1. Be ready to listen. Middle Schoolers want to talk and tell you all about their lives. Just listening and going through the Scripture with them will make an impact. Some come from broken homes and all kinds of different situations – it’s important to listen when they start opening up.
2. Pray for them. Let them know you’ll be praying for them – all the time. If you find out they’re going to be taking a test, or about to have a difficult conversation, pray with them about it.
3. Don’t be alone. If you’re jumping into youth ministry for the first time, don’t do it by yourself. Surround yourself with experienced leaders and take it slow as you gradually step into a role. My wife leads the girls and I lead our boys, and that works best because the girls are more likely to open up to my wife. It works both ways.
4. Involve everyone. Occasionally in our group we’ll have some students with special needs. Just love them, too. Include them as much as you can. It impacts the other students. I’ve seen kids help and take care of special needs students, and it’s so cool to see them mature and grow from that relationship.
5. Do it with love. You must have a love for this age group. They’re blunt and honest and they don’t hold much back. They’ll make you laugh and see things differently – some even surprise you. Kids get a kick out of seeing their youth leader being silly – that we can have fun, too – and it relieves the tension. Years from now they might not remember the sermons or the specific conversations, but they’ll remember someone loved them.
Greg McMahon and his wife, Bobbi, have led middle school groups to Christ In Youth’s MIX conference since the program’s inception seven years ago. They pour into small groups of 10-15 students every year from their church, Victor Valley Christian Church in Hesperia, California.