Underestimating Middle School Students.

Greetings bloggists,

This is a slow day in the office, so this post comes partly from being bored, and partly because it's a topic of conversation that has come up again and again around here lately. So what I'm telling you is that this post is simultaneously not well thought through and critically important. Do your best with it.

The question I've been getting a lot recently is "How much can a middle school student handle?" It comes up in a lot of different situations. Sometimes it's when we're talking about theological debates that we don't think MS students are deep enough for. Sometimes it's about sex and what kids are or are not into. Sometimes its about leadership positions, and how young students may or may not be able to contribute to the program. I don't mind questions or asking questions around ministry. What bugs me about this situation is that the question is typically asked with a tone of suspicion. When a person asks "Can a middle school student really handle the sex talk?" what they really mean is "A middle school student can't possibly handle the sex talk, can they?"

First of all, it's critically important that we all drop our innocent acts and realize that middle school students are engaged in sexual activity. It's happening in their homes and (I would wager) in their schools and (I'm certain) on their phones. If they're capable of participating in sexual activity, then certainly we can (and should) have a discussion with them about sexual activity. Turning a blind eye to it doesn't help it. (End of soap box)

Ed and I have been talking about this a lot lately as well. Ed works primarily with the middle school students around here, and it bugs him too when we sell our MS students short. The truth is, they're capable of a lot more than we give them, and in fact they often times desire that level of depth. They want to go deeper in their prayer life. They want to understand the boundaries of sex. They want to have a theological debate. But too often their teachers and (sadly) their parents don't think they're ready for such things and the need goes unfilled (or worse, filled by the negative culture they're surrounded by).

Obviously, we can't generalize. It is true that there are some middle school students who might not be ready for the depth we're talking about here. But the danger is to assume that group to be the norm at the expense of students who desire more. If their hearts are there, we need to give them what they're looking for.

Grace and Peace,