As a youth pastor, I work with different middle school students on a weekly basis. Myself and other adults sometimes respond to a middle school student in a lost sort of way. We do not understand the reason they are emotional over some small thing that happened at school or something someone said. As adults, we sometimes want to simply say, “Get over it. When you get older you’ll realize how ridiculous you are being.” The problem is, it is not that simple.
Middle school is complicated.
Last week, I listened to a podcast titled “This American Life.” The week’s show focused on the subject of middle school. They decided to have a show looking at middle school students because a young girl, who had just graduated from middle school, wrote in asking if they would look at the subject and see if other students had a similar experience as she had during those years. The common theme heard from students was how middle school was and is terrible. Why? (You can listen to this specific podcast here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/449/middle-school)
As I listened to the six stories during this podcast, I was brought to moments of laughter, intrigue and even heartbreak. I was left feeling worried for my three children who will one-day adventure into the world of middle school. This podcast also caused me to realize, once again, how the minds, hearts and lives of middle school students are not always as they seem.
In youth ministry, I am commonly called crazy for being willing to work with such crazy students. At times I think I am crazy as well, but what keeps me going is being able to see beyond the surface level craziness and discovering the heart of a student. Middle school is a rollercoaster of life development, physically and mentally. If we are not prepared to ride the rollercoaster with them, the middle school students are left to fend for themselves. We cannot let that happen. We must be prepared as pastors and as parents.
Several years ago Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuna wrote a book titled: “Middle School: The Inside Story.” I cannot recommend this book enough to youth pastors and parents. Tobias and Acuna look at what is taking place in the world of our middle schoolers today, the physical changes and the mental changes. The authors also give sound advice for how to parent during these transformational years. My oldest son just turned four years old, but this book has already given me insight for how to journey with my son as he draws closer to the middle school years.
As parents and youth pastors, let us not abandon our middle schoolers on the rollercoaster of pre-teen life. Let us ride the coaster and show them the love of God along the way.
You can become more prepared by pick up a copy of “Middle School: The Inside story” at Amazon.com.