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.

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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.


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30 Days With Wesley – Day 27: The New Standard

9379387_xl evaluation scale(Optional Reading: Galatians 2:16, 19-20)

I work with students on a weekly basis. Their grades range from seventh to twelfth grade. When I spend time talking with them about life, I quickly discover that most are in some level of stress over what their grades are in each class. It has been a little while since I was in school but I remember those feelings. As adults, we don’t escape these stresses. We still have them, but they aren’t about class grades. Rather we stress over work evaluations and how our employers rate us on their standard of excellence. Nothing is more stressful than when the standard of which you’ll be evaluated is not clearly explained.

Thankfully, we do not need to have this same stress when it comes to our lives and relationships with Jesus. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2:16,

…we know that a person isn’t made righteous by the works of the Law but rather through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. We ourselves believed in Christ Jesus so that we could be made righteous by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the Law—because no one will be made righteous by the works of the Law.

Before Jesus came and moved into the neighborhood, a person’s holiness or cleanliness was judged upon many laws and standards that were explained in the law of Moses. This law was what the religious rulers followed and lead the people of Israel to follow for thousands of years. In this system, the people were in a constant state of being clean and becoming unclean. It was a constant state of stress over keeping the law.

When Jesus came, he set up a new standard. His new standard takes away the stress of keeping specific rules and regulation. Rather, you discover that it is only through Jesus that we can be saved and become righteous. There is nothing we can do. It is purely by grace alone. Paul expands upon this thought in his letter to the church in Ephesus. He states, “You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

This new standard is grace. Each of us cannot boast about what we have done to earn our salvation, because everyone has received grace through Jesus and nothing more. May this new standard free you from the stress of being good enough and may we let God transform us from the inside out.

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those

who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial,

and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,

and the glory are yours,

now and forever.

Amen.

30 Days With Wesley – Day 21: Looking Out For Who Matters

one_finger(Optional Reading: Philippians 2:2-4)

Have you ever heard the phrase, “I’m just looking out for number one”? This phrase is all based on a mentality of keeping yourself the focus and benefactor of your life. If something is worth doing it better be beneficial to you.

Paul writes in Philippians 2:2-4:

“…complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.”

What is your focus in life? Are you looking out for number one or are you possibly looking out for number two? Paul calls us to unite in love and care for others. This is also shown to us through the life of Jesus. Jesus gave up everything, even to the point of his own life, for the sake of others. If Jesus was just looking out for number one, where would we be today?

I think we will also discover that when we begin to look out for who matters and live within this selfless mindset of Christ, number one will be taken care of. We will live a life of fulfillment and great joy. Who are you looking out for? Are you looking out for number one or for who matters?

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those

who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial,

and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,

and the glory are yours,

now and forever.

Amen.

30 Days With Wesley – Day 17: Making God Visible

Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_001(Optional Reading: 1 John 4:12-13)

There were two passages that stuck with me from the daily reading this morning. Psalm 68:4-6 states,

“Sing to God, sing praise to his name,

extol him who rises on the clouds

his name is the Lord

and rejoice before him.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, 

is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families,

he leads forth the prisoners with singing;

but the rebellious live in the sun-scorched land.”

and 1 John 4:12 says,

No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. This is how we know we remain in him and he remains in us, because he has given us a measure of his Spirit.

These two passages seem to complement each other. John is making a statement here. We understand that no one has seen God, but when Christian begin to show love to each other and those around them, then God begin to become visible in our love. It is in this love the God begins to show that he is the Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, and a God who sets the lonely in families.

So the simple question today is, are you hindering or helping make God visible to those around you?

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those

who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial,

and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,

and the glory are yours,

now and forever.

Amen.