“I think you may have talked me into it.” (7th grade boy)
So much happened during my career as a junior high student. I am surprised that I made it through those years. I was super connected to a group of girls but discovered they were vicious and made fun of me behind my back. I tried smoking cigarettes with that same group in seventh grade. We all met after school one day and tried to smoke a cigarette one of my friends stole from her mom. We doused each other with perfume so no one would know we smoked. What a bunch of idiots. Like, no one would question why five junior high girls smelled of Vanilla Sky and White Shoulders?
I also went ‘boy crazy’ in junior high. Boys were the only thing we junior high girls ever talked about. My mom would tell me I had five minute limits on any phone calls. Back then, we had one telephone and it was attached to the wall in the kitchen. It was Harvest Gold in color and had a super long cord so I could hide in the laundry room and talk to whomever I wanted to talk…but for only five minutes. Boys were the topic. And body changes. We were all terrified. But, somehow the changes of life happened to all of us and we learned to deal with it.
I played a lot of sports during junior high but was never a first string or ‘A Team’ player. I had fun and was good at softball, basketball and volleyball. I participated in track with the shot-put and discus throws. I was an anchor on my swim team and competed in Summer swim team. Yes, I grew up in Northern Wisconsin. We only had swim team in the summer. We ice skated on that same water and played snow sports for the other nine months of year.
My maternal grandmother died when I was twelve. My whole world crashed. She was a world traveller and died of encephalitis which I had never even heard of before. I remember how sick she was at our cottage that Summer and a few days later she was gone. My mom never really recovered. I remember her being super focused on telling my brother and I that she loved us…constantly. She said it was because her mom never said that to her and mom felt like we needed to hear it and know it.
I say all of this to share with you that junior high students are my favorite group of people to work with in the whole church. I love working side by side with everyone. (Well, almost everyone). But, I have a soft spot for 6th-8th graders. Confirmation classes that I have had the pleasure of leading in the past parishes were always packed. I can tell you that I even packed them into class in the small church and the medium sized churches I served. How did I do that? I talked about dating and sex. I talked about parents and friends. We played bible games, we went on retreats, we memorized scripture and celebrated confirmation.
One super group I led a gazillion years ago had the very best of Jen Wilson. I made plans to take them to a behind the scenes experience at a funeral home. I thought that experience in a funeral home would help them process death when it was time for them to experience the funeral home when a loved one died. I didn’t tell them where we were going but I did clear it with all the parents. 14 junior high students climbed into vans, played their music loud and tried to guess where we were headed for this mystery tour. I wish you could’ve witnessed their expressions when we pulled into the parking lot at the funeral home. That whole experience was mind blowing and it was very good for all of us. I’ve officiated at most of their weddings from that class, as well as, many of the weddings from other confirmands.
I believe the LORD spoke clearly and precisely in Deuteronomy about teaching and modeling the God-honoring life to the next generation. He gave us a command to be diligent about keeping the Word close to them and to keep them engaged. Do everything you can to teach them—attach God’s Word and symbols to your body. I still personally wear gold cross necklace to this day—to help me remember. Sunday we celebrate Confirmation. We will have the opportunity to meet the students, parents and adult leaders who’ve dedicated their ministry to teaching and modeling exactly what the LORD prescribed to us long ago. Don’t miss this. You will be blessed. I know I have been. I was talking with a seventh grade boy recently about becoming part of our Youth Ministry. I told him about the benefits and shared what I thought about the students. He looked as uninterested as anyone could look. But, then he smiled and said, “I think you may have talked me into it. When do they meet?"
These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. (Deuteronomy 6:1-2)