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3 Musings About Middle School Ministry: How I am Re-Learning To Relate With Middle Schoolers

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Over the years, I have really grown to love working in Middle School Ministry.  Middle schoolers have taught me an enormous amount about how to follow God.  Middle schoolers just have this tenacious way to ran after Jesus.  They simply just don’t care and have no problem expressing how they are feeling towards God.

I have immersed myself back in the Middle School ministry context and one thing is clear:   my knowledge and skills in middle school ministry are pretty rusty.

When I realized I was rusty, I immediately begin to (re) learn, observe and research how to best minister to early adolescence (11-14). Once I have observed and retained book knowledge; I begin to experiment and iterate (over and over again).

Everything is always changing in youth ministry and it is up to the youth worker to keep current and experiment or else you will also become rusty, flat and out of date.

In this post, I thought it would be fun to share what I am (re)learning about middle school ministry, so here you go:

 General info:

Middle school ministry evolved in 1970 and is extremely different than High School ministry (this is why it is important to separate each age group).  Middle schoolers are: concrete thinkers, very intuitive (they feel life) and super dependent.

(1)  Relationships

–  middle schoolers need consistent adult relationships because they are so dependent.

–  middle schoolers are emotional basket cases.  Their emotional world consists of many highs and lows.  So let the drama unfold and be the stable adult that anchors them in reality while affirming their crazy emotions.

–  when a middle schooler is stressed out they will most likely resort back to childhood behaviors.

–  middle schoolers need more adults to have more fun with.  The best way to build trust with a middle schooler is by demonstrating to them you know how to have fun at any given moment.

–  middle schoolers need adults to proactively contact them outside of church.

(2)  Environments

–  middle schoolers need a warm, structured, supportive, safe and welcoming environments.

–  middle schoolers need a lot of affirmation because they are just beginning to ask the questions of:  Who am I?  Where do I fit in this crazy world?  How do I matter?  Intentionally go out of your way to say something nice to a middle school student.  Make sure to use direct non-verbal behaviors.  I.e.  use direct eye contact, face them when speaking to them, smile, etc.  Middle schoolers need to believe you that you really believe in them and that they can really truly change the world.

–  middle schoolers need a family like environment.

–  middle schoolers need sugar in whatever church environment they are in.

(3)  Theology

–  middle schoolers need to know God 1) pursues them 2) values them and 3) loves them

–  middle schoolers need to experience the affective side of God’s character.  They need to feel Jesus, than just learning about Him.  This is why worshipping through music is such a big deal for middle school students.

–  middle schoolers adopt an outside-in approach to evangelism.  Basically middle school students will share their faith if they are at church.  Get a middle school student excited about their church environment and they will bring their non-Christian friends to church.  This is another reason why I love Middle School Ministry—- if they love church, then they will love inviting all their peers to church.

–   when teaching middle schoolers use NARRATIVES within the Bible, especially the many stories about Jesus and the stories Jesus told aka parables.  Try to stay away from using metaphors and analogies.  Try to communicate in black and white terms.

–  make sure middle schooler know that they are members of the Church body now!  Connect middle schools to the rest of the church body.


I am always open for more tips and insight, so please feel free to answer these questions in the comment section:

–  What other musings about middle school ministry would you like to share?  What other great insights do you have about how to best minister and relate to middle schoolers?

–  What have you found NOT to work in middle school ministry?

–  Who has some really good insight about middle school ministry?  Any recommended book, magazine articule or blogs that I should be reading that are middle school ministry focused?

–  Why do you love/hate middle school ministry?



About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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  1. Great post Jeremy! I’ve done both, middle school and high school ministry and I love both, though they’re indeed very different. The ‘concrete’ aspect of middle schoolers is very important. We’ve found for instance that certain videos didn’t ‘work’ because they showed too abstract a concept. An example was a video about being thirsty for God which showed someone putting cups outside and wait for the rain. A lot of them didn’t get it. Movie clips work very well however, we’ve done good business with The Lion King and Finding Nemo for instance (about the difference between your earthly father and God as a Father). When teaching, being concrete is incredibly important (which also means staying away from all those church words!).

  2. Jeremy,

    I am in the process of re-learning :) I worked several years with high schoolers, then a long break and just started with middle schoolers about three months ago. You are right HUGE difference. I agree with your observations. Thanks for this post. I found it very helpful.


  3. Great post! At first I hated middle school ministry, but have come to love this age group. One way I have found to teach them is through the website the brick testament. Bible stories according to lego. Also, I am experimenting with the action bible for the middle schoolers this year.

    • Interesting about the Brick Testament – too bad the guy who has so skillfully crafted it is far from being a Christ follower. He has some great a valid faith arguments to digest just like middle schoolers however!

  4. Got to this article from your nuclear fission article. I am the middle school guy at a larger rural church. I filled this role for 5 years and felt I had to step out becuase the new YP was unsupportive and visionless. I was called by the elders back to the role 5 years later to discover the healthy ministry I had left was practically terminal. My hear breaks at leaving. I have enjoyed the hard work of rebuilding this year. I am seeing dividends in the effort. A strong team has come along side (Thank you God!). kids are responding and bringing their friends. In a few hours I am going to take a couple of my boys swimming at the river. Relationship building time!!

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