Transitioning to middle school can be tough for a student. New school, new friends, new classes, but thankfully our protégés have their mentor to walk through that with them. Transitioning to middle school can be tough for a mentor as they try to navigate a relationship with a pre-teen. Below is some of our hopes and some guidance for mentors as their protégés enter sixth grade.
The challenge found in 1 Timothy 4:12, given by Paul to his protégé, is one we hold strongly to for our middle school students. By teaching them to let no one look down on them simply because they are young, our desire is for them to set an example to their peers, siblings, and anyone else who is watching their life. By focusing on the areas of speech, conduct, faith, love, and sexual purity, we hope to encourage growth in our students during a season of life where they may be tempted to flounder or backslide.
For many mentors middle school is a difficult period to navigate with their protégé. For some it might be the struggle of a different culture, background, or family structure. It is typically easier for one to see another person’s sin, while downplaying their own issues as not as severe. However, as James 2:10 speaks of, all sin is sin in God’s eyes! Whether a person is living under the weight of poor financial decisions or credit card debt, it is the same root problem inside the heart. If that person has had a child out-of-wedlock or chosen to get a divorce, it is the same internal situation with their decision. The sins and struggles of each culture may play out different externally, but it is our belief that the human race is all united in a common brokenness and need for a Savior. Our hope is for our mentors to be able to use the Gospel to bridge the gap found between different cultures or simply ways of living.
Another obstacle that often arises during this time period is that of great change externally and internally in each child. The physical growth and variances are more obvious, but not great than the emotional changes. It is key to remember that this is a time God designed for each person to start navigating their own journey into adulthood and autonomy. It’s a time of wrestling with identity and the purpose of authority. While God’s design for authority was originally good, the sinfulness of this broken world has corrupted and distorted that structure of protection and safety. Middle school can be the place where many begin to have eyes for this injustice and have a desire to fight against it. A helpful passage to consider with a middle schooler is found in 1 Peter 2:19-25. Learning to follow in Christ’s footsteps is a powerful tool as they try to figure out where they belong and what is required of them.
Once a child leaves elementary school their environment changes drastically. There is more peer pressure, more freedom, and more choices with more severe consequences to be encountered. The once seemingly innocent decisions now bear much weight. Fighting can result in being sent to juvenile detention. Skipping class can result in big fines. Not being organized can result in failing classes. The problems they had as a small child begin to grow and bear more weight on their future. We encourage our mentors to embrace the posture of humility when walking with their protégé through these years. There isn’t a ‘one and done’ type of formula that will automatically cure their child from wrestling with the sin bents inside their hearts. Just as Psalm 127:1 speaks of, unless the Lord is the one moving and working in their lives, the mentor will labor in vain. God delights in using people as His instrument for helping, giving hope, and providing healing, but it must be done in a spirit of love (speaking the truth in love or simply listening). Just as He responds to His children in patience and gentleness, our desire is for each of our mentors to patiently walk with their protégé through the middle school years.
Our hope in our mentors transitioning into walking with a child in middle school is one of great joy mixed with a bit of counsel to be on guard. There will be a lot of change happening, but the foundation that was built in elementary school is typically deep and strong enough to withstand the transformations that will take place. There is much to be excited about as a child starts the process of journeying into adulthood. However, the mentor must be ready to re-learn their protégé. To open up their hands to let go of all they thought they knew about that child and be willing to change hang outs or try new things. While a mentor won’t be given a new protégé, during this time it will often feel as though they have been. We encourage them to hold fast to the Lord, keep being faithful (even when there is no response), and love that child with all the love God has put inside their heart to give!
-Christina Hickman and Nathan Elizondo, Relationship Coordinators