Jared is a husband, new dad, and the leader of the Middle School Ministry Team. Jared is also on staff at The Creek as a Pastoral Assistant and a seminarian.
Wednesday nights are by far the most crazy, hectic, exhausting, and wonderful evenings of the week. As someone who works with Middle School students here at The Creek, I can’t wait for Wednesday nights. Each week I get 90 minutes with a group of people who are sandwiched somewhere between childhood and adolescence. On one end, I have 11 and 12 year-old kids who have just left elementary school and for them, middle school is scary and intimidating. Right next to these kids, I have 8th-graders whose childhood is in the rearview mirror and high school is just ahead. Why would I want to work with a group of kids in such an awkward, in-between stage?
First, I love working with Middle School students because of their sincere desire to learn. Each week I am floored at how receptive our students are to the Word of God. We have looked at the life of Jesus, the inner-workings of the gospel, and the sufficiency of Scripture. We have also studied what God’s Word says about relationships, gender roles, and ethics. These kids come with an insatiable hunger to know how to apply God’s Word to their lives. And the beauty of working with them is if I say something they don’t understand, they will raise their hands (most of the time) and blurt out, “Jared! That doesn’t make sense!” I love the openness and honesty that Middle Schoolers bring to the study of God’s Word.
Second, I love Middle School students’ desire to grow. They are starting to realize that Mom and Dad’s faith isn’t automatically transferable, and they need to develop beliefs and convictions for themselves. They come to us leaders with situations and questions I could not have comprehended a 13-year old would be facing. Instead of just wanting our answer, though, they want the answer from God as shown in His Word. I have sat in times of informal counseling with a student who opens up about a strained relationship with a family member or peer and how he wants God to change his attitude. These kids are burdened for their friends at school who have parents going through divorce. Their hearts break for their peers who are committing sexual immorality. They plead with God on behalf of an unsaved classmate. I walk away from Middle School students challenged to live a godly life in ways I could not have imagined.
Finally, lest you think Middle School ministry is always stoic, sin-conquering sobriety, I love having fun with them. I have done spit-takes when one our students makes a witty observation or cracks a well-timed, lame joke. Be sure to duck for cover when walking through the gym during a high octane game of “Dungeonball” at the beginning of youth group. We have chased each other down in Capture The Flag, raced each other through inflatable bouncy houses, and traversed corn mazes which mysteriously change courses as we walk. I have a blast each week letting my inner Junior Higher out to be a sanctified goofball.
Is Middle School ministry exhausting? Absolutely. Can it be frustrating at times? Sure. But seeing God work in and through students during one of the most awkward and difficult stages of life is a privilege for which I thank Him repeatedly. God loves Middle School students, and I am honored to have a small part in helping them learn to love and follow Him.