I entered adulthood during the social media revolution. Facebook was just getting started when I started college and within a few years it seemed like everyone was on it. Fast-forward less than 10 years and networks like Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are popular among people of all ages.
The middle school students in my ministry do not use Facebook—Instagram is clearly their top social media choice. If you want to interact with middle schoolers in the digital world, Instagram is the place to do it right now. And while Instagram is a fun place to visually chronicle your life, a mom recently highlighted one of its significant drawbacks.
I entered middle school in the fall of 1999. During the first few days of school I could tell that a lot of the rules had changed—rules like how you should dress, how you should act, and how much gel you should put in your hair. I was caught off-guard by all the changes. I felt like everybody else had been clued into some insider information over the summer that, for whatever reason, had not made its way to me quite yet.
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/Gelpi
The biggest change of all was the rules about what you could and couldn’t say. From the very first day of 6th grade I observed that kids swore a lot. It was shocked and so naïve. I was confounded by kids who never swore in 5th grade and then came into 6th grade using four-letter words like they were going out of style.
I wrote this post a few years ago. The 8th grade students I reference are now high school upperclassmen, but the article’s main idea is timeless.
This past summer the 8th
grade girls in my ministry could not understand how I had not yet seen the movie Frozen. One girl decided it was time for me to see it so she got permission from her dad to host a Frozen viewing party at her house.
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/Pavel Losevsky
It turned out to be a mini-youth group event. The girl invited a few 8th grade boys and girls, a female leader, and myself, in addition to her parents who were obligatory invites.
Teenagers by nature will push the envelope. In the process of defining their identity they may resist family rules, try a new hairdo, wear clothes they wouldn’t have dreamed about wearing a few years ago, and listen to music they know drives their parents crazy.
Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com/Ilike
Parents valiantly endure this defiance and can usually find a happy middle ground between needing to control every aspect of their teenagers’ lives and providing their kids the freedom to make their own choices. But there is one type of rebellion that is particularly frightening and arresting for parents of teens.
Parents and youth workers should assume and hope for the best regarding the middle school boys they serve. However, I have seen enough young men stumble into a pornography addiction to know that even the best-behaved boys from the best homes can get caught up in it.
Photo Courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/BlueSkyImages
There is much to be said about teenage boys and pornography. However, in this post I would like to focus on the following 10 ways to help when you find out a middle school boy under your care is struggling with pornography:
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.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/Syda Productions
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.
Happy Spring Break! Lori Garcia wrote an article on Babble.com that provides a fun perspective on parenting a middle school boy. Her post is called 36 Things No One Tells You About Parenting An Almost-Teenage Boy. I encourage you to check it out.
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/atikinka2
I’ll return with regular posts next week!
When I was a teenager we played Nintendo 64. My friends and I loved playing Mario Kart, NFL Blitz, and Super Mario 64.
Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com/seandnad
It is breathtaking how much video game systems have advanced in the past ten to fifteen years. Recent systems like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are incredibly realistic, which poses a problem for middle school boys—but not for the reason you may think.
I had no idea. NO IDEA! Who knew that connecting with parents would be such a pivotal aspect of youth ministry? When I was just starting out, I read pages and pages about the importance of parents but I mostly dismissed that stuff. I was in it for the students! Parents were an afterthought.
Silly me. The biggest surprise of the past three years of ministry has been discovering the value of my connection with parents. Not only that—connecting with parents is one of the greatest sources of joy in my life these days!
This past summer we took 23 middle school students on a weekend mission trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I say “we” because five committed volunteer leaders helped me lead the trip.
The Valley Junior High Ministry volunteer leaders!
The weekend was a smashing success on multiple fronts: We experienced laughter, challenges, bonding, group learning, deep conversations, and silly late-night antics. The night after we returned I reflected on the trip and was struck by how much those five volunteers contributed to the weekend’s success.