“I thought a virgin was somebody with small ears.”
A few years ago a sixth grader really said this in a small group that I was helping lead.
More recently another interaction with a Middle School student went like this:
I asked, “Why did you get pulled out of your small group?”
“I had taco salad tonight and I can’t stop farting.”
I love the innocence that new 6th graders bring to our Middle School ministry. If you include 6th grade in your youth ministry you probably have some good one liners like I do (post some of yours below). Every year when we get new 6th graders I am floored by how young they look and act. By the end of the school year so much has changed in these students and in our group. Below I have listed a few principles when working with these ever changing young students.
Plan with their development in mind:
When looking at the fall season of ministry think about the changes that these students are going through: new school, puberty, noticing the opposite sex. They need places that are consistent and safe in the midst of all of these changes. To help our new students plug in and feel safe with the rest of our group we do a fall retreat the second weekend of October. Every so often we have a student come on the retreat who is away from home for the first time. Instead of making fun of them, make this first time away from home a time to remember. Provide opportunities for them to talk about all of the changes that are going on.
When are these students ready to talk about relationships/dating/sex? It may be wise to wait until the spring to approach such topics. Also, these students are just staring to change their thinking from concrete to abstract. With that in mind it would be good to visit the basics of faith. Last, providing real life examples of what it means to follow Jesus connects with their way of thinking.
This is not just a tumultuous season for your students. Many parents are sending off their precious babies to the evil realm of Middle School. Provide opportunities for your parents of 6th graders to get together and discuss their apprehensions. Involve parents in coming up with the ministry calendar. And support them. Find ways to encourage and equip parents for this new adventure.
Celebrating the growth of students:
I consider it a huge honor to do ministry with students who are going through these massive tectonic shifts. I receive joy when I see the growth in students both in their height physically and in their depth of their spirituality. One thing that we do poorly in our culture is celebrating growth markers. Find ways to celebrate the development of these students. One idea would be to take a picture of them now and then a follow up at the end of the school year to see the changes. Then have a night when you post the pictures and students have an opportunity to share the ways in which they have changed this year.
I love 6th graders…here is another one of the things 6th graders have said to me:
“Dang it. My voice cracked. I hate puberty.”-6th grade boy
Post your one liners from your 6th graders.