Why Middle School Ministry is the most important ministry at your church
The church makes a lot of mistakes when setting its priorities. It focuses too much on insiders, preaching over relationships, programs over equipping members to reach their world for Christ, and high school ministry over middle school ministry.
About 50 years ago, the church woke up to the need for student ministry and correctly started building high school youth ministries. Along the way, the church realized there really wasn’t anything for middle school students—they didn’t fit in kids programming, but churches questioned if they were ready for the overnights of high school type programs. So middle schoolers fell into a no-man’s-land where they had some programming but no real focus on developing deep relationships with transformational adults.
Fast forward to today—the world has changed, and adolescence is starting at a much earlier age. There are many reasons for this change, and we could blame lots of things: media, parental involvement, the internet, and social media platforms. The real question is not who to blame but what changes will churches make to meet this challenge.
Here is why I believe middle school ministry is now the most important ministry at your church:
During middle school, students are deciding if they like the people who go to church
We like to think they are making decisions about Jesus, but I don’t think that is true. I believe they are making decisions about the people of God and whether or not they live what they say. If we build meaningful relationships with students and care more about their potential than about their current behavior, we have the opportunity to build a strong foundation of faith in their lives through relationships with caring adults. If they see adults as people who don’t believe in them, they will equate church people with God and view him as someone who doesn’t care about them, either. Watch this training video on how to equip volunteers to build relationships with students.
During middle school, students start believing God is mean
Most students I meet today think God is an angry old man who lives in heaven and whacks them if they do anything wrong. I’m not sure why they think this, but we can’t let this view of God go unchallenged. We must help students in our middle school ministry understand that God loves them and is very patient with them. Students must know that God loves them so much that he died for them—knowing full well what they would do with their lives. We must convince students that God is full of grace and wants the very best for them. This leaves the door open for students to seek forgiveness when they mess up, and we know if they ask for forgiveness, God is merciful and will forgive their sins, leading to a restored relationship.
During middle school, parents are in peril
Many parents whose children are going through the change from childhood to adolescence don’t know how to navigate the transition, and the church has a unique opportunity to minister to them. Caring for these families will allow the church to prove that it should be these families’ priority to stay involved at church. I think that families today make church a low priority for their kids because the church has not made them a high priority. The church used to open the doors, and everyone came to whatever programming was offered, but today families are asking, “What’s in it for us?” Families have changed, but the church has not. If we can minister to these families during difficult times, then these families will see the value of committing to church. Read this blog on how we can raise the bar for family ministry.
During middle school, students are pressured to make decisions about sexuality
It was just a short time ago we thought that students would start facing sexual pressure in high school. Now that pressure is coming much earlier. Today it’s not just the pressure to be involved in sexual activity; there is pressure to determine your sexuality. Students call each other names and place labels on each other, labels that can confuse and undermine God’s creation and value of an individual. We want students in our middle school ministry to hear God’s perspective on their identity from his word. There is no time to waste. We must teach students God’s design for being and for their lives.
These are just a few of the reasons I believe middle school ministry is the most important ministry at our churches. Let’s be quick to address the needs of these students and focus on providing what they need to thrive during their middle school years.
About the Author
Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners who never leave their side. Doug grew up in… Read More