The “middle years” are the pivotal and important years ranging from 5th to 9th grade, roughly 10 years old to 14 years old.
American culture is changing, while at the same time there continues to be huge shifts in human development. It is, therefore, essential in youth ministry as well as for the church to start focusing attention on Generation Z’s middle years students.
I love these students and the privilege I have sitting side-by-side with these emerging adolescents in their spiritual life.
Here is why I love and choose to do ministry to “Middle Years” students:
FUN & PLAY
They still enjoy a great game and still know how to play. Too many of us as adults have forgotten how to play and have real fun.
Life is still exciting and they get genuinely over-the-top excited about life, experiences and the things of God. Come on, have ever heard a 7th grade girl scream when something is exciting.
Things that are funny are still FUNNY! There is no holding back and trying to be polite and reserved. There is no “adult service sermon chuckle”. Either they laugh or they don’t. Body function humor and random silliness is still comedy gold.
NO EDIT BUTTON
What they think-you hear. If they think “God Sucks” today because of something that happened at school or at home, that is what they say, period. There is none of the ‘church correct’ fluff. The adult “edit button” just has not mentally or socially developed yet.
PARENT CAN STILL BE CALLED
You know you love it. You may not do it unless you must, but in the back pocket of every middle year youth worker is still the “I am going to call your parents” card. You can’t do that as much in the high school years… even though may you should? I know I wish we could with some of the adults around our church! The benefits far outweigh the challenge of having parents still very much involved.
LIFE IS NOT ALL FIGURED OUT
They are moving toward the “know-it-all” stage, but you can still get through to them about life, God, and other essentials of life. We still have opportunities to talk to them because they don’t think they have it all figured out yet.
In the middle years you get to watch cute little 5th grader moves up into 6th grade turning into clumsy and geeky 7th graders and by the end of 8th grade they are well on their way to becoming the beautiful swans, God has created them to be. I love, pulling out the 5th grade student directory head shots comparing them to graduating senior picture. This alone, has me convinced God still performs miracles today!
WILLING TO LIVE THE LIFE
A life lived for Christ is still possible and real in the middle years. Students are still willing to believe they can live the life! No careers, bad break-ups, and pride to slow them down yet. You say “Hey this is the Christian life, let’s go live it!” and they are willing to give it a shot! They may fail, but they are willing to bounce back up, full of energy and give it another try.
I know I am not the first one to use this but it must be the number one reason. The middle years are truly a time of life of forming and developing, for better or worse. It is a time of change and transition. It is a time of wet cement physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. I LOVE being able with God’s help to write on lives and hearts the things that will become permanent parts of these lives. It is HUGE and scary fact, but this the time when students are choosing who they are going to be for the rest of their lives. Middle years ministry is standing beside a young person, helping them see the picture in the wet cement of their future.
If you want to hear more about middle years ministry and my approach to ministering to this age. Join me at the Youth Specialties NYWC in Memphis on Sunday morning for From Body Odor to Diplomas : Effectively Reaching Both Middle School and High School Students.
DAN ISTVANIK is the 5th to 8th-grade pastor at Victory Church in Lancaster, PA. He has been working in youth ministry for over 20 years serving churches in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia. Besides serving in the local church setting he is also the youth ministry content writer for Parent Ministry.Net, along with being a contributor to a variety of other great youth ministry resources like Youthworker Journal, Group Magazine, Download Youth Ministry, and more. Additional he shares daily Jr. high/middle school ministry specific resources, and hints on his own blog “The Middle Years” at WWW.MIDDLEYEARSMINISTRY.COM