this past sunday, i had the honor of giving the ordination service message for andy jack, middle school pastor at christ church of oak brook, outside chicago. here’s part 2 of what i said…
[a middle school girl read 1 samuel 3, the story of eli coaching young samuel to respond to the voice of god; then i retold the story to make sure all the middle schoolers who were at the ordination service understood the story and could see themselves in it.]
Folks, I’m not sure if you understand the critical importance of this ministry or not. For many of us, who passed through the young teen years quite a few decades ago, it’s easy to miss how much has changed. Even 30 years ago, the young teen years were still mostly pre-teen. But adolescence has changed dramatically in the past 30 years, both in cultural ways, and in physiological ways. With the average age of puberty dropping about four years in the past hundred years, and about 2 years in the past 30 years alone, the tasks of adolescence have shifted down to the middle school years. Identity (who am it?), autonomy (how am I unique, and what power do I have in my world?), and affinity (where and to whom do I belong?) — these issues were exclusively high school issues only three decades ago. And while they are still high school issues, the onramp is now squarely during the years of 11 – 14 years old.
Middle School students also have an openness and willingness that is almost alarmingly unique and refreshing. They want and need adults in their lives who know them and care about them, who believe in them and want to help them live into who God created them to be. It truly is a unique window of time when the whole world is new, new cognitive abilities are opening the way for a more robust faith, and a willingness and openness to adult input is still welcomed.
Sorry Mahar [the high school pastor at the church], but these days, high school ministry is often corrective ministry, while middle school ministry is still preventive ministry.
So I applaud you for ordaining Andy Jack. I applaud the leadership of Christ Church for both acknowledging the critical opportunity of ministry to middle school students, and for seeing in Andy what I see in him: a man who is passionate about the pursuit of Jesus, passionate about ministry to young teens, and passionate about connecting those two.
Reverend Andy, I look forward to seeing you continue to grow, both in your personal life, in your ministry here at CCOB, and in your impact on the world of middle school ministry outside the walls of this great church.