My job is to direct a Middle School Ministry at a non-denominational Evangelical church. I love it, but it comes with a unique set of challenges. I’m in charge of caring for, teaching, and leading students and leaders in an increasingly challenging era for 10-14 year olds. They are bombarded by more messages and struggles than most of us know. Over half of their parents are divorced, often because of infidelity – often bringing them into the tension, between 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 girls have been sexually abused in some way, and countless numbers of middle school students struggle with thoughts of suicide and feelings of worthlessness and depression. They are in many ways a forgotten age and looked over age group.
We recently had a team meeting with our volunteers in which we sought to burden ourselves with the issues facing middle school students today. We looked into six windows of what student’s in our group are experiencing. These brief stories are all based on real life students – identities changed of course. I think all of us should routinely remember what other people in our community and world are experiencing on a daily basis for two reasons. First, we should always be grateful for what we’ve been given and remember that in light of what others may be going through we’ll be ok. Second, we mustn’t forget about plight of middle school students as they represent the future, our future.
My name is Kayla. My parents are divorced but that’s ok because I get to see them both a lot. My mom has a new boyfriend and my dad is remarried. My dad works a lot and I think he makes a lot of money. One of my favorite things to do with my friends is go to the mall, and my dad is always cool giving me money to spend on new clothes and stuff. I think I’ve got pretty good friends because we love to hang out, make each other laugh, and talk about boys. At school I guess you could say I’m popular. I’ve always had boyfriends but recently some of my friends have been having sex. Hearing about this has kind of scared me, is that ok? Am I old enough to be doing sexual things with boys?
My name is Cara. I’m 12 years old and go to Harvest Park Middle School in Pleasanton. I love soccer and I love having sleepovers with my friends. For the most part my life is pretty good, except one thing. When I was 5 years old my uncle molested me. I’ve never told anyone. I live with deep shame and often times a sense of guilt. My parents don’t know and my friends don’t know either. At school I often feel terrible and that if anyone found out about who I really am, I’d be made fun of and thought of as disgusting. For some reason I wish I could tell some one, but I can’t.
My name is Chad. I’ve always hated the way I looked. Whenever I walk around school and see my friends I get really insecure. Why did they hit puberty while I still feel like a little kid? Why won’t girls think I’m cool or want to date me? The worst part of my day is P.E. when I have to change in front of my peers. Almost every day other kids make fun of me. Why do I feel so different or out of place? Why did God make me this way? Why do other people get to people popular and well liked? Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to be me.
My name is Brian. I’m a 7th grader at Wells Middle School. Both my parents go to church every week and I’ve always gone with them. I never really believed in God that much, but I’ve always thought He seemed really interesting. Sometimes I wish I could ask more questions about who God is but I always felt bad because my parents think I’m a really good Christian. Recently I decided to take the advice of the people at church and raise money for a charity. With a few friends from youth group we raised over $2,000 dollars. I’m pretty excited about this but it doesn’t answer any of my questions about God. I wish some one would take the time to talk to me more about God.
My name is Mila. I’m 13 years old and an 8th grader at PMS. I’ve got a little sister and we fight a lot. Sometimes she makes me feel bad because she’s really pretty and boys always give her lots of attention. Even though that’s sometimes hard to deal with, the hardest thing I’m going through is my Mom’s addiction. She fights with my dad all the time and even though I act cool sometimes I’m really sad inside. I get really sad whenever they fight. I also get scared that my mom will hurt herself or do something stupid. When she’s using, she acts like a totally different person. I just wish she knew how much it hurt me when she’s on drugs.
My name is Brad. My friend brought me to STUFF. At first I just liked going because my friends were there and the games were fun. At the end of the night they would often talk about God. I always thought believing in God was something of a joke, but after hearing some of the leaders say they believed in God, I started thinking about it more. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Does God exist? Where am I going when I die? Do those leaders at STUFF really have a relationship with God?