Chewing, Chewing, Chewing...

I'm really chewing on something.
My good friend, Katie Edwards, taught a fantastic workshop on the topic of building a middle school ministry volunteer team. This is what she does for a living...it's her sweet spot...she oozes this stuff. So, the workshop was really, really good and all who attended really liked it. As we talked about it afterwards, I mentioned that I thought it would be cool to add a section that lists some unique differences in what makes a good middle school volunteer vs. a good high school volunteer. She loved the idea and then asked 'so, what are those unique differences?' I couldn't come up with more than a couple!

Now, I've noticed that the posts that receive the most feedback on this blog are usually those that are light and fluffy, which is great. But I need your thoughts on this one. I'm surprised that I couldn't list a whole bunch of 'unique differences' easily. It seems like every quality I come up with for an effective middle school volunteer is also a needed quality in a high school volunteer. Could it really all come down to a sense of 'fit' or 'calling'? To me, this suddenly has much larger implications than just the workshop....what are your thoughts?


Tony Steward said...

I don't know that there would be a big difference between an effective middle school volunteer vs. a high school volunteer. I think it mainly comes down to their personality and experiences. Alot of people I have met that volunteer pick one of the other because of a personal experience they had at that age, or because their unique personality prefers one over the other.

But when it comes to spiritual giftedness, heart, and abilities; I think you need the same kind of person whether High School or Middle School.

My two cents..

FRQSTR=19304789|19304789|19304789|19304789|19304789; WIDYMD=#15594:FIN#; KIDYMD=#150692:FINA# said...

I'm not sure there are unique differences as much as you need more of certain traits. For example, patience. Sometimes you need to ride with where a middle school student is at a particular moment in their day. You could try to have a deep, heart felt discussion with them, but if they're not into it, you need to adjust and just encourage and love them. It's probably the same with high school, just a little more obvious with middle school. It seems to me that their swings are a little wider. You need to embrace the goofy moments and not get frustrated by them.

Judy Gregory said...

I'm not sure there are unique differences as much as you need more of certain traits. For example, patience. Sometimes you need to ride with where a middle school student is at a particular moment in their day. You could try to have a deep, heart felt discussion with them, but if they're not into it, you need to adjust and just encourage and love them. It's probably the same with high school, just a little more obvious with middle school. It seems to me that their swings are a little wider. You need to embrace the goofy moments and not get frustrated by them.

Mike Lovato said...

This is really just an echo here. I agree with what's been said. A middle school volunteer needs to understand that unique ebb and flow that happens in middle school ministry. When a conversation unexpectedly goes deep, but then just as quickly turns back to seemingly pointless stuff, an effective middle school volunteer needs to not be frustrated.

joshuamichael said...

I've got 2 that pop in my mind. I agree with the whole patience thing. I think middle school students can go deep, however you need to be adaptable enough to swing into less serious talk at any particular point.

Another one is a fine example of what we had this last week. I did a talk on Friendships this last week, so we had the theme of "Superfriends". I used some cheesy clips fromt eh old "Superfriends" show. As a part of the night I had my leaders all dress up like superheros. The leaders had very few inhabitions, and really got into it. (I actually had them battle!) The middle school students really thought it was funny. I'm afaird our high school students would have thought it was dorky. And I really doubt if our high school leaders would have dressed up as much.

danny bowers said...

in terms of a training/workshop mindset i think it is always good to list the physi, emotional, phsyco-social behavior differences between high school & jr high students.

Aside for the nuiance differences of jr high & high School ministry here would be some...

Middle School


High School


and right about here my feeling is that most qualities are the same for both--sense of "FIT" for ministry or "SHAPE" would dictate where they would serve

markeades said...

I have to agree with each of you. I also think that in middle school a leader needs to be willing to not be "liked" sometimes by middle schoolers. I'm think that disipline is a larger issue in middle than in high school. Not that there isn't a need in both but there is a difference and a leader needs to be willing to do it. If a middle school leader can displine in a way that is always a win-win situation you have a great middle school leader.

joshua michael said...

I would have to agree with you mark. Thanks!

Dave said...

Great question! It has made me reflect on how we have placed our volunteers as we have moved some from middle school to high school and vice versa. We currently have about 20 volunteers - ranging from 19 to 70 years old, some college students, some parents, some single, some married...a very ecclectic mix!

Here are some qualities I look at:

* Does the leader seem more "concrete" in their thinking - sees things more black/white rather than grey? If so, I tend to think of them working best with middle schoolers.
* Can they embrace burping and farting behavior while making a point - ummm....wait that is needed for BOTH! But a slight edge to the middle schooler volunteer.
* Have they raised a teenager up through H.S.? If they have, and if they can separate out "Is that behavior bothering me as a parent or is it interfering with the group" I tend to place them with the H.S. students.
* What have their life experiences been? How has their faith persevered through hard situations? While I want the person who has grown through these situations in both settings, I tend to load up more with the H.S. team because of the kinds of questions and situations they find themselves in (although this is occurring at younger and younger ages it seems).

Okay, long post. Sorry. That is what spilled out...

Alan Mercer said...

1) MS - drives a van; HS - drive a small car (HS kids can drive, no need for the van)
2) MS - ADHD HS - learned to control their disposition
3) MS - enjoys talking about boogers HS - needs "deep" conversation (let's face it, booges can be deep - punn intended)
4) MS - patient HS - asleep
5) MS - cool HS - uncool

seriously: I know you could say each of these so much more elloquintly

1) Both need to be patient, but for different reasons - this is significant
2) MS - willing to accept role as a "builder and planter" HS - more apt to see "fruit"
3) MS - focuses more time on helping students understand they are "normal" and walking through the changes of MS. HS - more opportunity to journey through the rough waters of spiritual questioning and faith crisis
4) HS leaders need to be smarter (I'm not sure if this is a dig or not - am I a tool for saying this?) - MS students just don't have the really hard questions near as often as HS students do. MS leaders can "get away" with not being able to deal with these questions more than a HS leader can.
5) HS leaders have to have thicker skin - true; MS students are brutally honest and will tell you when you stink. But, HS students are more deliberately mean and their issues are a lot harder to deal with. It's way to easy to take their struggles personally. When you've invested so much of your life in someone and they wallk away, it hurts.

Just a few thoughts - right, wrong, or otherwise :)

Deneice said...

I don't have a lot to add...it has all really been said.

I have done both. In fact, when I started out as a volunteer I swore off JH after a bad experience I had working with Jr. Highers when I was a 17 year old college sophomore. At least I thought it was a bad experience because I told God he could do whatever he wanted with me BUT Youth Ministry. Three years later... Also, those kids remember that summer as a great one so I guess I did something right!

Anyway, I guess it has been about 6 or 7 years that I have really embraced Jr. High/Middle School kids and love being with them. I think patience (at least with the guys) is very important and we have 6th graders in our Jr. High ministry so there is a lot of explaining stuff to them quietly (we are combined with High School) and after the meetings. But, I love my 6th grade girls and wouldn't trade them for anything!

Rob C said...

Late to the party, not much more to add. I've only been in my full-time role for 3+ years now, and we still have much of our MS and HS activities integrated. I find that the volunteers who are drawn to the MS kids more, they tend to enjoy the craziness, the immaturity, the funny stuff that goes with the MS years. The vols drawn to HS students are willing to endure some of the stuff already mentioned in these posts (more intentionally mean, deeper theo questions, etc.).

At the end of the day, what I find is that overall, the giftings and temperments are all rather similar. I think it's more about their passion AND which years were more critical when they were growing up. Adults who made key decisions (good or bad) in MS recognize the significance of those years. Adults whose biggest decisions came in HS seem to be more passionate about ministering to students in that age group.

Paul said...

I think there are some definite differences in things that help ms over hs. To know what they are you have to know what the differences are between the two groups.

These are generalizations, but:

MS - are still trying to figure out if what they have been told is actually true. They are in a world that is starting to challenge those things.

HS - naturally assume that most of wht they were told isn't exactly true. They are beginning to develop their own ideas about what life is about.

They are described by Fowler as:

Mythic Literal Stage
Ideas about God start to be applied to the world perspective. This is a stage where desire for acceptance is paramount.

Synthetic Conventional Stage
Faith is shaped and confirmed by interpersonal relationships. Questions of actual value as opposed to assigned value begin to be processed through relationships

Individual Reflective Stage
First-hand faith is owned by the individual and reflective in that they have thought through some of what they believe. People are willing to risk for their personal convictions and see if their understanding is confirmed.

If you agree with any of this, then a MS leader needs to help the younger kids do several things:

1. reinforce who they should talk to and listen to
2. ask them how they see what they are taught confirmed or challenged
3. help them to know beyond what they see

HS leaders should focus more on:

1. practicing their beliefs and seeing if they actually work
2. taking some faith risks
3. training themselves to listen to their heart (new heart not old one)

I think this is the long tail of youth ministry and addresses several recent issues about teens continuing in their faith after HS.

Just my 2cents.

Beth said...

It takes a special type of person to love middle schoolers. When you find one that does, place them with middle school. I love middle schoolers. They're not yet too cool for stuff. They'll try anything. At camp this summer due to circumstances our middle school boys decided pink was cool and they all wanted things that were pink! You can have real depth, but at the same time in the same moment sometimes have fun! You have to be able to deal with noise and the constant need for movement among middle school boys.

With middle school girls you don't have the same level of drama that you do in high school. I love that. They're able to be really goofy and silly one moment and really deep the next. They're not afraid a boy will see them looking silly or without makeup or whatever.

As long as you have leaders who are equally adaptable, silly, yet able to maintain order you're golden!

Ange said...

I think the major difference with a middle school volunteer is the ability for that volunteer to understand the HUGE transition from elementary to JH. I think the transition from JH to HS is huge also, but from 6th to 7th the change is pretty drastic. Most people I meet hated middle school and loved high school. Why is that? Kurt, as you know the transition starting in 6th grade is the whole puberty thing - so that in itself opens a huge can of issues to start dealing with as a student. A person who can understand and still LOVE that stage of change (still kind of a kid, wanting to be grown up, but super awkward) is perfect for middle school.

If someone wants to serve in HSM they need to understand change, but in my opinion they need to value students as their friends first, then their mentors. I think HS students are developing so many opinions, judgements, discovering so much...they need someone who can guide them on their level, not our own.

I could totally be off base here.......

Phil said...

Middle School = Fun
High School = Not Fun