The middle school years (11-14 years old) are one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated developmental periods of human life. They’re misunderstood by adults in general, to be sure; and they’re misunderstood by churches more often than not.”
-Mark Oestreicher & Scott Rubin
This just happens to be the first two sentences in the introduction of Middle School Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide to Working With Early Adolescents. As a Middle School/Junior High pastor, you play a vital role in the development of young men and women. If you are in a role that spans both the junior and senior high roles, always be reminded to never leave behind your middle schoolers! Next to the children’s ministry, you are on the front lines fighting for the souls of these students! Mark and Scott nail it down in the above quote. Middle schoolers are greatly misunderstood and under-appreciated. We must understand that middle school is a key developmental period and is a time of discovering identity.
Their identity will determine their spiritual foundation.
Growing up, I was never really good at science, unless you count math! It was something that just didn’t come naturally to me. Chemistry? Yea, you can forget that. Unless it involved blowing something up, I just wasn’t interested. However, physics was a very cool subject to learn in my eyes. It reveals how things work, and it helps you understand the consequences of certain actions. For instance, Newton’s Laws of Motion helps you to understand the importance of brakes. Without them you run directly into a tree. This makes watching your brother run into a tree all the more entertaining.
One subject in physics can be applicable to many facets of life! Every middle school ministry has the potential to have a huge amount of potential energy (sound redundant yet?). I would argue that it is within the middle school ministry that potential energy is at it’s greatest. The potential energy of any ministry determines the effectiveness of the ministry.
The potential energy of any ministry determines the effectiveness of the ministry
“Potential energy is the energy that is stored in an object due to its position relative to some zero position.” So let’s simplify this. Picture with me an archer. Their goal is to get an arrow to the center of a target. In order to do this, the archer must load the arrow, pull back the bow string, aim and release. The arrow should then go on its projected course. Sure, it could be effected by outside factors, but to the archers knowledge and skill it is headed in the direction of the bullseye. The potential energy that exists in this example is when the archer draws the string back and takes aim (this is youth ministry)! The potential energy is found in the potential force that is going to thrust the arrow in the direction it needs to go. If the potential energy is too low, the arrow will fall short.
So, let’s apply this example to ministry. Let me start by also saying none of this comes to fruition if these ministries don’t seek to partner with parents! After all, if the students are the arrows, the parents are sharpening the tips and are preparing them for flight. Again, it is within the middle school ministry that potential energy is at its greatest. Middle school ministry should exist to create the potential energy required in order to thrust the student towards a deeper relationship with Christ.
None of this comes to fruition if these ministries don’t seek to partner with parents!
Why does middle school ministry possess the most potential energy? Eleven to fourteen years of age is the most developmental time on any student’s life. This time in life is when they are seeking to establish their identity. They will either have their identity established in Christ, or they will have it established according to the standards of this world. As they establish their identity, they are establishing their potential energy as they move on towards high school and adulthood. The middle school ministry should create enough potential energy, that when they get to high school they can be fully released into college. When their identity is established, they can take aim and begin to truly grow in Christ as they dive deeper in their faith in high school! Imagine the weight this takes off the total youth ministry. The youth ministry can know that they set the student up for hitting the bullseye. The student ministry can know that they did all they can do to prepare that student for college and adulthood.
So, Middle School/Junior High Pastor, you must know that your ministry is of utmost importance. Look towards the potential energy within your ministry. Realize that your ministry sets the course for the projection of your student as they develop their identity in Christ alone. So, Fight the Fight!
Matt Sprinkle is serves as Middle School Minister at Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter, SC. He has a passion for working with middle schoolers with the purpose of helping them to establish their identity in Christ. Matt believes that the middle school years are some of the most formative years, as it will set them up for deeper growth in high school. He recently created the group MSM: Network on Facebook in order to create a resource point for Middle School ministers that are in the trenches with him. For more info, check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MSMNetwork/?ref=bookmarks