The title of this post should be: Random. But “random” is well, random. So I borrowed the title of the chapter where this story come from in the ministry book I’ve been reading: Middle School Ministry: a comprehensive guide to working with early adolescents by Mark Oestreicher and Scott Rubin.
Random is the best way to describe the minds of early adolescents. These middle school students’ cognition is undergoing a serious overhaul. Where they have mastered the thinking from preschool through elementary called concrete operational thought, in the run up to eventual adulthood, these middle school aged students begin to receive the ability to think abstractly. However, with all things developmental, whenever we are reaching a new stage there is what’s called invariant sequence. This means that when one sequences to a new stage of development, we seek to integrate that new stage along with the old one. In this case it’s concrete (old) with abstract (new) thinking. Thus, by nature, middle school students are extremely random. This makes for some fun stories! (found on pages 67-68)
One Sunday morning I was teaching on God’s forgiveness in my church’s middle school ministry. Partway through the teaching time, I used a few mini case studies to check for understanding.
Case study: Charlotte is a committed follower of Jesus, and she usually makes decisions that reflect that desire. But she also wants to be popular. Last weekend, Charlotte got invited to a party with a bunch of cool kids from school. And, not sure how to act in this setting, Charlotte ended up having some alcoholic drinks. Now Charlotte has tons of guilt. She feels like Jesus could never forgive her and that she must not be a Christian anymore.
I asked the kids what they’d say to Charlotte if she confided her feelings to them. Hands went up.
The first kid I called on said, “I’d tell her that alcohol is stupid!”
I tried another student who said, “I’d say, ‘Jesus still loves you, but it’s too bad you’re not a Christian anymore.’”
The girls in the front row was thrusting her hand in the air and making an “ooh, ooh, ooh!” sound. I reluctantly asker her what she’d say to Charlotte. With a huge grin and a basketful of confidence, she responded, “I’d tell her that my name is Charlotte, too!”
I believe my face fell a bit. At this, the pastor’s daughter raised her hand with a look on her face that said, I’ll help you out here; I know what you’re looking for.
“Bethany?” I pleaded. With a bored voice that simultaneously mocked both her fellow youth groupers and me, she flatly sighed and said, “I’d tell her that Jesus forgives her.”
Ah, the minds of middle schoolers. It’s the combination of innocence and a willingness to verbalize any thought that make middle school ministry such a wild ride at times.