The Great High/Middle School Tension

Verily, verily, you have heard it said that middle school students are asking, “does (s)he like me?” and high school students are asking, “do I like her/him?”  – I’m not talking romance here.

I am not sure when I first heard this, but I have heard it many times. More than I have heard it, I have seen it in action. I can’t tell you how many times a middle school student has asked me if I remembered their name, with eyes longing to know if I liked them enough to remember. I also can’t tell you how many high school events I have done that started with 95% of the students crossing their arms and “checking me out” before they show any kind of approval with their body language.

I don’t foresee this changing anytime soon. I think this is a reality for us youth ministry types to embrace. It is a reality of where students are at in their development. It is a response to the world they are growing up in.

Here is why this is important.

Your response to these worldviews can be crippling to what God wants to do in the lives of the teens that he has placed in your youth ministry. Here are two questions I ask you to consider:

Middle school ministry types…

Do you love middle school students?

If you don’t, you won’t be able to like them either. Remember, don’t isn’t the same as can’t or won’t. If you can’t or won’t love them, you should move on for the sake of the students. If you don’t love them, you can get on your face and ask God to break your heart for what breaks His. He loves those students, and if He is alive in you then you can love them too! Allow him to change your heart.

High School Ministry types

Do you need to be liked by your students? Does whether they think you are “cool” or “not cool” have any bearing on your self worth?

I have seen too many high school ministry types trying way too hard to be cool, and therefore missing out on being the leader their students need. Some of the most loved high school ministry types I have ever had the privilege to work with have been some of the most “uncool people” ever. Why is this? It’s because high school students are looking for anyone who is real. They long for genuineness because most of the people in their worlds are fakes.

Verily, verily, you have heard it said that middle school students are asking, “does (s)he like me?” and high school students are asking, “do I like her/him?” but I say to you the more important question is “do you need to be liked” and “do you love them”?

28 Comments

  1. Cory, this is an excellent post. I've had the similar thoughts of Middle School / High School psyche and how it relates to how we do ministry. Loved reading this post, thanks for sharing it with us.
  2. Cory, this is an excellent post. I've had the similar thoughts of Middle School / High School psyche and how it relates to how we do ministry. Loved reading this post, thanks for sharing it with us.
  3. Cory, this is an excellent post. I've had the similar thoughts of Middle School / High School psyche and how it relates to how we do ministry. Loved reading this post, thanks for sharing it with us.
  4. Cory, this is an excellent post. I've had the similar thoughts of Middle School / High School psyche and how it relates to how we do ministry. Loved reading this post, thanks for sharing it with us.
  5. Cory. It makes me sad to say it, but I think that too many JrHi students have answered the first question with NO too many times.That's why they turn into the high schoolers that you mentioned above.
    • That's a good thought Aaron. Changing a culture in a youth ministry just might need to start with loving the youngest students.
      • Something else just occurred to me.The average (paid) youth worker is in one place for less than two years.So by the time a student makes it to high school, they've likely been through a cycle of 2-3 youth workers and aren't going to be as open to immediate trust as they've likely been wounded before. What do you think?
        • I think that definitely has an impact on the "Church Kids". The reality is this generation is used to people coming and going in their life. More and more of them don't even have a family structure that has stayed present in their lives.
  6. Cory. It makes me sad to say it, but I think that too many JrHi students have answered the first question with NO too many times.That's why they turn into the high schoolers that you mentioned above.
      • Something else just occurred to me.The average (paid) youth worker is in one place for less than two years.So by the time a student makes it to high school, they've likely been through a cycle of 2-3 youth workers and aren't going to be as open to immediate trust as they've likely been wounded before. What do you think?
        • I think that definitely has an impact on the "Church Kids". The reality is this generation is used to people coming and going in their life. More and more of them don't even have a family structure that has stayed present in their lives.
  7. Cory. It makes me sad to say it, but I think that too many JrHi students have answered the first question with NO too many times.That's why they turn into the high schoolers that you mentioned above.
    • That's a good thought Aaron. Changing a culture in a youth ministry just might need to start with loving the youngest students.
      • Something else just occurred to me.The average (paid) youth worker is in one place for less than two years.So by the time a student makes it to high school, they've likely been through a cycle of 2-3 youth workers and aren't going to be as open to immediate trust as they've likely been wounded before. What do you think?
        • I think that definitely has an impact on the "Church Kids". The reality is this generation is used to people coming and going in their life. More and more of them don't even have a family structure that has stayed present in their lives.
  8. Cory. It makes me sad to say it, but I think that too many JrHi students have answered the first question with NO too many times.That's why they turn into the high schoolers that you mentioned above.
      • Something else just occurred to me.The average (paid) youth worker is in one place for less than two years.So by the time a student makes it to high school, they've likely been through a cycle of 2-3 youth workers and aren't going to be as open to immediate trust as they've likely been wounded before. What do you think?
        • I think that definitely has an impact on the "Church Kids". The reality is this generation is used to people coming and going in their life. More and more of them don't even have a family structure that has stayed present in their lives.
  9. We have one of the youngest youth groups I have ever seen. One senior, one junior, everyone else a freshman or below. I am praying that I will be able to remain at this church for that entire tenure and will develop great relationships through that.
  10. We have one of the youngest youth groups I have ever seen. One senior, one junior, everyone else a freshman or below. I am praying that I will be able to remain at this church for that entire tenure and will develop great relationships through that.
  11. We have one of the youngest youth groups I have ever seen. One senior, one junior, everyone else a freshman or below. I am praying that I will be able to remain at this church for that entire tenure and will develop great relationships through that.
  12. We have one of the youngest youth groups I have ever seen. One senior, one junior, everyone else a freshman or below. I am praying that I will be able to remain at this church for that entire tenure and will develop great relationships through that.

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