Remember back when you were in middle school? Remember those days when nothing went right? Your best friend decided that she was someone else’s best friend, your math teacher gave a pop quiz, and one look in the mirror showed you had developed a giant zit on the end of your nose. Life in middle school was not and is not always fun.
The one thing in middle school you did feel good about, however, was your ability to hit a tennis ball (or play the piano or win a ribbon at the art fair). In other words, your self-esteem was often tied to what you could and could not do.
As Christian adults, we get our value from our position in Christ (at least we should.) We know verses such as Romans 5:8, Romans 5:17, 1 Corinthians 6:20, and Ephesians 2:6. We know that it is from God’s promises that we get our identity.
But even though middle school teens might know those verses, few apply them to their lives. Their self-esteem is not wrapped up in God’s Word, but instead dependent on desired abilities – athletics, grades, music, or something else.
Unfortunately, there is an epidemic of teens dropping out of the very activities that make them feel good about themselves. This is not only a church problem, but carries over into sports, music, art, etc. Educators are diligently researching to discover why because without those confidence boosters kids are more lost than ever.
So what can we parents and church leaders do to counteract the trend?
Tweens like to feel important and they like to be treated as adults. We need to give them opportunities to serve in ways that not only use their talents, but also challenge them. If you’re a church staff member you need to involve the tweens in real ministry. Parents, you need to make sure your tween follows through with the ministry commitment by doing what you can to help. That might mean driving him to a rehearsal at church or getting the supplies she needs for project. Here are some ideas:
- Ask that tween artist to design posters for the missions’ conference.
- Ask that tween who likes technology to help out in the church sound booth.
- Ask the athlete to help the young children during their game time.
- Ask the Lego enthusiast to help build a set for the Christmas program.
- Ask the guitarist to play offertory.
- Ask the reader to share a story from the church library with the toddlers.
- Ask the future business executive to organize a food pantry collection.
But we cannot stop there. We need to give the tweens actual contracts to do the work so they know that we’re serious about needing their help. After they do their job, we need to acknowledge that they carried through with the task.
By giving tweens a job in church and supporting their efforts at home, we are encouraging them to feel part of the church family – and therefore, the family of God.
We need to give them purpose and what better way to cultivate purpose than by serving the Lord.