questions about middle school ministry

so, i’ve written about the book scott rubin and i are co-authoring: middle school ministry: a comprehensive guide to ministry with early adolescents. our manuscript deadline is less than a month away, and we are both cranking hard. scott’s going away to a cabin for a couple days. i’m sitting at my local coffee shop for 3 – 4 hours every work day.

here’s the rough ‘table of contents’ for the book, btw. chapter titles might change, or shift in order, but this is the general idea:


Section One: Middle School Ministry? Why?

Chapter 1: Isn’t It Just Babysitting?

Chapter 2: Why I Do This
(a collection of 1-2 page essays, one each by kurt and marko; but a handful more from a wide-variety of middle school workers – church and parachurch, protestant and catholic, young and old, paid and volunteer)

Section Two: On a Need-To-Know Basis

Chapter 3: It’s All About Change

Chapter 4: Walking Hormones? (physical and sexual development)

Chapter 5: Mind-Warp (cognitive development)

Chapter 6: Rollercoaster Freak-Show (emotional development)

Chapter 7: Best Friends Forever! (relational change)

Chapter 8: I Can Do It! (Just Don’t Leave Me) (independence)

Chapter 9: Operating System Upgrade (spiritual development)

Chapter 10: White-Hot Temporary (early adolescent culture)

Chapter 11: The Overlapping Transition (some implications)

Section Three: The Land of Freaks, Geeks and Squirrels

Chapter 12: First Things First (putting yourself in their shoes)

Chapter 13: Dude! Sweetie! (building relationships with middle schoolers)

Chapter 14: You Can’t Always Wing It (a few thoughts about ministry structure)

Chapter 15: Get Small (small groups as the DNA of good MS Ministry)

Chapter 16: Ropes and Slack (effective and creative teaching)

Chapter 17: Do or Die (building a team)

Chapter 18: From Enemy to Advocate (working with parents)

Chapter 19: A Few Hard Truths, or, Why So Few Stay in Middle School Ministry

Chapter 20: See Jane Face New Issues (new issues facing middle school girls) (guest chapter by Kara Powell and Brad Griffin)

Chapter 21: 8 Traits of Great Middle School Ministry Volunteers (guest chapter by Jim Candy)


Q&A with Scott & Marko

101 Random Ministry Ideas from Scott & Marko

the first of these appendices is why i’m posting today. scott and i are going to come up with some FAQs, and he’s going to ask his vast gaggle of volunteers for questions. but i’d love to hear from you:

what question(s) about middle schoolers or middle school ministry would you like us to address in this little ‘bonus section’? we’d love to consider including your question (and, of course, a short response!). priority would be given, i would think, to questions that might not be already addressed in the body of the book (which is why i included the TOC).

19 thoughts on “questions about middle school ministry”

  1. Marko, one question I have and it is not specifically directed toward middle school ministry but it does have some relevance for me…how do you effectively minister when your children are in the group…does it change your approach, where do you draw the line between parent and middle school minister? I am about to experience this in the coming years with two of my children…maybe a tiny little response in the book for those ministers with kids would be helpful. Larry

  2. What about these then – where are the best free resources for middle school ministry?

    How would I be able to tell if I’m {not} any good at this? What are the best failure/success criteria to measure my ministry?

    What are the most effective methods of integrating middle schoolers into the church family?

    What are the difficult boundaries specific to middle school work between what is expected of me as a youthworker and what may be expected of parents?

    Can you give us a list of good topics that allow youthworkers and volunteers who are scared of young people to get into conversations with middle schoolers, and some pitfalls to avoid?

    What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about middle school youth ministry?

  3. How ’bout a chapter on Parents of Middle Schoolers and how to minister to them? or how to draw them to your ministry?

  4. I’m excited and looking forward to this book. I have a broad question –

    The typical middle school ministry has students in the 6th – 8th grade. Despite the proximity in age, the developmental differences in emotional and physical maturity, as well as cognitive and abstract thought processes are huge. A 6th grader is only two years removed from Winnie the Pooh, while an 8th grader is only 1-2 years away from drivers ed. A typical 6th grader hasn’t had sex ed, while an 8th grader is beginning to peak sexually.

    In the context of a typically sized church that doesn’t have the resources to split the kids up by gender and/or grade, how does a youth leader effectively prepare and teach to this age group with such developmental differences sitting in the same room?

  5. I am a young, female youth director, and one of the biggest challenges I have is relating to my middle school boys. I don’t expect my seventh graders to suddenly act like high school seniors, but sometimes I am at a loss in how to meet them where they are. What do you suggest?

  6. I second Amanda’s question. To make it more pointed: how can middle school ministers effectively tap the energy and interests of young adolescent boys while interesting them in the things of faith?

  7. How do you help middle schoolers transition from elementary school to middle school unscathed? From middle school to high school?

  8. With all of the external limitations placed on middle school students (no drivers liscense, age limits, confined to parent’s schedule), how can we best get middle school students to start engaging in the mission of God in our communities?

  9. what is effective discipline manner to take with middle schoolers who are misbehaving, without garnering a negative image with them?

  10. Here’s one – how do you effectively minister to/with middle school students when you don’t have enough youth to justify a MS ministry separate from HS?

  11. I’d like to echo Mike’s question regarding parents. That kid-teen transition is a tricky thing and sometimes I’m not sure who’s more awkward, the junior highers or those parenting that weird age.

  12. Maybe a question regarding why or when youth groups should separate middle school and high school…

    Or a question about worship leading. call it From Pharoah Pharoah to How Great Thou Art. JH Worship leading.

  13. How do you “sell” the need for middle school ministry to parents and the church. I’ve heard such things as “kids will burn out if they start in youth group at middle school. You’ll lose them by high school.” “We need to focus on high school. That’s what people want. Those are the kids we need.” Or from parents, “If there’s a separate group I have to drive to church an extra time for the middle school kid.” Or, “well one of my kids is in 8th grade and one in 9th, they should be together not separated.” How do you address these to get the church and parents on board?

  14. Hey Marko! I think it’s great that you and Scott are writing this book……some ?’s that popped up in my mind as I was reading this….

    1.) How do we cultivate a “Servant” Heart in Middle school kids? What are some tangible ways that they can “SERVE”

    2.)How do we connect our Jr. High and our Sr. High students together? Is it possible to include our Sr. High students in the mentorship process of a Jr. High student (Reason I ask this is because I used to work for a 5th and 6th Grade ministry and over half of my volunteers were HS students and they served as small group leaders….I believe it benefits both sides)

    3.) How can you tie your game/activity programming into your overall teaching (Probably will be covered in the creative teaching section)

    4.) What are the different dynamics of a Middle school mission trip?

    Just some ?’s…….I would love to add any response if it’s needed.

    Blessings on you!

  15. Great stuff and I’m enjoying the comments and questions that are flowing here. Some other questions:

    1 – how do you maintain volunteers in middle school ministry?

    2 – is there any special considerations for volunteers that you wouldn’t have to consider in volunteers in other ministries?

    3 – how do you use the technology available without breaking the rules that are set up? (point – facebook and myspace have a age restriction of 13 yrs)

    4 – how do you work with volunteers who have their own kids in the middle school ministry? should there be any special guidelines for these volunteers?

    5 – how much is too much in middle school ministry or not enough for middle school ministry? How can we be a blessing to the parents of middle school kids?

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