You might be thinking: “Just give them some pens and let them go at it, right?”
Well you could do that… because that’s what I did when I first started working with middle school students. However I quickly learned rule #1 in giving middle schoolers a marking device:
Never Use Pens that Click
This wisdom was dispensed to me by middle school ministry veteran Pete Wisdom. Pete is a father of four and has been in middle school ministry for going on 14 years. After my second Youth night, Pete pulled me aside and said: “You shouldn’t give the kids click pens because they just take them apart and use the springs to shoot the ink stick across the room. Better to stick with non-click pens.” As he was saying this he was handing over a handful of pieces to those very pens.
So I pulled all the click pens out of the arsenal and filled them with cap only pens. Our church had all kinds of pens so I just used a bunch of different kinds and colors and brandings, which led me to discover rule #2:
Use the Same, Exact Kind of Pens
It’s okay to use a variety if you’ve got lots of time because the students would take forever in choosing just the right pen. So I wised up and bought plain, black stick pens in bulk that were the same. I was a “different” pen Nazi. If you were to come into our program room you will find to bins of pens: one we use for the students and one we use to gather all the “different” kinds of pens!
You may be asking: “How many rules do you have when it comes to ink pens?” Two more. And these are just personal stances:
Don’t worry about the caps being put back on the pens.
If you worry about this, it will drive you crazy. If you don’t worry about this, that’s good. There are plenty of other things to “worry” about in middle school ministry.
Don’t worry about them returning the pens.
Pens are cheap. We tend to go through around 500 pens per year. I budget that in. I do ask the students to put their pens back in the bucket, and most do so. But those who don’t probably either really need the pen, or they are a typical middle school student and didn’t hear me say: “Please put your pen back in the bucket!” And I’m okay donating these pens to the cause. Again, there are greater things to worry about than a slow pen “leak.”
So there you have it. After over 9 years of experience with middle school students and the pens they use at youth group, I humbly transfer this invaluable wisdom to you to save you days of worry and broken click pen parts!