For a junioor high kid, dynamic growth happens from the first semester in sixth grade to the second semester in eighth grade. It’s rarely slow, incremental growth that can be neatly charted. “Messy” is a much more descriptive word to explain how a junior high kid matures.
One thing we know is that they can definitely grow in spurts. These jumps in their journey can be traced back to some spark that forced them to grow. After long breaks, like Christmas, kids can show back up in our ministries very different. Lots can happen over the break and the implications are huge. Here are some normal situations, causing leaps, which many kids in your ministry will experience over the break.
Gifts: Gone are the days of Legos and action figures. The first big kid gift can have a significant shaping experience in a kid’s life. It may be a gun for hunting, a cell phone, or a musical instrument. New privileges, responsibilities, expectations and opportunities all can contribute to change in the kids we work with.
Family: When we see someone every day, it gets tough to see the build-up of small changes. Many kids will see extended family members who will be surprised at the growth they see all at once. All of the doting, comments, and surprised visitors can make an impression on a kids self awareness.
Trips: Many families travel over breaks. New cultures and life experiences away from the home environment also push kids through catalytic change.
Hardships: Family conflict is an example of an unhealthy situation that may propel kids into maturing growth spurts. With an extra focus on family during breaks, underlying problems can be brought to the surface. These normal life experiences make big waves in the lives of junior high kids. Important decisions set the course for who they think they are, what is important to them, and who they will choose to journey with. Here are some tips to keep in mind in helping your kids debrief the break.
• Positively affirm the growth you see. This might seem like a no brainer, but that is only if you see it. Make sure you are on the look-out for these opportunities after the break.
• Don’t be afraid to dig a little bit. Perhaps they were on the verge of going somewhere (emotionally, spiritually) and needed some help to explore deeper.
• Give every kid a chance to talk through what they experienced over the break
• Bring it back to Jesus. Don’t let a huge event in their life go unframed spiritually. Make sure they know God has a plan and He is working in all things.