Written by Kevin Chao, Area Director, Greenwich, CT and WyldLife Coordinator, Metro North Region
Take a moment and think back to your middle school days. What were you like back then? How would you describe who you were in middle school? What was your biggest fear? Biggest insecurity?
In order to best reach our friends in middle school, it’s important for us to remember what it was like for us in middle school. It would also be helpful to know what is currently going on in the mind and heart of a middle school student and how we can love them.
Here’s what I’ve discovered:
- Kids are asking and wondering: Who cares about me? Where do I belong? Who will accept me? What’s my purpose? What am I good at? Am I good at anything?
- Their identity is formed by who they are with.
- We need to take their life experiences seriously, which may be more difficult for us. Don’t minimize their struggles, excitements, etc. For example: If Jimmy says to me, “Chao! I just lost a baby tooth!” My response should NOT be, “That’s great Jimmy, I’ve lost all my baby teeth, so that’s not a big deal. And I just paid my taxes.” Instead we need to affirm their experiences, no matter how trivial they may seem to us.
- They are in a stage in life where everything feels like they are experiencing it for the first time.
- Middle school kids are in a stage psychologically and socially, where they are focused on “industry/competence.” They’re learning if they are good at life.
- They develop a belief about who they are that carries with them for the rest of their life. They don’t know this, but this means that they are wondering, “Am I good at ____ or competent at _____?”
- They’re focused on the question, “Am I able to do things well?” Kids are looking for things that they are good at, and if they are not good at it, they develop inferiority and their self-esteem may plummet. Thoughts of suicide stem from inferiority, which often starts in middle school.
- Research is showing that a person decides if they are in general good at things or bad at things in middle school.
So, as you are with middle kids and thinking of club, Campaigners and contact work, let’s make sure that we are taking kids seriously. That we are taking their experiences seriously, their faith seriously and their hearts seriously. They all need to know that they are valuable, so affirm them and let them know that God views them as good.