The Middle Years Ministry

THE MIDDLE YEARS MINISTRY is a Site Dedicated to Providing Resources, Ideas, and Help to Next Generation Pastors, Leader, Directors, Teachers, Mentors. Our goal is to MEET YOU in the MIDDLE in the Middle Years
, the Pivotal 5th-9th Grade Years. The middle ground between children’s ministry and high school ministry. The age where 85% of people make their final life-long faith decisions.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"What Middle Years Girls Need!" (Caroline Smallwood)

In middle school the youth room at my church was split level. My friends and I made up a game that we called “Spitfire”. One person would stand on the top level and chew up a piece of bubble gum. Then they would drop the bubble gum from their mouth into the mouth of the other player, who was standing on the first level. We played this for years and I cannot count how many times adults asked us why we were playing that gross game. Our answer was always, “Well, I don’t know. Why not?” Ten years later, it is good to know that according to our developmental stage, it was highly likely that we truly did not know.

There are two times in life when a person’s brain grows at an incomparable rate: ages 0-3 and in the middle years. During these periods their brains are physically changed by their surroundings and experiences. So, if you work with middle school (year) students, your words, actions and attitudes are having a major, potentially life-changing impact.

With that responsibility in mind, here are a few things you need to know about middle school girls and helping them become the masterpiece that they are designed to be.

1. They are in a “use it or lose it” phase. 
Whatever information they don’t use, their brains will throw out and make space for something new. This means we must help them use the truth they are learning. Encourage them to memorize scripture, journal about the weekly lesson, and send them reminders throughout the week. Remember that they are being inundated with darkness from this world, so we must work extra hard to help them “use” the truth of the gospel and “lose” the lies of the world.

2. Their prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for logic) is not fully developed. 
Their decisions are based more on emotions and approval than anything else. They need our help to think logically and to consider the long-term effects of today’s decisions. They also need our patience when they mess up. We must remember that they are working with a partially developed brain. When they answer the question of, “why did you do that?” with “I don’t know,” they might be telling the truth!

3. Neurotransmitters are growing faster in these middle schoolers than ever before in their lifetime. 
This leads to an increase in pleasure chemicals, which helps explain adolescents’ risky behavior patterns. Experiencing those pleasure chemicals for the first time is a rush. Combine that with the lack of logic and you get bad decisions. As shepherds, we must provide them with godly experiences that trigger those same chemicals. For example, help someone in need, use your gifts to lead someone or do something risky for the gospel. As we know, surrendering to Christ is the biggest rush possible.

As a middle years youth worker, you may not see much fruit in students’ lives, but rest assured that your work is very literally changing them. You have been entrusted with a very special role. May God bless you as you serve, good and faithful servant.

Caroline Smallwood is the Middle School Girls’ Director at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas. At a young age she knew she was called to work with middle year girls and has been doing so in a full-time role for four years. She has her Masters in Human Relations and has a passion for helping hurting kids.

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