Parents can do a great job of being the primary spiritual nurturers of their children, but they can be much more effective if the church is supporting them in the endeavor. Here are 12 suggestions for how you can help families with kids in middle school, ages 11 to 14.
1. Encourage families to participate in activities with their teenagers. Plan church family activities for everyone. Make sure single parents know they’re welcome. Invite singles to help plan and organize so they, too, feel part of the church family.
2. Make your church middle school friendly.This is the age so many kids drop out of church. Make your teenagers feel wanted and needed and a valuable part of your church.
3. Choose your teachers and ministry leaders wisely. Middle schoolers especially need adults in their lives who will teach God’s Word in a gentle manner—not preaching or judging, but relating to, respecting and encouraging them.
4. Develop a resource library for parents to help them teach a biblical response to abortion, homosexuality, racism, premarital sex, drugs, etc. Sometimes parents who desire to teach their kids about difficult subjects don’t know how to do it or have so little knowledge about the subject that they hesitate.
5. Offer a purity seminar. Make it optional for those families that prefer to teach this at home. A thought: Even if parents teach purity at home, having their teenagers attend the class will support what they’ve been taught. Teenagers will also recognize that they’re in this together—with their friends. Remember, peer pressure isn’t always bad.
6. Make a DVD of a Bible character who has a sense of destiny in doing God’s will.Students will learn about the person in a way that they will remember for years to come.
7. Encourage teamwork. Instead of asking one teenager to set up the Sunday school room, ask two or three. Instead of having an individual Bible memory contest, divide into teams.
8. Stock the church library with books and DVDs for this age group. Supply books about creation/evolution, devotionals, fiction, missionary biographies, etc.
9. Involve middle schoolers in a mission project. They need to meet ordinary people doing extraordinary service for the Lord. Focus on missionaries who occasionally visit the church (so the teenagers can get to know them). Choose tangible mission projects such as saving money for a specific need.
10. Plan a middle school Sunday. Allow your middle schoolers to do as much of the service as possible.
11. Write letters or send e-mails to your teenagers. Communicate to each middle schooler how much she’s appreciated as part of the church family. Make each letter different (because they will compare) and mention specific circumstances.
12. Appreciate them. When a group of kids was surveyed as to how they thought the adults perceived them, they answered: “They don’t like us.” I had a young teenager tell me: “They can’t find a Sunday school teacher for our class because adults are afraid of us.”
Change the perception of middle schoolers in your church. Get to know them by name. Ask how they’re doing. What are their interests? You might be surprised at the maturity some of them possess.
Linda Massey Weddle has published more than 2,000 articles and short stories. She develops Bible-based curriculum for young people and has been involved in children’s and youth ministry for the last 40 years. ©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph by Linda Massey Weddle. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.