Students Make Mistakes

Youth Ministry can be one of the most frustrating jobs. Just when you think your students are perfect angels and living sold out for the glory of God, someone pulls back the curtain to reveal the ugly truth. I had a curtain moment recently and I had conflicting feelings. Part of me was frustrated and wanting to drop some truth bombs on those students, but the other side of me just kept thinking “student make mistakes.”

The last thing I want is an attitude of “teens will be teens” where I ignore student development, but I also recognize that despite my best efforts, I cant change students. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. Teenagers are trying on identities, they are living life through the process of trial-and-error trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. This process comes with mistakes.

What’s important is not how we police our students, but how we model Jesus to our students. Our students, like Israel in the OT, will bounce back and forth between obedience and rebellion. May we model the loving grace of Jesus when our students mess up. May we be the people they call in the midst of their rebellion. May we wisely address their mishaps and point them toward a purpose and identity in Christ.

David Headshot

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.

 

The Longer Haul Podcast: Theology in Youth Ministry

I was recently interviewed by Jody Livingston over at The Longer Haul. We sat down and discussed theology in youth ministry. It’s a great podcast and this is a great primer on how to infuse theology into your youth ministry. Take a listen and subscribe to The Longer Haul Podcast:

David Headshot

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.

 

Leaky Ministry

This past weekend I attempted to replace a bathroom sink faucet. While this might not sound like a difficult thing for some of your super handy folks, let me share something about myself…I’m no handy man. If I was installing a new faucet in a new sink, I think I could make it work. However, I was installing a new faucet in an old sink which led to a whole slew of issues including a slow leak. Often times, ministry feels this same way.

Leaky Ministry

In ministry, we should always be looking to keep our processes and programs up to date. However, often times we can’t overhaul the entire bathroom…I mean ministry. Sometimes you have to deal with existing structures and make the new fit in with the old. This can be tricky, but it can be done (and sometimes has to be done).

I can’t afford to replace my pale yellow, seashell sink, countertop (I’m a youth pastor). However, I can replace the dated faucet. When I went to install the new drain, I quickly realized I would have to use the old drain and guts as the new stuff would NOT fit the dated countertop. I had to compromise, install the new faucet, then spray paint (sweet metallic spray paint at that) the old drain and stopper to give it the updated look. I had to make the old drain system and the new faucet play nice together and make them look like they belonged together.

In ministry, we should be excited about the introduction of new things. However, we must not be naive and think these new initiatives will seamlessly fit in with the ministry that has been happening for some time. Your new initiatives might not play well with programs that have been in place long before you got there. You might inadvertently slaughter a sacred cow and send the elderly in your congregation into a frenzy! Your new initiatives might not kill programs, but you might find that it’s the older people/staff at your church that do not want to play nice with your new ideas. This can be crazy frustrating.

What you need in these times is patience and skill.

You must be patient with the old systems and people understanding you can’t just gut the bathroom and start over. They were there before you and they will probably be there after you! However, this doesn’t mean we should accept mediocre or dying ideas. We must skillfully and tactfully figure out how to make our new initiatives play nice with the systems/people in place. This process of trial and error will require an insane amount of patience, but in the end will prevent leaky ministry.

Leaky ministry is what happens when the old and new refuse to work together. Leaky ministry happens when the new tries to forcefully replace the old or when the old refuses to accept the new. Leaky ministry happens when people try to change too much too fast or when people never change anything at all. Leaky ministry happens when programs that once drew the masses are kept despite being a shadow of their former self. Leaky ministry happens when people pretend that newer is always better.

May we prevent leaky ministry by being good stewards of the past while moving forward to where the Lord wants to take us next.

Maybe you have experienced this. How did you navigate it? Comment below!

David Headshot

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.

 

Burning Up Grace

Sometimes I try to count the errors within ministry that I have made. I would like to think that I could recall all my ministry mistakes. However, the reality is that there are many I am unaware of. I entered into student ministry fully aware of my reliance on God for life and life eternal, but through ministry, God has revealed to me that my reliance upon Him is much grander then I imagined.

Burning Up Grace

The saint burns grace like a 747 burns fuel on take off. –Dallas Willard

The all-consuming machine of salvation that drives us towards the Lord God is powered by grace, and within this awesome machine of salvation are many gears, one of which being ministry. Left to my own devices I would only serve myself and only in the manner that I desired. However, God has placed His machine of salvation into my very being, and I have now become a living demonstration of His grace. It is the grace of our perfect God that allows me to serve Him in the midst of my imperfection. The grace of our generous God that allows me to be a participant in the good works that He has prepared for me. As the gears of salvation turn transforming me inwardly, my ministry is a reflection of grace outwardly. Or so I hope….

Remember this; or you may fall into error by fixing your minds so much upon the faith which is the channel of salvation as to forget the grace which is the fountain and source even of faith itself. –H. Spurgeon

There is not a day that goes by that God does not overwhelm me. He extends so much goodness, faithfulness, and mercy to me… so much grace! If God is the fountain of grace then I am a toxic pool of sin that His purifying waters have flooded into. The fact that I am a pastor does not change that truth. I am man of pride, selfishness, and hypocrisy. So, how is it that I am able to serve God by making disciples? How is it that His Gospel permeates in my soul?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. – Ephesians 2:8

The answer is grace. The very same grace that I burn through every single day as I strive to draw close to Jesus Christ. I hope to do a better job of modeling my reliance on God’s grace to my students. I pray that my students would come to rejoice in the grace of God instead of shamefully clinging to sin in silence. I have both made and will continue to make many mistakes in ministry…. Praise God for His rich love and mercy because I have a grand need for His grace!

Ben Headshot

Ben Fawcett is a six year student ministry veteran, who is currently serving as the Associate Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Texas. He is currently enjoying typing this bio out in third person, and aspires to one day speak in only third person.

The Youth Ministry Minute 003: Spiritual Maturity

In this edition of The Youth Ministry Minute, David talks about spiritual maturity. Many students think spiritual maturity is about collecting knowledge and fail to see that it comes from the implementation of that knowledge. Take a listen…after all, it’s only one minute!

David Headshot

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.

 

Youth Ministry? That’s Not in the Bible!

Over two months ago I used the metaphor of a tumor to describe an unhealthy youth ministry in contrast to the Bible’s imagery for the “church body” (sorry for the typos…I should proofread more). I also promised more to come. It was so urgent, it took me three months to get to it. If I do another follow up you can expect it before the 2020 presidential elections. Anyway here are some theological insights into my convictions on youth ministry.

Why The Emphasis On Partnering With Parents?

I mentioned in my original post that part of my focus on partnering with parents was out of necessity (after all, I’m only a volunteer). However, it is also out of conviction and desire. Bear with me for a minute because at first it’s going to seem like I’m condemning youth ministry, but it will get better (at least a little bit). Here’s the Bible’s command to parents regarding discipleship:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates –Deuteronomy 6:4-9

There we have it. This little Scriptural nugget is traditionally referred to as the “Shema” (Hebrew for “hear”) within Judaism. The serious observers follow the command to teach it to their children and pray it with them four times daily (when they sit, walk, lie down, and rise). It’s one of the most well-known and important Scriptures in Judaism. What about Christians? This is what Jesus says is the greatest of all commandments (Mark 12:28 and following).

Two out of three monotheists agree this is an indispensible command from God. Let’s not overlook that in addition to the command for Israel to take this to heart, there is a subordinate command for them to be diligent in teaching these truths to their children. While there are no qualifiers for this command, such as, “parents teach your children,” it is assumed within the command that parents are in mind. As youth workers, we must be cautious not to deceive ourselves into thinking we’re some sort of discipleship experts above and beyond the parents God has assigned to our students.

The Call Of Parents

As a father, it’s sobering to realize that God has entrusted the life of a child (and another one on the way) to me. Some day he will hold me responsible for the way I’ve served as a shepherd in this role.

Was I humble? Did I model a dependence upon God? Or did I show a proud and arrogant heart? Did I repent and confess when I made mistakes? Or did I try to justify myself? Did I model prayer and a view of the world in which Christ was center? Or did I show by my words and actions that I was at the center of my own world?

All these questions and more serve as a guide to be conscious of my words and actions around my son. I’m the man he’s most going to imitate whether I like it or not (in addition to experience, see Genesis 5:3 where Seth is made in the “image” and “likeness” of Adam). Sure, a wise father will have other influences in both his own life and that of his son’s, but no other people influence us quite like our parents. As such, we are fooling ourselves if we think we can just outsource the spiritual development of our youth and children to some hired guns (a.k.a. “youth workers”).

The Biblical Mandate For Youth Ministry (Or Lack Thereof)

At this point some youth ministers get uncomfortable and start to fear their position is unwarranted (at best) or unbiblical (at worst). Unfortunately, I’ve got more bad news (I warned you, remember?), but don’t worry it will get better.

A lot of people point to Titus 2 as their “proof text” for youth ministry. The only problem is that verse does more to undermine youth ministry than it does to support it. Let’s take a look:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. –Titus 2:3-6

See the problem? This verse assumes the “young women” are married. As such, unless the students in your ministry are in the same boat, the verse isn’t really applicable. We’d do well to follow these instructions and teach those we influence how to be good wives and husbands and how to be self-controlled. But the context (for the importance of context in regards to hermeneutics check out this song by Flame) is a far cry from the average youth ministry. As such we have to look elsewhere for support for youth ministry. The problem is: there isn’t any. I keep checking and checking, but there is simply no mention of youth ministry in the Bible.

Are you sweating yet? It’s probably a good thing if you are, because we do well to “keep a close watch on [ourselves] and on [our] teaching […] for by so doing [we] will save both [ourselves] and [our] hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). A little self-examination is good for the soul (see also 2 Corinthians 13:5).

The Good News

Good news always sounds better after we have all the facts straight, bad as they often are (think of the Gospel—the real Good News—that only sounds beautiful after we recognize our own sinfulness and inability to save ourselves). So what good news could I possibly have after showing how scant the biblical support for youth ministry is?

The good news is that, while youth ministry is not mentioned in the Bible, that also means it’s not forbidden.

Here’s a fancy term you might want to add to your vocabulary: “methodologize.” When we methodologize the Scriptures we make descriptive passages prescriptive. This is, perhaps, one of the most common hermeneutical mistakes those in the Church make. It’s important when we come to the Bible we ask the question, “does this verse or passage command any action of me? Or is it simply describing a situation as it occurred in history (i.e.: a narrative)?” By asking this question and carefully analyzing a biblical text we save ourselves a whole lot of unnecessary confusion.

Regarding youth ministry, when someone says, “there is no mention of youth ministry in the Bible,” they are right. But that doesn’t mean it’s a “sin” to labor in youth ministry. Since the Bible never says, “thou shall not further the discipleship efforts of children outside your own family,” we can rest assured we’re not upsetting God by efforts to disciple teenagers. Usually people guilty of methodologizing the Bible want to follow as closely as possible the sections of Scripture that are narrative.

The problem with this is that it’s almost impossible, as the world has changed quite a bit since the time of the apostles. Using the same type of argument I could say, “any church that uses microphones to preach to their congregation is unbiblical because the Bible doesn’t ever mention the use of microphones.” See what I did? It’s true the Bible doesn’t mention microphones, but to condemn them as a hindrance to the work of the Church is to make an argument that stems from silence and goes beyond the words of Scripture.

Co-Laborers In The Gospel

My final point (for now) is a simple one: don’t step on the toes of parents or work against them. While I’ve provided a license for the validity of youth ministry by dispelling a common hermeneutical error, I’ve also tried to emphasize the importance of the role of parents in the discipleship of their parents. This should make youth workers tread with caution. While we are free in Christ to disciple the next generation, we are doing a disservice to parents if we (implicitly or explicitly) give the impression that we desire to be the sole influence in the lives of their children. We must partner with parents and empower them to rise to the biblical command to teach their children the truths of God as outlined above in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Anything else is a compromise and runs the risk of encouraging parents to disobey God. And that would be a sin.

I’ve still got more I can say on this. Stay tuned for more (hopefully before the seasons change again).

Sean Headshot

Sean Nolan teaches hermeneutics at Augustine’s Classical Academy and leads the youth ministry at Terra Nova Church in Troy, NY. He’s an aspiring church planter and is married to Hannah and father to Knox. He irregularly blogs at Hardcore Grace. He likes activities that don’t involve sweating.

 

A 4 Balloon Youth Pastor

I used to think of being the best youth pastor as if I am feeding a 4 headed monster. Like the huge dog in Harry Potter except with an extra head! Any of these heads could bite you or lick you depending on how much you are feeding them.

A 4 Balloon Youth Pastor

 

However, I’ve come to realize that being a successful youth pastor is more like playing a never-ending version of the balloon game. You know, the balloon game where you have to keep a certain numbers of balloons in the air at all times and the longest time wins. So you are running around the room hitting these things in the air only to notice another one floating slowly to the ground and so you make sure you run over to that one.

If you wanna be one a top-notch youth pastor you obviously need to be right with God and have a personal prayer life that is growing, developing, modeling, and pointing yourself and others towards Christ. BUT I want to focus in this post on the systematic part of the youth pastor JOB. Therefore, I am going to assume the above is already your foundation and to be a top-notch youth pastor beyond that it is to juggle these 4 balloons in the air.

Students –  This one comes natural to most youth pastors. They feel called to youth and to help youth grow closer to God. They are contacting, discipling, mentoring, encouraging, counseling, etc. with youth. It is probably the balloon we are best at keeping in the air.

Leaders – This one for some youth pastors is a walk in the park and for others it’s like pulling teeth. You job as a youth pastor is to recruit leaders and then to train your leaders and finally you have to retain your leaders. It’s this ongoing cycle of finding, developing, and maintaining. If you are great at recruiting a leader but can’t develop them, you won’t be able to retain them. If you are great at developing leaders and retaining leaders but can’t recruit them, you may find your youth ministry stuck sooner rather than later.

Parents – More of you stink at this balloon than those of you that are great. We tend to neglect this balloon and sometimes may even play the game without it in the air and pretend it was never part of the game. I hate to tell you this but relationships with parents is part of your job. You need to communicate with them and you need to come alongside them. And the crazy part about working alongside parents- it can actually be really rewarding for you as a person and a youth pastor!

Staff – For those of you in a smaller church, this should be easier. Those that actually have a church office, this should be easier. Staff relations is also part of your job. You aren’t an island, nor should you be. You need to work with your church as part of the larger mission and vision of your church. Communicate with your lead pastor, don’t mess with your finance team, help your secretaries set up the calendar and the bulletin with your youth ministry stuff. It’s all part of the gig.

You get hired as a youth pastor and the balloons get tossed up in the air and the game begins. You have to keep all these balloons in the air. And at no point will all of them be at the ceiling, right when you work hard on one area you may see the other drifting down. You will constantly be adjusting to keep them in the air and that’s just part of the job.

The ineffective youth pastors will burn out and will leave the ministry because keeping these balloons in the air is too much work. OR one of these balloons got you out of the game. The parents decided you weren’t helping them enough, your pastor realized you are an island, the youth won’t come because you don’t relate to them, you have no leaders and thus can’t do anything. 2 years is the average time a youth pastor is at a church and my assumption is it is because of this balloon game. 2 years is probably the amount of time you either can’t keep all the balloons up or the amount of time it takes someone to realize you have been playing but you’re actually out.

The average youth pastors will drop a balloon every now and then (usually the same ones every time) but will quickly correct the problem. They do a decent job.

The really effective youth pastors will be great at keeping all these in the air. There will be times where it gets close to the ground but they kick it up just in time. Maybe they have a sign by their computer that reminds them of these balloons. Maybe they just have the instincts of where all the balloons are and can get there in time. Or who knows how they do it, but they do, and that’s what makes them so effective.

This isn’t a post that should make you busier but more aware and know that it this is all built on the foundation of prayer and your personal walk with God.

Go write these things on 4 balloons and go play in your activity area. Tell your senior pastor it’s your homework. Have fun out there!

David Headshot

Mark Knight is a Children’s and Youth Pastor in Tacoma, WA. He leads a team of directors that cover ministry from birth through young adults. He graduated from Northwest University with a double-major in Youth Ministry and Biblical Studies. Mark is married to his amazing wife, Lindsay, and they are expecting their first child in December.

 

To Die is Gain

Originally I was planning on posting part 3 of the Disease Within Student Ministry, but instead I have felt a pulling from God to write about the beheading of the 21 Coptic Christians in Libya. The recent murder of our 21 brothers is no more evil than the daily persecution that our fellow overseas brothers and sisters suffer through on a regular basis, but still there is something about this that hits a little harder; at least for me that’s the case.

to die is gain

“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:2-11

Maybe it hit me a little harder because one of the first things I started to hear from fellow believers is how blessed we are that we can attend church in complete safety. When I heard these statements I was immediately filled with sorrow. It’s heartbreaking that many associate God’s blessings chiefly with convenience, comfort, safety, and wealth. How sad it is that their enjoyment of God is limited to how they experience life and this world. I thank God that Jesus Christ is the supreme blessing to us, and that the life He offers is an overflowing fountain of reconciliation and hope.

“…and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” – Acts 5:40-42

Or maybe it is because the witness of our Coptic brothers is inspiring and convicting all at once. I am convicted by the fact that as I was reading the news of their beheadings, I was sipping on coffee thinking about how much I myself cling to convenience. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to wrestle with myself to meet someone at a time or location that was not convenient for me. This is especially the case when I know that the meeting might require me to expend more emotional energy than I want to. Why would God want to use a selfish man like me? Only He knows, but there is inspiration in how God works through us.

I am inspired by Gods grace and the works of His Spirit as witnessed by our Coptic brothers. Inspired to see the hope of Jesus Christ lead fellow disciples to the revelation of “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Oh how great are the works of our King within us to bring us to such a reality!

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:23-27

Maybe it hit a little harder because later that day I spent over one hour on the phone with a college student helping her make sense of these murders and her personal purpose in life as a college student. She just couldn’t understand how she could do so little for God’s Kingdom while fellow brothers and sisters were laying down their lives for their faith. For a 19 year old who is studying to be Christian Counselor while dedicating her free time to serve on campus and student ministries, that’s a pretty weighty question to engage in. Her passion to see God glorified and others restored in His glory is humbling.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” – John 15:18-21

I want to spend some time teaching my students about the witness our Coptic brothers gave us. I hope to speak the truth of the Gospel into their hearts and minds. I pray that they would come to an understanding of how great our God is, and that His greatness is not dependent upon the condition of their lives. There are very real evils and sufferings going on everyday. It wasn’t the evil of the beheading or the suffering of our Coptic brothers that hit me. It was the inspiring witness they gave me, and the opportunity that I am afforded to minister out of it.

Ben Headshot

Ben Fawcett is a six year student ministry veteran, who is currently serving as the Associate Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Texas. He is currently enjoying typing this bio out in third person, and aspires to one day speak in only third person.

Boundaries

One of the hardest things in Youth Ministry is knowing where to set boundaries. If you are like me, then you wish that you had the solution for everything. You wish your connection with God and your ability to point people toward their creator was enough to cure any ill. But it’s not enough…

Now don’t get me wrong. Jesus is enough, and He is all we need. But YOU are not Jesus. YOU cannot cure every ill or problem that your students and their parents will encounter. Students and their parents will walk through seasons of crisis that you are not equipped to handle.

For this reason, it is wise to know when and where to refer students and families walking through a difficult season in life. These crisis moments might include thoughts of suicide, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, divorce, sexual, substance or physical abuse. This list could go on and on.

As a Youth Pastor, your role is not to fix these problems. Your role is to faithfully walk with students and families through the good times and the bad, pointing them to Jesus every chance you get.

This is why you need boundaries.

Boundaries will help:

  1. your students get the help they need.
  2. you know when to refer students or parents to professionals.
  3. you stay out of legal trouble.
  4. you focus on your role as a spiritual guide.
  5. you be faithful stewards of God’s flock.

For an EXCELLENT resource on how to set boundaries and how to be prepared, go buy and read The Youth Worker’s Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis.

What other resources have you found helpful in being prepared? Comment below:

David Headshot

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.

 

Real World Middle School Ministry

Middle schoolers are real people. I know that may shock some readers, but it’s true. I’ve actually heard grown adults call middle schoolers “pre-people”. Besides being incredibly demeaning, it implies that young teens aren’t dealing with real life issues yet. Part of this stems from the difficulty middle schoolers have with communicating what’s going on underneath the surface. 

Real World Middle School Ministry

I thought I would let you into my world to show you that middle schoolers are facing really difficult situations. Over the past month I’ve become aware of a number of issues that middle schoolers I know are dealing with right now.

Homosexuality – We have a student who just came out to the world via social media. They stopped coming to our group a few weeks ago just before it became public. Our leadership team is figuring out how to show the love of Christ while helping them find their true identity in Jesus.

Self-Harm – I know of multiple students, from great families by the way, who are expressing their emotional struggles by harming themselves. We are walking with the parents to reinforce constructive ways of dealing with their emotions and bringing hope through the Gospel.

Drugs/alcohol – I have students who get offered marijuana EVERY single day at school. Other students have been caught sneaking alcohol at a friends house. One teacher from a local middle school tells me all the time that a handful of students regularly show up to class drunk. Our students are self-medicating to escape and they have access to whatever substance they want.

Pornography – Most teens are exposed to pornography in the middle school years and addiction is common. In addition, I know of students who have consumed pornography that is violent in nature. My heart breaks for those who’s view of sexuality is so distorted.

Family roles – There are students who have to play the parent role for their families because mom or dad can’t or won’t act like the grown-up. They live in a dual world where schools treat them like kids and yet they have to perform as adults at home.

I could really go on and on. The point is this. Your middle schoolers are hurting NOW. They are facing real life NOW. The more you understand this the less satisfied you’ll be with playing babysitter. Middle schoolers need adults who will shine the light of Christ into the convoluted, dark, broken world they are living in every single day.

It all starts with listening. Start asking probing questions to your middle schoolers and listen for the subtle and not-so-subtle clues that show you that there is more going on. After all, young teens are real people, too.

Kevin Headshot

Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Kevin loves to connect with and empower youth workers. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick