Middle School Sunday School

I teach Middle School Sunday School at my church. They’re an interesting bunch of sixth and seventh graders. (Eighth graders go to a separate Sunday School class as part of the confirmation process in the Presbyterian church).  

The thing about teaching Sunday School for Middle Schoolers is that it’s hard.  

I’m sure your mind immediately goes to behavior issues, and I’m not going to deny that isn’t a thing. Middle School is a weird time in life. You’re no longer a little kid but not as independent as a high schooler. They have just enough knowledge to be aware of what is happening in the world, but not enough context to fully understand it or prioritize it properly. There are weird social pressures at school, which in my experience have less to do with seeming cool to the opposite sex and more about seeming cool to their friends. They experience conflicting pressure from their parents: pressure to stay a baby to be cuddled forever and pressure to just grow up and act like a mature person already. To top it all off, they’re starting to question authority for the first time—realize parents and teachers don’t know everything. And a natural aspect of that questioning authority is that for the very first time they start questioning their faith. 

I don’t have studies or papers to back up what I’m about to say, but I honestly believe that middle school is where we lose the majority of Christian children. There always seems to be a lot of push and focus on high schoolers—to retain them and to impress upon them the importance of church so they don’t fall away in college. But my experience and the experience of my peers has indicated that it’s middle school where teens get set on the path that either pushes them away or keeps them near. 

Imagine you have all these questions, you just want to ask them and get an honest answer, and guess what? No one wants to teach you because everyone knows Middle Schoolers are awful. 

(Honestly we can’t get anyone to volunteer to cover when I can’t be there one Sunday, it’s heartbreaking. No one wants to sit with these kids who are just figuring themselves out. Because it’s the adults who believe middle schoolers are awful.) 

So how do we minister to them? How do we minister to these kids in a classroom where at least 25% of conversation is disrupted by their behavior? Where most of them won’t talk seriously about the subject for fear of being judged by their peers? Where most Bible studies are either over their head or beneath them?  

Because this is it, guys. Middle school. It’s the last chance we have to reach them while their parents still have the authority to make them go to church whether they want to or not. And we do desperately want them to want to come. 

Well, sadly, I don’t have the answers here, I can only provide what I have done with them, and different lessons I have learned. 

So my goal here is to post three types of posts: 

  1. Lesson Plans: That is the actual lessons I have made and taught to my group of middle schoolers.  
  2. Monthly Memory Verses: These will probably just be short post with the memory verse and why I chose that verse, with a date attached to it. More for my own record keeping than anything.  
  3. Thoughts: That is, thoughts I’ve had as related to teaching Middle Schoolers (or at least this set) and how it might influence future lessons. 

It should be kept in mind when looking over the lessons, I currently attend a Presbyterian Church but I am Southern Baptist by upbringing. My husband who helps me out is Lutheran by faith. I generally know what the “party line” at my current church is and try to present with that in mind, even when I disagree with it. (I am not now, nor will I ever be, a Calvinist.) However, our different upbringings and beliefs are definitely going to affect how we present the material. 

I’m going to write up a separate post on how I deal with theologically controversial topics in a Middle School classroom, since obviously as someone with Baptist beliefs in a Presbyterian Church even what I believe sometimes is “controversial” (at least using the Presbyterian party line as a base line). (Also this is a perfect example of the “Thoughts: type post described above!) 

So if you’re a Middle School, upper elementary, or lower high school Sunday School teacher, I hope this can be helpful to you! And if not, at least it’s a way for me to organize my own lessons so when I cycle back through them when I have a new set of Middle Schoolers in two years, I have easy access to them!