6 TIPS FOR TEACHING MIDDLE SCHOOLERS
If you’ve been upfront in a room of middle schoolers to teach God’s Word and survived to tell the story, you are AWESOME! Teaching middle schoolers can be challenging. Middle school ministry is a unique territory. A room full of middle schoolers can be a hard and intimidating environment. Why? Well, for starters, they are easily distracted with counting the tiles on the ceiling, or the number or tiles on the floor, or the different shades of carpet, or by holding in a fart for too long, or by wondering if the boy or girl across the row notices them. They also have a million things going on inside them and with their bodies that they are trying to process and figure out. So, how do we work through the awkwardness of teaching middle schoolers the Bible? Here are 6 tips to help you as you teach middle schoolers God’s Word.
Remember what you teach matters.
What you teach helps shape them. God’s Word is truth and life. It helps form them into a mature young man or woman. It helps develop a biblical worldview and prepares them for high school, college, and adult life. There is eternal impact in what you say as it relates to Christ. I fully believe that some students will remember what they were taught in middle school and carry that with them for all of their life. The stronger your relationships are with your students, the better they’ll listen. They want you to have fun with them, be real with them and if you do that, the influence you will have in their lives will be a big deal.
Keep it short and simple.
Keep it short, Like your students (Is it just me, or do you have students who look way too short to be in middle school?!). Okay, the point is simple, It’s important to remember your audience. They are 10-14 years old. You might have public, private, and homeschooled all in one place. That’s a huge mental, physical, and social difference! You can’t afford to make it complicated and confusing.
While there’s no law on a time limit, the sweet spot for me seems to be somewhere around 20 minutes with breaks throughout (story, illustration, question, video, etc.). I wouldn’t speak for an hour and expect them to be even slightly engaged or excited about coming back.
Have a main idea.
I’m a big believer in having a main idea. I’ve heard other organizations call it the “big idea” or the “key point.” It’s a short sentence that summarizes your entire talk. I think it helps tie your message together from beginning to end and helps students remember what they just heard. The way I use it is I introduce it at the beginning of my message, then I break it down and then bring it back up at the end. I’ll oftentimes get the students to verbally say it out loud once or twice to help it stick (example – If you’re speaking on prayer it can be as simple as, “Our big idea tonight is: talking to God helps us know God”).
If you have a light bulb that is out or flickering…change it! Don’t let your tech team shine a laser on you while you’re speaking (yup, this happened to me). Take a look at your space and evaluate what could be distracting. Oftentimes, you’re always on the stage, you’ll miss out on some of these distracting things. So, make sure you have a leader who can look out for these things. Don’t let a distraction in the room keep them from engaging in the service.
Avoid a lecture.
As you teach, find ways to incorporate different teaching methods to keep them engaged. Look for ways to use humor. Tell jokes, tell stories that make them laugh, or find funny elements to help communicate a point. Tell stories. Stories are a great way to communicate a biblical truth. Middle schoolers can lose attention fast, so sharing a story can help reel them back in. Be interactive. I often ask questions that I will want them to answer live and in the moment. This helps keep them engaged. Another way to do this is to pose a question and tell them to talk to the person next to them about it (For example, tonight we’re going to talk about prayer. Turn to the person next to you and tell them what you think prayer means.). Have pictures or videos throughout your message to cater to all your visual learners. Instead of telling them the story about when you were at a national championship game, tell the story with pictures of you at the game on the screen.
Give a specific challenge.
After the students have heard the message, what do you want them to do? Answering the question, “so, now what?” helps bring your message to a close. You want them to put into practice what they just heard. If your students leave and don’t know how to answer “What do we do with what we’ve heard?”, odds are, you may not have been clear in your message or response. I think students respond better when they have a clear, take-home challenge, that helps them apply what they just heard.
So, if you’ve ever walked off the stage and thought, “I hope that went well or I wonder how that went?”, you’re not alone. Did I say everything I wanted to? Did I hit this point clearly? Did my illustration make sense? These questions fill my head after speaking. Hopefully, using these 6 tips will help you as you minister to middle schoolers. At the end of the day, remember, they are still kids. They are forgiving, they are eager to learn, they value the relationship they have with you, and God has placed you where you’re at for a reason!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.