learned from parenting teenage boys:
Do you remember 8th grade? When I reflect on my 8th grade experience I can recount a few notable moments:
- The 9/11 terrorist attacks happened that year. We were in Mr. Bratcher’s band class when we found out and immediately turned on the TVs to watch the events unfold.
- I had my first and only foray into theater by portraying Peter, Anne Frank’s flirtatious love interest, in The Diary of Anne Frank.
- I got braces.
- I met someone who I thought would be my best friend. It turns out the friendship crashed and burned less than two years later.
- I told a girl that I thought she had big thighs.
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Something else happened in 8th grade that marked a shift in my social life. Things started to get waaay more complicated with my friends. This transition happens at different times for different kids but it seems to be most prevalent with 8th graders.
Trust is valuable. We all need people we can trust, especially when life is unsettled and chaotic. There’s plenty of craziness in the lives of middle school students, so they crave connections with people they can trust.
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Middle schoolers are generally naive and more willing than high schoolers to trust an adult, but they won’t trust freely. As with anyone at any other age, trust must be earned. Since trust take a long time to build and can quickly be lost, it’s important that we protect the trust middle schoolers give us. Here are ten ways to build and maintain trust with middle school students:
When kids are younger it’s easy to think that we have control over them. In some ways controlling younger kids is easy, especially when they’re physically small. For example, when they were acting up or having a tantrum what did you do? You picked them up, restrained them, or removed them from the room.
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It’s not as easy to control middle schoolers. Good luck trying to pick them up to put them in a time-out! So, what’s the best way to achieve anything resembling “control” with older kids?
I recently met with a group of high school students who had gone through my middle school ministry. They’ve all gotten taller and the boys’ voices are deeper but they’re still the same wonderful people I used to know. It’s fun to see how much they’ve matured since 8th grade. I love staying in touch with former students.
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The purpose of my meeting was to grill them with questions about their middle school experience. I was curious about what they remember and what was impactful during their time in my ministry. I was hoping to get insight into how I can improve my current ministry with middle school students. Here are five of the most interesting things that they said: