Regardless of the day or date, here are ten resolutions all WyldLife leaders can embrace:
- Get to know real middle-schoolers. It’s fine to read up on generalized demographic statistics and to study big-picture realities of middle school culture. But to be the best WyldLife leader possible, you must spend more time being with real middle schoolers than you do studying middle schooler-related information.
- Take your ministry seriously. Don’t view it as preliminary, practice, prep, stepping stone, or bottom rung. Your contact work, club prep, committee communication, campaigner study, camp plans, and personal ministry training are important, significant, meaningful, and worth the very best you have to offer. Do your job (whether paid staff or unpaid ministry leader) with integrity, honor, and a sense of sacred calling. If you ever once do something only half as good as you could and justify it by thinking, “It’s okay…it’s just WyldLife,” stop it.
- Take your middle schoolers seriously. There’s nothing a middle schooler wants more than to be viewed as not-just-a-kid. They have ideas worth considering, thoughts worth hearing, emotions worth validating, sorrows worth soothing. Most importantly, middle schoolers can know, love, and follow Jesus Christ. Minister to them as such.
- Take your own faith development seriously. Working with middle schoolers doesn’t mean you can slip by with a lackluster foundation of Biblical knowledge, theological understanding, and doctrinal grounding. Read. Study. Memorize. Learn. Grow. Mature. Deepen. Over and over and over again. Day after day after day. On and on and ever on.
- Be joyful. WyldLife is FUN. Middle schoolers are AWESOME. Middle school ministry is A BLAST.
- Be thankful. Ministering to middle schoolers is a gift, honor, and privilege. You are walking alongside human beings who are in the midst of figuring out who they are, what life is all about, who they want to become, and what they want to be about. Goodness gracious – could anything be more significant and meaningful than this? As they start the important process of identity development, we can speak truth to them about who they really are. As they start to navigate the minefield of friendships and relationships, we can tell them about the most important relationship they could ever have. As they start to ask serious questions about existence, life, and God, we can listen intently, acknowledge the value of their wondering and doubts, and offer responses that are filled with Truth, Life, and Hope. As they start to experience newfound freedoms and independence, we can model for them what it means to live a truly free life that is entirely dependent on God’s grace and forgiveness. How could we be anything but thankful?
- Be humble. No matter how funny, talented, gifted, or flashy you may be, everything you are and have comes from the Lord. You are His. Your ministry is His. Your middle schoolers are His. The moment you get sold on yourself, your ministry is in trouble. On the flip slide, no matter how unfunny, untalented, ungifted, or unflashy you might feel at any given moment, because of God’s grace and power, you have and are everything you need to be to do this work.
- Be faithful. If you say you’ll be there, be there. If you say you’ll do it, do it. This applies to everything – your ministry, your relationships with adults, your relationships with middle schoolers, your relationships with friends, your relationships with family, and your relationship with God. (See 2, 3, and 4.)
- Don’t waste time feeling under appreciated or undervalued. While some people might view anything related to middle school with disdain, we know better. (See 2, 3, and 4.) If you ever do find yourself face to face with a disdainful or patronizing attitude, don’t get defensive. Don’t grow a chip on your shoulder. Don’t throw up a jaded and sarcastic front. Instead, radiate joy and passion while doing what you love, working hard, and ministering with excellence. (See 5, 6, 7, and 8.)
- Pray. Before. After. During. Always. This is the Lord’s work. He graciously allows us to join the dance. But never forget Who this about, Whose ministry this is, and Who is in control: Him, His, and He, never us, ours, and we.
Now get out there and do your thing. The middle schoolers are waiting for you.