Our lives are like novels. We are living stories - characters developing and changing, new characters coming into the story, obstacles that need to overcome, tension that rises, etc. How does God fit into our story as the plot twists and turns? That’s what we’ll be looking at over the next two weeks, because of the big change that is approaching, as the 8th graders prepare to move up to high school, 7th graders are now our new top dogs, and 6th graders are freed from being the “youngsters” in the group…
As our story changes and grows, we are given more and more responsibility. The older we get, the more change we experience, the more weighty our responsibilities are that come with change. And certainly, as we look forward to the change that is approaching for our middle schoolers, this new chapter for our students will come with new responsibilities. What is the spiritual responsibility for our students as this new chapter unfolds? (Also: this spiritual encouragement will pertain to all, even if you’re reading this and not a middle schooler… keep reading!)
Since the change the soon-to-be freshmen is vastly different from the change our 6th/7th graders will experience, we have two separate points today. Spiritual encouragement, starting with the 8th graders (but again, pertains to all, just really hits these kids smack in the face right now). As the church was in it’s early stages, and people figuring out what it means to be a Christian, Paul was a major advancer of the Gospel. Timothy was one of his right hand guys, actually close enough to be considered Paul’s son. Tim was in charge of the church in Ephesus, and needed to guidance and direction. As a young pastor in charge of a church, teaching a congregation of people who were much older than him - he experienced some intimidation… Here’s how Paul encouraged him in 1 Timothy 4:12
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
Timothy was experiencing intimidation because he was a young buck in charge of a good sized church with people much older than him. There were likely feelings of inadequacy because of how young he was, but Paul encouraged him to live in a way that is an example to all believers - in conduct, in words, in the way you love - let that be an encouragement to all. What an important message for all of us, but particularly to the 8th graders! 8th graders, what is your spiritual responsibility for this new chapter of moving into high school? Make an impact from the bottom.
No longer the top dogs, but at the “bottom of the barrel,” you can and should make a massive spiritual impact in the high school ministry and in your high schools! Do not let your age or freshmen status keep you from being a spiritual leader. For a junior or senior to see a newbie freshman just worshipping their heart out - that makes an impact. For a freshman to help keep the older friends accountable in God’s Word - that shows spiritual maturity, how Jesus has changed you, and will make an impact. For a freshman to hop up in the ministry, own it, go to every event, have a blast, help out, and go 100% in ministry - that will make an impact. Don’t let age intimidation stop you.
To the 6th/7th graders… In Matthew 25, nearing the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus is teaching His disciples about important eternal future stuff. For our spiritual encouragement, we’re looking at a point in this teaching when Jesus talks about how at final judgement, the righteous and the wicked will be separated - He’s got words to say to both groups... Here’s what He will say to the righteous, found in Matthew 25:35-40
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Jesus stresses the importance of loving and caring for the “least of these” - the sick, the poor, the easily ignored. It's so important to Jesus that we take care of these people it's as if you are taking care of Jesus Himself... As we have a new group of fresh youngsters coming into our ministry, I think it would be easy for our older students to ignore them - maybe even look down on them for being super young and just “kids.” It would be easy for you to just hang out with your normal friend group, as the new 5th graders come in not knowing what is going on and looking for some direction and friendship… Could they be your version of the “least of these” (I mean, not necessarily that they're poor, sick, needy -- but are they easily ignored for you older students)? 6th and 7th graders, what is your spiritual responsibility for this new chapter of receiving a new group of students into the ministry? Welcome the new faces like you’d welcome Jesus!
If we knew that Jesus, in the flesh, would be walking into N&F in two weeks, we’d freak out - the place would be the cleanest it’s ever been, we’d have the finest donuts, and when He arrived - we’d follow Him, ask Him questions, just spend as much time with Him as possible. I am sure that is how He would love for us to welcome in the new 6th graders! Introduce yourself, show them some love, welcome them into our family, show them where our donuts are — this will make a huge impact on the new students who may be slightly intimidated to join a new youth group… It will be easy for you to just sit and hang with your friends and let these new students figure things out on their own, but step up and welcome them! Be there for them.
This new chapter is bringing new responsibility for our students. 8th graders, make a spiritual impact from the bottom. 6th/7th graders, welcome the new faces like you’d welcome Jesus. Take this as a challenge! Go!