“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “
We obviously work to minister to the spiritual side of our 5th-9th grader students. We even make efforts to build into their emotional and mental sides, but are we still missing a large “hole in the whole”?
This is not asking you to take on more responsibility, but rather challenging you to be more aware of the whole of a 5th-9th grade student you are ministering too. Especially in the current inter-generational and parent-inclusive approach to ministry, we need also to empower parents. Parents, as well, need to see the connection between the spiritual and physical life in their children.
Here are three areas that you may be missing as you minister to the WHOLE student…
We desire for our students to go on missions trips, share faith, and serve but do they have the basic social skills to succeed?
I have discovered in order to help my 5th-8th students succeed in the areas of ministry that I want to them serve in, I have to introduce them to simple social skills like…
- How to talk to an adult. You want your students to share their faith with someone or even serve them a meal, but do they know how to interact with an adult other than their parents and their youth leaders?
- How to be polite. Do your students know what is and is not considered polite in certain settings?
- Appropriate personal space and touch. Outside of your youth ministry and their circle of friends, do students know what is and is not appropriate personal body space and personal contact?
We talk about the “Christian life” and how to “live as a Christian”, but do our students have basic life skills?
You teach foundations for living healthy spiritually. You also can teach your students basic life skills. Even things that may already be being taught at home or in school, can be connected and seen through a spiritual lens as well…
- Respect. Do your students understand how to show respect? Respect for God? Respect for others and authority? Even respect for themselves?
- Safety. Have your students been taught basic safety? What is and is not safe based on where they are? Inner-city mission trip vs. rural retreat for an example
- Money. You teach stewardship, but do you teach basic money skills? If you gave your 6th students the money you spend on them for a week of a trip, would it last the week or they spend it all at the first fast food market they visited.
We want middle years students to begin to discover who God has created them to be as a person but do they know how to take care of that physical person?
The physical is only temporary, but it still part of our earthly stewardship. You can teach how taking care of the physical life can help them take care of thier spiritual life by teaching…
- Personal Hygiene. Can you add on a little more to your “Temple of the Holy Spirit” talk?
- Dressing for Body Type. You lecture about modesty, but have you ever had a talk or even a fashion show that allowed girls (and maybe their moms) to understand how to dress for their body type?
- Sleep, Rest, and Body Needs. In the midst of your marathon lock-in events or late night chats, do you ever take time to encourage healthy rest and sleep? Do your students understand basic body need, like eating healthy?
Over the many years of doing ministry with middle years students, I have continued to be challenged that what I do is far more than just being a “spiritual life” specialist only. I also want to take every opportunity to also speaking into the other areas of the lives of my young students. I seek to tie together all of who they into a WHOLE life package using the rope of God’s word.
What are the things you are teaching in your ministry that are beyond what would be considered the “normal” youth group topics and life lessons? How are those things connecting and shaping the whole of your middle years 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