A few years ago, a middle school dad sent me a text message immediately after we had returned from a weekend retreat. It’s always nerve-wracking to get a text from a parent after a ministry trip. Sometimes it’s for a bad reason. This particular dad had an eighth grade daughter who had been on the retreat with us and and she was new to our ministry.
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It turns out she had had an excellent experience throughout the weekend. PHEW! Big sigh of relief.
The text message went something like this: “Hi Joe. My daughter had a great experience this weekend. She said she met the most amazing boys at the retreat.”
At this point I rolled my eyes and expected to hear about how this girl fell in puppy-love with some cute boys and had their numbers and wanted to date one of them. And how she obsessively talked about them all the time and Dad was upset with me for creating an environment for her to meet those boys.
This is a guest post written by my friend Kimberly Stuart. She is the mom of a student in my ministry and a published novelist. Kimberly just released her latest book, Sugar. If you enjoy Kimberly’s punchy wit in this post, you’ll love Sugar.
Dear Young Dude,
I’m the mom of that girl I saw you checking out today, but don’t get nervous. I just want you to know some stuff about middle school girls and their parents. Pop open a Coke and take that entire new bag of Doritos hiding in the back of the pantry and let’s have a chat. I won’t tell your mom and dad about the Doritos.
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Remember when girls were full of cooties? When the only interesting girl in your class was Jenna C. because she picked her nose and ate it and Maddie M. because she could rip off twenty-five pull-ups in P.E.? Those were the days. Now that you are older and wiser, you know lots of girls are actually kind of great, even the ones who can’t crush a pull-up. They’re great, but some days, you probably wish they came with operating instructions. Or some kind of app. The Girl Translation App, some kind of guide to make sense of the rules that seem to change, the behavior that doesn’t make sense.
When I was young I liked to push my parents’ boundaries occasionally. A few times I dared to speak words that I knew were unacceptable in my house.
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My words were met with soap. In my mouth. It tasted disgusting. I hated it. I quickly learned that naughty words would not be tolerated in my house.
Fast-forward a few years to the start of sixth grade. All of a sudden kids started saying A LOT of naughty words. Despite the immense peer pressure to go with the flow, I knew those words were not okay. Even if we were at school and Mom and Dad couldn’t hear me say them. Way to go, Mom and Dad! The soap worked.
Sometimes the best thing you can do in parent-child conflict is to follow Queen Elsa’s advice and let it go. Most battles aren’t worth fighting. Others, though, are absolutely worth the trouble. Here are five battles worth fighting with middle school boys:
What causes you to feel shame and insecurity as a parent?
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Last year I devoured all of Brene Brown’s books. She’s an author who writes about how shame manifests itself in our lives.
Brown suggests that parenting is a significant potential source of shame. I’ve started asking trusted parents about their sources of parenting shame. It turns out that everyone has spoken and unspoken expectations about how one should raise his or her kids.
I sometimes slip into thinking middle school life experiences are trivial. “Sure, middle school students’ issues seem huge to them,” I tell myself, “but if they had perspective they would realize how insignificant their problems are.”
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I must be careful to not let that attitude go too far because the events of a middle school student’s life can have a lifelong impact. I need to look no further than my own life.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Thanksgiving is coming up soon. This holiday gives you an opportunity to recognize things you are thankful for.
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As your youth pastor I have a lot of respect for you but guys your age are not known for having a thankful attitude. That is partially due to the stage of life you’re in, so I’ll give you some grace. But it’s still important for you to develop a thankful spirit—it will serve you well now and as an adult.
I know being in middle school can be difficult. There’s a lot to adjust to, dealing with friends is stressful, and you might not be getting along super well with your parents.
I’m running the Des Moines Marathon this Sunday, October 16. I’ve been training for 18 weeks and 500+ miles. I’m hoping to finish the race in a little under four hours—that’s roughly a pace of 9 minutes, 10 seconds per mile.
If you want to follow my progress live during the race on Sunday morning, you can download the IMT Des Moines Marathon app onto your phone. Make sure you get the version created by MYLAPS Experience Lab. The app is available for free through the iTunes and Google Play stores.
When you open the app there’s a “Live Tracking” button that you can click on. Then choose “Find a participant” and search for me under “Joseph Budish.” The race officially starts at 8 am, although I might not start running until a few minutes after 8.
Thanks for following along!
P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider making a donation to my marathon charity fundraiser that will help provide clean water to people around the world. The campaign is already at 60% of the final goal of $2,620. Together we can make a difference!
From time to time I like to share updates from my personal life. Here’s a special opportunity to support middle school boys (and other kids) from around the world:
I am running the Des Moines Marathon on Sunday, October 16. It’s less than a week away! I want to run for something greater than myself, so as I prepare for the race I am also raising money for a cool organization called charity: water.
My friend Tony and I created a two-and-a-half minute video to help tell my story. Please consider visiting my official charity: water page and making a donation.
At the time of this writing I’m already 53% of the way to my final goal of $2,620. 100% of donated funds will go directly to help provide clean water to people around the world. Your donation of $5, $10, or $20 could make a huge difference!
I played on the high school baseball team from 9th-12th grade. The varsity coach’s name was Don. Don required all of us to serve at a youth baseball clinic on one hazy Saturday morning at the beginning of my 9th grade season.
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I dutifully complied, not because I was excited to work at the clinic but because I wanted to do what the head coach told us to do. So I helped out at the camp, which lasted for just a few hours. I don’t remember much about the actual camp itself, but as we were getting ready to leave Don pulled me aside and we had a conversation that radically affected the course of my life.
I love working with middle school students and right now there’s nothing else I want to do with my life. However, there are moments when I get frustrated and my work feels toilsome. Like when I hear about former students who have walked away from their faith. Or when I grow weary of telling students to be quiet for the 47th time in a 15-minute span. Or when I finish up a boys small group meeting feeling like it was a colossal waste of time.
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When my work in ministry seems fruitless (which seems to happen with frustrating regularity) or I begin to question my career choice or I start to lose perspective, I often recall a memorable conversation I had with a middle school boy a few years ago.