Culture -

Overcoming the invisible barrier between middle and high school —

By Becca Haines

It’s natural to see a clear division between middle schoolers and high schoolers in social circles, but high school senior Abbie Shacklett doesn’t like it and fights to knock down that barrier as often as she can.

“Middle schoolers have a super fun craziness about them, but they also have an awesome openness about them,” Abbie said. “It’s frustrating to me to see people my age cling to their circles and miss out on amazing people who are only a few years younger.”

 

The senior from Foundry Church in Kansas City, Missouri attended MIX last year as a volunteer – made some incredible connections with her younger peers – and then rejoiced this summer as those students attended MOVE for the first time. One of those former middle schoolers was Veronica Meiss – an incoming freshman who also fights the invisible barrier between middle school and high school.

 

“MIX was so much fun and helped us build a foundation for Christ, and it made us more excited to experience MOVE,” Veronica said. “As a middle schooler, it was awesome to have Abbie there. When a high schooler takes the time to come over and show us they care about us, it’s really moving and helps thin the barrier. It helps us understand what high school will be like by knowing them and hearing what they have to say. We love knowing that we have so much in common.”

 

Abbie said the middle schoolers aren’t the only ones who benefit from the interaction.

 

“As a high school volunteer I was able to not only get muddy and have a blast with them during Outer Realm games, but have that space during small group time to enjoy a nurturing part of myself. I know what it feels like to be a middle schooler and feel less important, and I also know the feeling of when a high schooler takes interest in you.”

 

Last year, a new student-led Bible study group formed at Foundry Church and one of the reasons it was created was to bring together middle school and high school students. Abbie’s sister, Olivia – who was a middle schooler at the time – was integral in turning this idea into reality. She worked hard at inviting people from middle school and high school to the group, and was proactive about making sure they were consistent with their meetings.

 

“I know God is real and He gives me hope,” Olivia said. “It’s something stable we all can believe in no matter what age we are, and it’s something we share during this time.”

 

This small group of middle schoolers and high schoolers is close-knit, and Abbie says she loves the discussions that take place.

 

“Hearing what your peers believe is important because you can easily think that you’re the only one in certain struggles,” Abbie said. “Having the space and the group time to be able to talk on a deeper level is extremely helpful and valuable.”

 

Abbie, Veronica and Olivia said they are most inspired by their friend and sister in Christ, Catie Wood – a college student who attended MIX this summer as a volunteer. (Click here to read her full story.)

 

“Catie was someone I always looked up to because she never hid the fact that she wanted to pass on the same kind of love she experienced from the church to the next generation,” Abbie said. “She’s in college now and still stays in touch with us. That really shows us how much she cares and loves her church ... I want more high schoolers to care and want to be there for the younger ones. Not that you have yourself figured out by high school, but you can start helping out more. There’s a lot of maturing and spiritual growth that can happen between middle school and college, and we can show everyone what the church can be – without the barriers.”