In the Middle: Taking the Challenge

Originally posted on the Eagle Brook Church blog

In recent months I’ve been reading a book called, It’s Just a Phase by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy. The book is all about the stages of life from preschool through high school and how very important each stage is. The tagline of the book is “It’s just a phase, so don’t miss it.” As a mom of a 6 and 3 year old, I sure appreciate that encouragement. There are many days I wish my children would dress themselves, feed themselves and answer their own questions. But then I remember, I’ll have LOTS of years when they won’t need me for those simple tasks, but these are the years when they DO. So, I’m learning to embrace these moments instead of wishing them away.

I think the idea of embracing the phase our kids are in is just as important if not more important if you have a middle schooler in your life. I have always adored middle school students but I know I’m in the minority. Sometimes the rapid changes they are going through make it uncomfortable to be around them. Plus, middle school students usually don’t have any particular insight into why they are the way they are, even they are frustrated and uncomfortable with themselves at times. You may be tempted to hold your breath during these years, hoping to survive them without incident. Your middle schooler is likely doing the same. But, let me encourage you, you don’t want to miss this stage. The middle school years are a CRITICAL time for guidance and require nothing less than an excess of love and encouragement from the adults in their lives.

I remember when I was working as a youth pastor at another church, I took the incoming 9th graders on a trip to Colorado each summer. We would camp along the Arkansas River for 5 days and at night the students would share their life stories around the campfire. It was always incredible to hear what had impacted them the most in their childhood and middle school years. One thing that stood out to me was how very important and influential their family members were. Often the best moments they shared were about family vacations, family showing up and cheering them on in sports and specific moments when aunts, uncles or grandparents took extra time to encourage them. The moments of pain they shared were often the loss of a family member, a time when a parent didn’t keep a promise or a disruption in the support system they depended on. Sure, middle school is just a phase, but it is a critical phase, not just for them but also for you. If you have a middle schooler in your life, then it’s GAME TIME. These are the years when you need to show up at everything and cheer them on, write them encouraging notes, get interested in what they are interested in and stay close. They need you more than they let on, and you can do SO MUCH GOOD in their lives simply by being there.

And as a pastor to this age group, I have learned that the family support system is #1 in the life of a middle school student, but a secondary support system is almost just as important. Let me encourage you to help your student get involved in a small group at church. We have found that small groups become like mini-families and are super helpful in the midst of these critical middle school years. Not only for support and friendship but also to help students ask all their questions about God, get some answers and take steps forward in following him on a daily basis. As always, our Student Ministries team has your back and is ready and willing to help in any way as you lead these awesome students through these years in the middle.