Photo by Sasha Bond
I mentioned briefly last month that Kara and I were invited to contribute a chapter to Mark Oestreicher & Scott Rubin’s new book Middle School Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide to Working with Early Adolescents. The book just released, and in its stead Youth Specialties is hosting “Middle School Week” on the YSblog.
So true confession time: I was a middle school wimp. Though it’s been over 20 years since middle school, I still remember my deathly fears that I wouldn’t make the cut of guydom or meet the minimum requirements for masculinity in my school: 1. playing a sport well, and 2. landing a girlfriend. As it turned out, I mostly failed in both categories, leaving me a low-status wimp in the early adolescent pecking order. These fears—and that status—plagued me well into high school, with residual sores leftover into young adulthood. Oh, and I was really obnoxious. I mean really. You wouldn’t have wanted me in your youth group. In fact, when I did visit the youth group at my church “welcome” is not an adjective I’d use to describe how I felt there.
But it wasn’t the end of the story. High school was better (plus I found Jesus!), and college was actually an incredible healing time for me as I made some great friends and shook off a lot of insecurities. God was in the midst of that in a big way, rooting my identity in something beyond whether or not I made the “cut” back in middle school.
So believe me, I really do understand why so many people run when they see middle schoolers coming. They are just too close of a flesh-and-bones awkward reminder that we were all early adolescents once, and for many of us it’s a time we’d just rather not relive. It’s one of the reasons I’m trying to invest more in middle schoolers at my own church. And why I’m so thankful for all the youth workers we know and serve (like many of you) who care about middle school ministry!
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