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

 

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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.

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30 Days With Wesley – Day 30: The Send Off

30 Days with Wesley(Optional Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Today’s optional reading is very fitting for the 30th day of this book. It it Paul’s Biblical send off to his readers in 1 Thessalonians. He writes,

Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this.

It is a beautiful send of. It fits so well for today. If you have been journeying with me through these 30 days with Wesley, I probably have never met you in person and we are not close friends. Though if you are a follower of Jesus like I am, I know that we are both on the same journey of seeking after Christ and letting him transform our lives on a daily basis.

It is this common ground that I send you off. May God keep us dedicated to him and may we be found blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus.

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. 

How did you like the journey of 30 Days with Wesley? Let me know in the comments below.

30 Days With Wesley – Day 29: The Secret To Genuine Faith

Genuine Stamp Showing Real Certified Product(Optional Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-19)

What is genuine faith? What does it look like? How do you know if you have it? Faith is sometimes a complicated subject to think about? What does it mean to have faith? Peter writes and states, “You now rejoice in this hope, even if it’s necessary for you to be distressed for a short time by various trials. This is necessary so that your faith may be found genuine.

Faith is not hard to have. There is the classic example that you have faith in a chair to hold you up. You have faith that your computer is going to work for you so that you can read this post. We have faith in many different things. But what is it that take faith from its regular state and transforms it into genuine faith?

According Peter, it is the test of time. Does your faith stay stable and strong in the face of conflict and testing? When your faith can face something difficult and trying time of life, you can come out knowing that your faith is not a shallow faith but one of genuine faith.

Peter goes on to say that genuine faith is worth fighting for. He states, “(Your faith is more valuable than gold, which will be destroyed even though it is itself tested by fire.) Your genuine faith will result in praise, glory, and honor for you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” May your faith be transformed today and may you find that you have genuine faith.

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 28: Right Now But Not Yet

Kingdom-of-God(Optional Reading: 2 Peter 3:13-15)

But according to his promise we are waiting for a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found by him in peace—pure and faultless. Consider the patience of our Lord to be salvation, just as our dear friend and brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him

In the Christian faith, we live in a constant balance of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is both right now but not yet. The author of 2 Peter points out that we are waiting for the day when the new heaven and a new earth will be brought about and where righteousness is at home. It is easy to see that this world is not perfect. There are people hurting other people. We are constantly hearing about global warming and many more things. With all of this in mind, the future of a new earth and a new heaven sounds really exciting.

The author goes on to say, “Therefore, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found by him in peace—pure and faultless.” Further, the Lord’s Prayer, which I have been postings each day with my post, states: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”

This is what I mean when I say that Kingdom of God is right now but not yet. As we wait for the new heaven and new earth and God’s Kingdom to be established, we are called to live our lives in a way that begins to process or bringing God’s Kingdom to the earth right now. This means that we live at peace with each other. We live pure and faultless lives. We create a way of living in our homes and neighborhoods so that people can stand back and see that righteousness is at home in our lives.

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 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 26: In Comparison…

jesus-christ-love(Optional Reading: Romans 8:18-21)

When I read the optional reading for today, I almost laughed out loud. Not because it is a funny verse, but because of the instant connect to my day. Paul writes in Romans, “I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us.” I am currently writing this at six in the morning. Which, I know this doesn’t sound very early, but  I have been up since 3:45 AM with a pain in my neck that I can’t seem to get to go away. This pain has been getting worse and worse with each day. I don’t want to sound like I am complaining, but rather I want you to understand the context to which I read the passage today.

I understand that Paul most-likely did not mean the kink in my neck when writing about our sufferings. Rather he was talking about the persecution Christians were facing for Christ. Sometimes, we get caught up in the simple sufferings of our lives. In comparison, it is nothing compared to what Christ endured for you and me, on the cross. We must always look at the sufferings we face in life and say, “How does this look in comparison to Christ?” The answer will always be, “nothing.”

In light of this passage, I want to acknowledge all my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering persecution right now. I want you to know that Christians around the world and myself are praying for you. As you face the threats of persecution, remember that Christ makes you more than a conquerer and that, “…the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us.”

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.