I am sitting in a jr high lunch room in Carl Junction, MO. This school seems to be much like many of the schools students attend across this country that attend the Believe tour. I am participating in two days of observation of jr high students in environments other than church. I am struck by a few things over the past few hours. I am not saying these things are facts. These are just some of my thoughts over the last 24 hours.
1. I have forgotten that jr high boys sweat bad!
2. Jr high students are acutely aware of any change in their environment. (ie the weird old guy doesn’t usually sit in here with us!)
3. Girls are generally smarter than boys . . . this doesn’t seem to change when you are my age either.
4. The diversity in this age group is the largest spectrum developmentally than any other age other than 18-22 year olds.
5. Some kids are lonely.
6. Even though students act like they don’t want appropriate, affirming touch from adults – they need it.
7. Milk is not as good for the body as the American Dairy Farmer’s Association has led us to Believe. That is a different blog for a different time
This is timely because I leave for a Youth Specialties conference in Austin on Thursday. I will be attending all the jr high classes at this youth leader training event. It will be awesome seeing lots of friends. What I’m soaking in today though is what I don’t get reminded of on Wednesday nights. On Wednesday nights I don’t work with jr high students in my mind. Instead, I work with Kyle, Even, Preston, Noel and Avery. I see them as my kids I know and love. I don’t see them as a demographic. For Believe I need to rethink this experience. It is so easy to forget the range of development in the students we are trying to communicate the message of Jesus to. One of the Believe tour speakers yesterday cautioned us on a fine line we were walking yesterday in dress rehearsals. “We don’t want to call students to Decisionalism.” he said. Decisions are great; but decisions need to have a broad context to take root in a students life. To develop a broader context for a student’s major faith decisions, an adult(s) must be involved (leaning, trusting and looking to the Holy Spirit) in an ongoing relationship, posturing a proper framework, for understanding the ramifications of that decision in a students mind. This can’t happen in one moment. This takes consistency in life lived together.
I do work daily in a Para church organization that has a heart to make a difference in the lives of jr high students. The longer I spend time in this school the more I am impacted by the idea that: Only the many working parts of the whole (capital “C”) Church can do the job of effectively nurturing this many students.
There is a girl who is at least two feet taller than a boy standing in line. The young man has a stack of books that seems to be at least his body weight. In my mind I am picturing these two individuals interacting in the same social setting. That is hard to comprehend. In 6 months he may be taller than she is. Jr high students are wet cement. When you make an impression it lasts.