Middle School Is Complicated

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.

timthumbLast 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.


My Walk To Mt Doom

I should make something clear from the beginning of this. I love the Lord of the Rings movies! I like them so much, when someone asks what my favorite movie or movie series is, I usually don’t say Lord of the Rings, because in my mind they are in a league of its own. It was the winter of my sophomore year of high school when the first movie was released. I had never heard of the books or the great adventures of Frodo and the fellowship of the ring. The other day I took my son, Wesley, to the dentist. The dental assistant was wanting to know how much Wesley weighed, but Wesley did not want to stand on the scale by himself. I quickly came up with a solution to this problem. I picked Wesley up and stood on the scale and looked at the number. Then I placed Wesley on the floor and look again at the number. We figured out Wesley’s weight, but more I was surprised by the number for my weight, 180lbs.

A lot has changed since the first time I watch the Lord of the Rings film, I am now a thirty year old man and probably 50 lbs heavier than I was then (I am purely guesstimating the weight of my gangly high school self). It might seem like I am making a big fuss over a small amount of weight, but it is a big amount to me. It was at that point I decided, something had to change.

It has been said, “One does not simply walk into Mordor,” but if you have seen the Lord of the Rings movies or read the books, you will know that walking into Mordor is exactly what Frodo and Sam did. I think that if they can do it, I can do it! I am setting out on an adventure to walk to Mt Doom as Frodo and Sam did.

I am doing this for a couple reasons. First, I want to try and be healthier and exercise more. Second, I like having goals in front of me to achieve. Lastly, I love Lord of the Rings and think it will be a cool challenge to take on.

Thanks to EowynChallenge.net, I am able to know the number of miles walked by our adventures:

458 miles: Go from Hobbiton to Rivendell.

462 miles: Set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell to Lothlorien.

389 miles: Travel through Moria and down the Anduin from Lothlorien to Rauros Falls.

470 miles: Follow Frodo and Sam on the quest from Rauros to Mt. Doom.

This makes for a total trip of 1,779 miles.


Here is the plan!

1. Everything counts! 

I purchased a Garmin Vivofit 2 on Amazon. This will track each step I take and how many miles I have walked in the day. I am counting every step I take towards this journey and the Vivofit will track it while I work. The average person walks 2 to 3 miles a day. My goal is to reach 5 miles a day. I will be making up the difference with walks around my neighborhood.

2. There and back again! 

As Bilbo recorded his adventure, I will be blogging about my adventure as I go. I will write about my possible thoughts, struggles and maybe even things I learn about walking.

3. I need a Sam! 

If I am going to go on this grand adventure, I need a Sam. My friend Levi is going to be taking this walking challenge on as well. Together we will walk to the core of Mt Doom and depending on how this goes… Maybe we’ll even walk back.

(Can you see how we are sad from the weight of the one ring?)

4. Know the full story.


Click to view in Amazon


Click to view in Amazon


Click to view in Amazon

I have never read through the books of Lord of the Rings. So, I will be listening to them on audio book as I go.

5. Know where I am.

I will be tracking my progress along Frodo and Sam’s journey on a map of middle earth. You can see the picture below to see the path and key locations.

(each nick is a distance of 50 miles or so)


This is the adventure that is before me and I am excited to take it on. Perhaps you are like me and are wanting to find a way to maybe exercise a little bit and get a healthier, than I would invited you to consider starting your own adventure and join me in my walk to Mt Doom.