I first started working with middle school students (6-8 graders) back in 1997…I know, a really long time ago. That was my first year in ministry. At that time there was beginning to be a trend for churches and organizations to focus more on this age group. In the end, it proved to be a very worth while decision as now many more middle school students know Jesus because churches and parachurch ministries decided to put the resources and staffing towards them.
Well now, I believe we need to start putting, if we haven’t already, 5th graders into this mix.
[Tweet “5th graders need to be hanging with the middle schoolers not the children’s program”]
Why, might you ask? For all the same reasons why churches and ministries in the late ’90s started focusing on middle schoolers.
For starters, 5th graders are bored with the younger elementary aged programming. I know, I know, in an ideal world, each church would be able to have enough leaders and helpers to specifically address each age group and make the teaching geared towards that specific age group.
It sounds good, but honestly, most churches are struggling to get volunteers to help, let alone have enough strong leaders to pull this off. Therefore, 5th graders are often lumped together in a large group setting where Kindergarten students are.
Secondly, 5th graders are making life-altering decisions at earlier ages. When I was helping Young Life pioneer WyldLIfe in the Northern VA area back in the late ’90s, the research was showing that 6th – 8th graders were now making decision that high schoolers were making back in the 70s and 80s. Meaning, they are making key, life-altering decisions at a younger age. And because of this, we had to reach them.
In the same way, these 5th graders are not far away from making some of these decisions as well. In this digital world, they are exposed to so much so quickly. That is why we have to make sure they are set up in environments where they can process all the choices and decisions they are facing.
Lastly, they are looking for positive role models. When students reach high school they are often “too cool for school” and have an attitude of, “why should I like you?” towards leaders. But 5th graders are still young at heart and just want to have fun. And, they respect adult role models…most of the time anyways. 🙂 They are looking for positive adult role models that will invest time into their lives with no strings attached.
For all these reasons, I believe that if your church hasn’t already, you need to be making a move to be including 5th graders into more of the middle school ministry and out of children’s ministry. If we wait any longer to start really focusing in on them, I fear we may have more students slip through the cracks and not make it to the student ministry program.
What do you think? What do you think we should be doing with 5th graders? Share your thoughts below or on social media using #ymsidekick with your comment.