4031771702_b04b376904_o“Do you want to hold him?” We were in the delivery room, and my son had just taken his first breaths of air and let out a good scream. At 4.5 kg (10 lbs!), he was far from fragile, but I was still nervous. I’m the youngest in my family, and I did almost no babysitting growing up. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with a newborn. In fact, I’d never even held one before.

What if I do it wrong? What if I don’t support the head? What if the nurses get mad at me? I found myself secretly waiting for the day he turns 13 when—as a veteran youth worker—I’d finally know what to do with him. (Parents of teenagers, I know you’re laughing at me right now.)

Be honest—do you know that feeling? Some of us connect better to babies. Others prefer toddlers. Still others love the middle school years or the university age. For whatever reason, these phases of life just seem easier, more fun, or more comfortable than the others.

It’s the same with spiritual children. Some find their sweet spot at the early end of the disciple-making process. Befriending seekers and sharing Christ with lost people is their best days’ work. Others find their stride in those early steps right after someone has come to faith. You love taking a new Christian and teaching her or him how to walk in the faith. Still others relish the task of leadership development and multiplication. You thrill at seeing a Christ-follower learn how to not just follow and serve Jesus, but to share his life with others through evangelism and disciple making. We each have different gifts and areas of natural focus. God wired us for those sweet spots, where our gifting and passion meet in a supernatural area of fruitfulness. [Read more…]

5 Keys to Understanding Faith Development in Middle School Students

As a former Middle School Pastor, I have to laugh at the antics of middle school students sometimes.  Mostly, they are a lot of fun to be around.  However, over the years I have heard things from long time youth ministry veterans that bother me like, “The problem is, they are not human yet”.  Another one I’ve heard is, “Your job is to entertain them until they get to high school, so we can have real conversations”.  God gives me the grace to ponder such thoughts without absorbing unintended condescension toward those who dedicated their lives to serve middle school students and their families.

(Photo by Thriving Ink at Creative Commons)

(Photo by Thriving Ink at Creative Commons)

When I looked beyond such over-stated view points, it causes me to ponder the ministry to which I had dedicated many years of my life.  Engaging middle school students with the gospel and the kingdom of God is no small task.  Middle school students are different from high school students, and often challenging to reach with the gospel if you do not understand them.

Here are five keys to understanding middle school students and their faith: [Read more…]

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