Highly emotional middle schoolers can’t have anything in common with engineers, right? That’s so seemingly random.
But, actually, it’s true. Think about it this way.
At its foundation, an engineer’s job is to connect together concepts to solve problems. Whether you’re an electrical, mechanical, or chemical engineer, you’re constantly looking for ways to solve problems and make processes more efficient.
Similarly, middle schoolers–kids between sixth and eighth grades–connect pieces of information they’ve been given to personalize abstract ideas. Tweens are going through growth spurts on multiple levels, both physically and intellectually, during these years. Like a toddler, their growing brains overproduce synapses and neurons–allowing them to begin thinking more abstractly, understanding different perspectives, and thinking critically about others and themselves.
For youth leaders, the best way to communicate with tweens is to be simple and clear. You want to motivate them through acceptance, never using embarrassment or shame–which will most likely bring defiant and defensive behavior. And, ultimately, you can only help them grow in their relationship with God by connecting with them first.
As their leader, keep these three ideas in mind:
1. Re-Engage Their Wonder.
Like an engineer who connects physics and design to solve problems, middle schoolers connect information from their childhood to see how it works together and if it proves to be true. That’s why this is a great time to connect tweens with Scripture. There’s a great opportunity here to re-engage the wonder they had as a young child. When you can show them how the story of Genesis to Revelation connects to their own lives, they’ll take an important step in their spiritual growth.
2. Expect Crisis.
Crisis moments are inevitable with middle schoolers. To you, it might not seem like that big of a deal. But it’s important to remember that, to them, it is a huge deal. You can’t expect a 13-year-old to respond to most situations the way an adult would. This is also when they’ll discover that some things don’t fit together in their minds–or just don’t make sense–like, how an all-powerful God can allow bad things to happen. You’re not going to know all the answers, and that’s okay. Just affirm and anchor them in a faith that is constant–even when they don’t understand everything.
3. Consistency is Key.
During this stage of life, predictability is as important as it ever will be. It’s vital to follow through on your promises to prove you can be trusted. If you feel like they’re testing you, it’s probably because they are. Nothing you say will matter if you don’t have credibility to a middle schooler. And the best way to get that is by showing up, following through, and proving you care.
This might feel like a difficult stage–and it is. But, as a leader, you have an incredible opportunity! Securing the trust of a middle schooler will allow you to have such a positive impact on their relationship with God. Don’t miss that opportunity–because this is exactly what you were called to do!