The Middle Years Ministry

Formerly "The JH Uth Guy", THE MIDDLE YEARS MINISTRY is a Site Dedicated to Providing Resources, Ideas, and Help to Pastors, Leader, Directors, Teachers, Mentors and Anyone Else Working in
the
Pivotal and Important 5th-9th Grade Years. The “Middle Years” are not children’s ministry, not high school ministry, and are more than just Middle School/Jr. High. It is a unique and specialized ministry, where the final lifelong faith decision are made.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Teaching to the Middle Years (Chris Hargrove)

Have you ever walked off the stage and thought, “I hope that went well or I wonder how that went?” Me too. Did I say everything I wanted too? Did I hit this point clearly? Did my illustration make sense? 

These questions fill my head after speaking. I’m know you can always ask your  spouse (if you have one) and he or she  will say, “It went great!” Then, if you’re like me, you’re still left wondering if it  went well. 

I don’t believe there’s some secret formula when speaking, but there are things we can be aware of to help set us up for success in speaking to the middle years. 


1) Remember what you teach matters
What you teach helps change them. God’s Word is truth and life. It helps form them into a mature young man or woman. It helps develop a biblical worldview and prepare them for high school, college, and adult life. There is eternal impact in what you say as it relates to Christ. I fully believe that some students will remember what they were taught in middle school and carry that with them for all of their life.

2) Keep it short and simple
Keep it short. Like your students... Is it just me or do you have students who look way too short to be in middle school?! Remember, your audience. They are 10-14 years old. You might have public, private, and homeschooled all in one place. That’s a huge cultural and social difference! You can’t afford to make it complicated and confusing.

While there’s no law on time limit, the sweet spot seems to be somewhere around 20 minutes with breaks throughout (story, illustration, question, video, etc.) I wouldn’t speak for an hour and expect for them to be even slightly engaged or excited about coming back.


(*CLICK HERE for an order of our middle school worship service).

3) Have a main idea
I’m a big believer in having a main idea. I’ve heard other organizations call it the big idea or the phrase that pays. It’s a short sentence that summarizes your entire talk. I think it helps tie your message together from beginning to end and helps students remember what they just heard. The way I use it is I introduce it at the beginning of my message, then I break it down and then bring it back up at the end. I’ll oftentimes get the students to verbally say it out loud once or twice to help it stick. (example - If you’re speaking on prayer it can be as simple as, ‘talking to God helps us know God.’)

4) Remove distractions
If you have a light bulb that is out or flickering…change it! Don’t let your tech team shine a laser on you while you’re speaking (yup, this happened to me). Take a look at your space and evaluate what could be distracting. Oftentimes, you’re always on the stage so you’ll miss out on some of these so make sure you have a leader who can look out for these things. Don’t let a distraction in the room keep them from engaging in the service.

5) Prepare before you speak
This sounds obvious. I depend on the Holy Spirit to speak through me and guide me through my message. However, I depend on the Holy Spirit before Wednesday night and in my preparation of the text. I don’t ever want to get up and ‘wing it.’


6) Give a specific challenge
After the students have heard the message, what do you want them to do? Answering the question, ‘so, now what?’ helps bring your message to a close. You want them to put into practice what they just heard. If your students leave and don’t know how to answer, “what do we do with what we’ve heard?” Odds are, you may not have been clear in your message or response. I think students respond better when they have a clear, take home challenge, that helps them apply what they just heard. 

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Chris Hargrove is Middle School Pastor at Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville, Ga. He loves working with middle schoolers and is passionate about seeing them take their next step towards Jesus. He is married to Carrie and they have a one year old daughter. His favorite shows are The Office and Parks and Rec. 

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