Hanging Out With Junior High School Kids

Last Fall, I started to volunteer with the group that serves the Junior High schoolers at my church. I have never worked with that age group before. It has really been fascinating. In 7th/8th grade they are in that in between age. It seems to me that up to 6th grade, kids are still pretty much kids physically and mentally and they know it and really don't care. Also, in looking at the high schoolers, they are now definitely moving into adulthood at least physically and to varying degrees mentally and emotionally. Junior high... kind of in limbo in the middle of those two worlds?

When kids are young, they may ask a lot of why questions and lots of questions in general and I get the feeling they pretty much take the answers you give them. But by junior high, they sometimes now have the attention span to say, okay, but do I buy that answer? And so you have to be ready to give a follow up answer and to hear out what they may be thinking. And probably more of the latter than the former.

A couple of Fridays ago, our church's junior high group had an overnighter or "lock-in" as they are called. Definitely saw that dynamic taking place as I listened in on some conversations.

In addition to mostly fun and games and snacks, we also went to see the movie Cheaper by the Dozen the latest vehicle to showcase the comedic talents of Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. Several months earlier in another lock-in, we had seen Radio. As you might guess, we try to choose films that are somewhat positive in tone!

Anyway, in Cheaper by the Dozen, I have to say it was a somewhat formula film but the talent of Martin and Hunt keeps you interested. The onscreen chemistry worked for me and I think for most of our kids. And as for the dozen kids of the onscreen family, you have admittedly some cliche characters: the rebellious oldest daughter, the oldest son struggling with where he wants to be, the fashion conscious sister, the nerdish younger brother, the sister who instigates some of the pranks, etc. etc. etc.

Most of us these days either grew up or are growing up in much smaller families so the size of the family and ensuing chaos was at times more comical than something we can relate to. But the point of the film still comes across: how important is family life to you?

If you are a parent reading this blog: ask yourself that question... now... and everyday.

In the film, the happy ending is there. And I know some people like movies that are gritty and real and I do to. But I don't begrudge a happy ending now and then.

Our students live within the context of their own families and they are forming ideas of what their families will look like through their experience at home, at the movies and when they are with other adults.

I hope as volunteer staff, in some small way, we are helping them form positive images in their minds and giving them life examples of what it means to live life for God, for goodness, for truth and in beauty.