Thinking back to when I was in middle school, one of the most difficult struggles I faced was my search for identity. I was desperately looking for anyone or anything that could tell me who I was, where I fit in, and who I was supposed to become. Today, not much has changed on that front. Students are watching TV, reading magazines, joining online communities and listening to a multitude of voices (each with their own motive) all trying to tell them who they are and who they should be.
Last summer I met a middle school boy named Joe while speaking at a New England camp. One night at a campfire I found Joe sitting alone, sobbing hysterically. He told me his parents were getting a divorce and they were fighting over him. But they weren’t fighting over who would get to keep him, instead they were fighting about who would have to take him. Joe felt worthless and alone, and couldn’t understand why God would want a relationship with him when no one else did.
In a world where students are continually marketed to, and many feel worthless even in their home, it is more vital than ever to expose them to the love and truth of God. Genesis 1:27 says that we were created “in God’s image”. Knowing that God loves them enough to create them in His image can have a profound effect on a student’s sense of identity. Another important truth for students to hear is that God created them to be in community together. Show students how the early church in Acts worked and lived together, and give encourage them to build relationships together based on living out the “one another’s” found in the Bible (love one another, encourage one another, accept one another, etc.). That’s the kind of environment students need as they begin to figure out who they are, and who God created them to become.