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.


A Youth Pastor’s Must Read: Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World



I have been a youth pastor for six years now. One thing that I have learned from these years of ministry is that part of being a good youth pastor, or a good pastor in general, is the ability to be a continuous learner. I never assume what I know and understand about youth ministry is the best or even most satisfactory way to minster. Youth ministry is a constant race to keep up with your students.

A few years ago, I sent a message out to some of my fellow youth pastor friends asking for book recommendations. A friend recommended a book, by Brock Morgan, titled “Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call.” I proceeded to purchase it, but it sat on my kindle for a year and a half before I finally sat down to read Morgan’s book.

In case you are someone who doesn’t like reading a lot of writing or you are skimming this post, I want to make this clear from the beginning. If you are youth pastor in the United States and have not read “Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call,” GO AND PURCHASE IT AMAZON NOW and read it.

I genuinely believe it is a must read for any youth pastor and even some lead pastors. Morgan does an amazing job of painting a picture of the world and mindset of the students in our youth ministries. Further, he explains why the methods of our youth ministry past might not be working any more.

He touches on subject like:

  • What defines the post-Christian world (as I am sure some of you are already asking, but I don’t want to take away from his book).
  • What are post-Christian world students looking for in faith?
  • How to properly define success in youth ministry
  • How to keep your focus and keep going

Ministry is a constantly changing field. Even more so when it comes to the youth of our churches. As youth ministers, we sometimes bear the heavy burden and expectations of keeping students in our churches. If we hope to even succeed, we best understand our ministry purpose and the students we are ministering too.

This post is not really a book review. This post is a book recommendation. If you are interested in reading Morgan’s book, you can click here to head over to amazon and purchase a physical copy of kindle version.

I want to close this recommendation with a quote from “Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call.”

“The essence of youth ministry is to create environments where students can experience the warmth of God. With every talk we give, every game or activity we lead, and every time we run into students at the mall, they experience God’s warmth. And that’s because our relationship with Jesus is our ministry.”

Morgan, Brock (2013-09-24). Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call (Kindle Locations 159-161). The Youth Cartel. Kindle Edition.