So there was a lot of buzz surrounding Dave Ramsey’s new book a few months back. I loved his book “Total Money Makeover” so much that my wife and I began implementing his strategies into our financial reality… and I am VERY GLAD that we did, b/c his strategy helped us survive going through a job loss and a month of transition between jobs with no income and without accruing any substantial debt. So I must say thank you to Mr. Ramsey for coming up with such a practical method of managing your finances. All that to say, I HAD to run out and grab his new book, ENTRELEADERSHIP. If you are a leader, this is a MUST READ for you. Ramsey dives into the practical side of leadership and what it means to be a successful entrepreneur. As a youth pastor, this tugged at my heart strings b/c I feel as if I have to be both at times. He dives into what he has learned over the past 20 years of what TO DO, and what NOT TO DO. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he has said and experienced. Even a seasoned leader will find practical insights in this book.
MY GRADE FOR THIS BOOK: A
MY RECOMMENDATION: GO OUT AND GET IT!!!
So yesterday I started a 2 part series that started looking at the differences between middle school and high school ministry and how you might handle it. I’ll start off by acknowledging the fact that every group is different… but the stuff that I am talking about will generally help… no matter what your group dynamic is.
Yesterday I said that there are basically 2 major differences when it comes to these two ministries: CONTENT & CONTEXT. We dived into content yesterday, so let’s cover CONTEXT today.
CONTEXT… what do I mean by context? If CONTENT is what we teach… then CONTEXT is what the environment is like. Content focuses on learning… while context focuses on feeling. The way I see it, there are 3 major keys to context within these two ministries: MATURITY, ATTENTION SPAN, & CAPACITY
1.] MATURITY – What your program “feels” like and what your ministry “feels” like should be determined first by the maturity of the audience. For example: some of the games you play and jokes you tell and messages you teach that work great in middle school come off as lame and immature to High School students (especially Seniors). Why is that? Is it because they have lost their funny identity? Are they “too cool?” Do they need to regain their sense of humor? Probably, but that is what makes them high schoolers. I asked a group of high school students one time why they didn’t like playing a certain game anymore… and this is what they said, “We did that in middle school.” (And I loved that game!) does your context reflect the maturity of the group?
2.] ATTENTION SPAN – Remember the Disney/Pixar movie “UP?” Remember that one scene where the dog that has the talking collar around his neck is trying to recall a story and in the middle of the story yells out, “SQUIRREL!” My kids love that part. That is an average middle school student. You think you have them locked in. You think you’ve gained their complete attention, and then someone interrupts and yells out, “SQUIRREL!!!” or so it seems. Why does that happen? It’s because a middle school student’s brain is still developing, so their attention needs to jump from one thing to another fairly rapidly. Sure.. it’s probably from too much Nickelodeon when they were little, but it is the reality that we are dealing with in America. It has been documented that a child’s mind needs to change its attention every 15-17 minutes. As they get older… let’s say 10-11 grade, their brain develops more and they can withstand more information and have a longer attention span. So here is the big question… does your ministry context reflect this?
3.] CAPACITY – capacity is defined as “The maximum amount that something can contain.” Middle school and High School students have different capacities… meaning that there is a limit on what they can handle… and that limit is different for each group. Have you ever tried to do a serious, candle lit vespers service with middle school students and it went awesome? Me either. (if you have… you are a master, my friend!) Why not? Capacity. (in fact… I don’t think I even have the capacity for that 🙂 ) Why was that video awesome with middle school students, but high schoolers slept through it? Capacity. Why is there a minimum age requirement to serve at one of the teenage detention facilities here where I live? Capacity. Capacity should play a HUGE role in your context. Explore the question, “What is the capacity of my group?” and then plan accordingly.
There are probably more. What did I miss? leave a response to keep the conversation going!
Over my years in student ministry I have worked as a Middle School Director (overseeing 6-8 grade), a Student Ministries Pastor (6-12 grade) and now I oversee a Middle School Director and work specifically with High School students. I have been asked, on occasion, what the difference is between those two types of ministries. I heard someone say it this way one time… and I completely agree with them, that the difference is CONTENT and CONTEXT. Today I will talk about CONTENT.
I see 3 big differences in content between Middle School and High School: Delivery, Duration, & Depth.
1] Delivery – What I have seen over the years and experienced personally, is that my delivery of content is completely different to middle school students than it is to high school students. With middle schoolers, I tended to be more of a facilitator and less of a “speaker.” I would teach for like 15 minutes… and then have students talk in groups about what they heard or what they had experienced. Middle school students tend to have a little more “energy,” so they need to be engaged in the message more. With High School students… I tend to be more of a teacher or “up front speaker.”
2] Duration – A major difference between MS and HS is how long they can sit still. At the most, middle school students have anywhere from a 15-20 min. attention span, so I have 15-20 minutes to deliver the content. Usually… if it goes beyond that, I have lost them. HS students seem to be able to pay attention for longer durations… but not much longer: 25-30 minutes. I have found that if I go beyond the 30 min. mark… I have completely lost them. Rule of thumb: MS – keep it short and sweet and to the point. HS – make sure that you connect and don’t go too long.
3] Depth – There are just some things that you can’t talk about in the same way with a MS student that you can with a HS student. Sex, Dating, Partying, etc… It’s not that you can’t or shouldn’t talk about these things… but the depth that you go with them is determined by age. Most middle school students don’t have the experiences to draw from when it comes to some of this stuff… so they cannot immediately relate. HS students are immersed in this stuff all the time. So when you are putting together your messages, audience becomes a driving force on how deep you go with it. I usually look at it this way: MS = INFORMATION… so I can generally talk about it and what God says about it. HS = EXPERIENCE… so I can talk specifically about it and what God says specifically about it.
There are probably more that I have missed… but this is a good framework to start thinking about the differences between these two CRUCIAL ministries in the church when it comes to the CONTENT we teach.
Tomorrow I will look at the major difference of CONTEXT.