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4 Ways to Connect with Middle Schoolers for #LoveYourLifeFriday

4 Ways to Connect with Middle Schoolers and a Giveaway by Emma Heikkinen for #LoveYourLifeFriday at karenehman.com.

Today we are gaining some wisdom from Love Your Life Friday contributor Emma Heikkinen about connecting with middle-schoolers. Here is her helpful advice:

I couldn’t contain myself when I found out Incredibles 2 was FINALLY going to be coming out. I saw it opening week, and I was not disappointed.

One of my favorite moments (I promise this isn’t a spoiler; it’s in the trailer!) is when Violet runs upstairs and slams her door. In classic little brother fashion, Dash responds with, “Is she having adolescence?” I haven’t laughed so hard at a single line in a pretty long time. As the movie goes on, we see Violet’s frustrations come out more and see that she isn’t upset for no reason. But, so often in our real lives, we don’t take Violet’s age group and their emotions seriously. Middle schoolers like Vi are so full of adolescence, but how do we handle that?

For the past few years, I’ve been volunteering with middle schoolers at my church and it’s given me a great opportunity to learn so much about this wonderful, quirky group of adolescents that’s so often pushed aside. Now, I’m not a parent and I’m definitely not trying to be an authority on how to be one. However, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve seen how common attitudes toward middle schoolers can be really damaging to them. So, here are some ways we should be viewing this age of young people and what’s important to remember about our relationships with them.

1.) Middle schoolers are people, too.

So often, middle schoolers are treated like little kids or like some sort of species we can’t quite understand. They want to be known and loved, just like any of us do. The way we speak about them and to them affects the way they view themselves. They want to be taken seriously. I can’t number the amount of times one of my girls has sighed (or even yelled) because their parents or teachers or anyone else around them kept calling them “kid” or treating them like they didn’t understand what was going on. Middle schoolers are more similar to high school or college students than we tend to think, and should be taken as seriously as we take those other groups.

2.) But, they still have questions. Like, a lot of them!

I think any of us would be lying if we said we’ve got this whole “life” thing fully figured out. We’re all pretty clueless some of the time, and middle schoolers are especially confused. They’re in such a tumultuous time of life when everything they thought they knew is suddenly different. They have questions about themselves and the relationships they have with other people. They’re experiencing all kinds of new things and want to explore, but don’t even know where to start. Middle schoolers are so smart. They function similarly to older groups and have the capability to think critically and apply things to their lives. We don’t often take the time to listen to them, though. I’ve been caught off-guard so many times with questions from middle school girls. The theological truths that they struggle with and are curious about are way beyond what most people would expect.

3.) And, they’re looking for an environment to ask their questions.

Asking questions is scary! Middle schoolers want to be in a place where they won’t be belittled for not knowing things. They often feel alone in their questioning and don’t always feel comfortable enough to ask their friends. They don’t want to be seen as the one person who doesn’t know an answer (this goes along with wanting to be seen as a valid, responsible person). At Chaos (our middle school ministry) we try to cultivate an environment where middle schoolers can be their goofy, curious, spastic selves. That way, they’re in a place where they feel comfortable completely being who they are. When I have my girls over to my apartment, or we go out for ice cream, I try to make it a point to bring up “uncomfortable” topics, ranging from feelings about boys to fights with families, dealing with cramps and other not-fun health things. That way, they know they have a safeplace to talk about anything they want to.

4.) We need to meet them where they’re at, not expect them to jump to us.

Just like with anyone else, we can’t expect middle schoolers to “get on our level” before we reach them. When Jesus came and did his ministry, he met people where they were at. He had dinner in the tax collector’s home; he sat and talked with the woman by the well; he spoke to the little children who came to see him. Jesus is the perfect example of how to love people, and if we want to love like him, we need to meet the middle schoolers where they’re at.

If kids only communicate using texting or some social media platform, we need to plunge into it too, whether we understand the purpose or not. We need to address topics, even if they’re uncomfortable. The world is pushing so much false information at them. If other people are talking about it, we should too. Hiding middle schoolers from things we don’t think they’re “mature enough” for yet doesn’t do any good. We need to physically enter the places where they are — school sporting events, choir concerts, dance recitals, the local coffee shops. By stepping into their world, we can intentionally show them how much we care — and they’ll notice.

Call me crazy, but one of my favorite nights of this entire year so far was when my little apartment was crammed full of 8th grade girls. It was chaotic, loud, and so full of messes, but boy, was it beautiful. In an environment where they were allowed to entirely be themselves, the girls blossomed. The night was full of giggles and whispers of who liked who, what the newest dance craze was, and their nerves about starting high school next year. I still don’t think my apartment has been cleansed of all of the glitter that exploded that night, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

At the end of the day, middle schoolers are people and deserve our specific, intentional attention. Too often, they’re pushed aside and seen as not important by society. They’re too old to be kids, but too young to taken seriously. Let’s challenge that; let’s change the way we view middle schoolers and show them how valuable and precious they are in our eyes and in God’s.

Giveaway

Giveaway Now Closed – congrats Kelly!

TO go along with Emma’s helpful post, we’re offering a giveaway! Enter to win a copy of Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You by my Proverbs 31 ministry partner Lynn Cowell. Written especially for girls between the ages 8 – 12, Brave Beauty is not just a book — it’s a companion guide on a girl’s journey to learning to become courageous, confident and fearless.

Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You by Lynn Cowell. Enter to win at karenehman.com. 

To enter the giveaway, comment below, and tell us about a middle schooler–or group of them–that you work with or love. (NOTE: Winner will be announced here on Friday, July 13. U.S. Addresses only please.)

LIVE Brave Beauty Study

Brave Beauty’s author, Lynn Cowell, is also hosting a FREE 4-week online study starting Monday, July 9, called LIVE Brave Beauty. This study is for young girls and those who want to help them become brave, be it mom, mentor, or any one who wants to see young girls reach their potential in ChristLearn more and sign up to join Lynn here.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to enter the giveaway!

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Emma Heikkinen is a professional writing student at Michigan State University. Her studies have an emphasis in editing and publishing, along with a focus in art. She works as a elementary curriculum writer for Riverview Church in the Greater Lansing Area, writing the content for the hundreds of children who attend Riverview every weekend. Her work also includes graphic design, video filming and production, and teaching services for RivKids. Emma spends most of her time volunteering with middle school students, hanging out at her favorite local coffee shop, and doodling on every surface available. Check Emma out on Instagram to see more of her daily life!

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34 Comments

  1. My oldest daughter is a middle schooler, and some days are amazing, while some are very much like a crazy rollercoaster. Lots of prayers!

  2. My 12 year old daughter just finished her first year of middle school……this last year has given us opportunity for LOTS of discussion, and even still have 2 more years to go!

  3. My husband and I teach the Preteen Sunday school class at our church. This is a vital time for all of them, as they’re making decisions that will influence the rest of their lives.

  4. I am beginning a new job teaching Bible to Middle school girls this year. I’ve only done elementary so this will be a change for me and I need prayer and some advice so I was relieved to hear encouragement and biblical knowledge moving forward !!

  5. I have a girl going into 6th grade. She has her own brave beauty, learning to cope in this world with a profound hearing impairment while having a heart for God. My prayer is that she remain a brave beauty.

    1. Having a mom who constantly reminds her that she is beautiful just as God made her sure will be a help to her, Angela! I am so glad your girl has you!

  6. Middle school is SOOO difficult. The pressure our daughters face to be just right is too much. My daughter is smart, beautiful, funny, caring, and loves God, but struggles to let herself be who she is because of the girls around her. Praying that she sees who she is in Christ and loves who God has created her to be.

  7. Thanks for sharing this! It seems girls are maturing emotionally and physically faster than I can keep up with and my 9 and 10 year old girls will be in the midst of it all quickly! Good thoughts and wisdom here, thanks!!

  8. I’m hoping to do this study with my daughter and a couple of her friends from church and school.

  9. Great article. My oldest daughter is 10 and will be entering middle school in the fall. This sounds like a great

  10. I have a beautiful daughter who would enjoy this book since she is just now stepping into that age. Plus, I can learn a few things to apply to when I help kids in church.

  11. This article was perfect for me. Thank you! My daughter is going into middle school and I’ve been seeing changes in her that I have not been prepared for. I also work with middle school kids as an English teacher in a public school and have been for the past 12 years! However, teaching middle school has not prepared me for parenting a middle schooler. It is definitely an adjustment having a daughter this age. This looks like a great resource.

  12. I have one leaving middle school, one entering and one yet to enter! Love each of them, but girls are interesting at this age!!!

  13. I was so excited to read this! I got involved in the middle school ministry of our church when our youngest daughter, who is headed to college, was in 7th grade. Now both my husband and I serve the Middle School Ministry together. We love ministering to middle schoolers – mainly to listen to them and share the love of Jesus with them. I’m excited about this study and hope to share it with others!!! Thank you for posting and sharing this information!!! Would love to win a copy of the book!

    1. Hi Kelly, you won Brave Beauty! I am emailing you now, please reply with your mailing address and we will get it to you. Enjoy!

      Kim Stewart
      Karen Ehman Ministry Team

  14. My oldest is a middle school girl! She has always acted older than her actual age. It’s so fun watching her grow, but to be honest, I’m a little nervous too, as it can be hard to let go more. This book would be super helpful!

  15. Definitely my daughter, but also her book club friends. They come here each month for book club, and we have lots of fun talking about books and doing what the characters in them do. I try to choose books that will let us have great discussions and do good things, and your theme definitely is one I want us to strive for.

  16. My daughter just turned 10 and I already seeing and hearing the changes of adolescence which terrify me! I think this book will help both of us in the uncharted territory ahead with spiritual guidance and perspective.

  17. My middle schooler is my oldest daughter. She is amazing, funny, and brilliant but she is so struggling with finding her place. It’s a hard road and her sister isn’t far behind. How do you help them when you, yourself where invisible to your parents most of your life?

  18. My son is just going in to middle school and I see this a lot. Soo many questions, and he is becoming a different person in a lot of ways. Maturing so fast! My daughter is 10, so right behind him!

  19. I no longer have a middle schooler – she’ll be a high school senior in the fall! How did that happen?!?!?! But I’m sure this book will come in handy when my granddaughter (who’s almost 4) is a bit older. And while my daughter is older, and very secure in who she is (always has been, actually), I’m sure there are nuggets from Lynn that she’ll glean from even now.

  20. My middle schooler is my oldest daughter! She is amazing and awesome and ? middle schooler! We’re a little out of our depth and would love a book like this one!

  21. Thank you for this!! I am an 8th grade English teacher and I’m in the midst of raising my three children who are entering the teenage years. Remembering each and every day to show them love, treat them as people, and that they’re still learning to navigate life is so important.

  22. I work with a group of middleschool girls from our church. Our group is called Faithgirlz! We just finish up the book the true you. We meet once a month with a lesson, craft, food and social time. The girls love it and this ministry has been a blessing to me! Fun age!

  23. We have started walking together, no phones, no electronics. Just enjoying each other and our beautiful world.

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