Our ministry organizes at least one special event every month. We’ve had everything from scavenger hunts and fast-food progressive dinners to things like service projects, retreats, and small group sleepovers. Parents will frequently come up to me in the days following those events and tell me something like, “Sounds like it was a great event last weekend! My son/daughter had fun!”
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/Sondem
In the past few years my vision for ministry and understanding of my role as a middle school pastor have deepened. As a result, comments like, “My kid had fun at your ministry function!” get me thinking about a few important things.
I am a huge proponent of middle school ministry. Students are in a pivotal developmental stage that affects multiple areas of their lives—cognitively, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Middle schoolers are also still pretty open to the influence of adults. On top of all that, middle school ministry is a lot of fun!
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I always remind myself that many students have already experienced at least a few year’s in a children’s ministry before they get to middle school . My students don’t come to me with a blank slate. They’ve already been impacted by their previous ministry experiences.
That means my children’s ministry is critical to my success as a middle school pastor. Children’s ministry volunteers and paid staff are not my enemies or my competition. They are my allies. We’re all on the same team working toward making more disciples for Jesus Christ.
This is a guest post written by my good friend Julie Evans
. Julie is an experienced volunteer in my church’s middle school ministry. She does an awesome job connecting in appropriate ways with the middle school girls AND boys. Julie enjoys many decades of Christian pop music, anything wasabi-flavored, and laughing at inside jokes.
Looking across the room during middle school ministry is often a comical ‘Red Sea’ depiction — all the boys on one side and all the girls on the other. Depending on the grade level and maturity level, there’s a good chance that one of the genders has NO IDEA that the other gender even exists.
Julie is in the back, behind the girl with the #12 jersey. This was taken at a fun event she helped organize with some 8th grade students.
As a female youth leader or volunteer in these scenarios, I’ve often felt magnetically drawn to the girls’ side. I can quickly and easily fall into conversations with the girls in our ministry. It’s easy to believe that my role and purpose is for them alone, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I have a sneaking suspicion that when I get to heaven I’m going to realize that prayer was much more powerful than we ever thought. Knowing that prayer is a pathway to increasing my impact for God’s kingdom, I have made a point to increase the prayer activity in my life. I’m sure you love to pray or would love to pray for your middle schooler(s).
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A parent from my ministry asked me if I had any recommendations for Scripture passages she could use to pray for her son to become a godly man. I combed through Scripture and here are some of the verses I found. Notice that you could pray most of these prayers for any boy, whether or not he’s your son and whether or not he’s in middle school.
When I think back to 6th grade a handful of memorable adults come to mind. Mr. Steinke was my math teacher. One day I showed up to class wearing the same outfit as him. Yikes! Mrs. Reynhout was my reading teacher. She was one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met.
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/Vibe Images
I also remember Kyle. Kyle was my Sunday School teacher at church. Looking back on it, I am struck by how much he impacted me when I consider how simply he went about it.
Recently we hosted a welcome party for the new 7th grade students in our ministry and their parents. The party included things like lunch, games, interviews with older students, and a parent information session.
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Overall it was a successful event. It provided a great start in our ministry for the new students and their parents. But something else happened during the event that I will not forget for a long time.
I’ve been a part of enough middle school worship experiences to know that getting middle school boys to engage with singing is a tall task. On any given night I’ll look out over the crowd and see some boys punching their friend next to them in the arm, others flirting with girls, while others are putting their hands on the projector screen and make amazingly distracting shadow puppets.
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/SergiyN
Not all middle school boys are going to enjoy singing. The tough reality for those boys is that most churches and youth ministries place an emphasis on corporate singing, and rightfully so because it’s a special way for us to communicate praise to God. What can you do about those boys who aren’t into singing?
At my church all of our middle school small groups meet in the church building at the same time on Wednesday nights. I decided to take advantage of that arrangement on a special Wednesday night last year.
On that particular Wednesday afternoon I called Little Caesar’s (you can’t beat their price of $5 per pizza) and asked them to deliver 12 pizzas (2 for each of our ministry’s 6 small groups) during the time when small groups were meeting. It was time for a special surprise!
Parkour (par-koo-er; also known as “free running”) is an activity that has gained popularity in the US over the past 5-10 years. It’s difficult to describe without seeing it. Parkour is like gymnastics except people are running outside and they use random buildings or physical structures to do tricks instead of relying on gymnastics equipment.
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/Innovated Captures
Parkour is basically strong, coordinated, athletic guys doing dangerous things that look really cool to observers. So middle school boys (and most other guys) think parkour is cool. We all secretly wish we could do the parkour stunts that we see in movies and on YouTube but know there’s no chance we can pull it off like the pros. However, that doesn’t keep us from testing our own skills.
Mark Ostreicher Blog