Category Archives: Middle School

Summer Series – “Basic Training”

This past summer, we did a series called Basic Training. It was a military-themed series that spanned from June to September. The whole theme was pointing to the fact that in the military, ‘basic training’ is designed to teach the recruits the ‘basics’ of being a soldier so that when they are finished, they will be ready to be the best soldier they can be.

We believed that we could use the summer to put our students through our own version of ‘basic training.’ We combined the Simply Youth H.A.B.I.T.S. series, their Welcome to the Planet (5 Purposes), threw in a Beyond Camp review, a Dayton Mission Trip review and you’ve got our summer. Here are some of the elements that we used for our series.

FIELD GUIDE: We also gave them a 5-day devotional (written by myself and our summer intern) that was given to them every Sunday that dealt with the topic we covered that day. We called it the “Field Guide” and was a highlight for us in Middle School because it connected what we talked about on Sunday to Scripture through questions about Scripture written specifically for Middle School Students.

DECORATIONS: Since we knew we’d be in this series for the whole summer, we decided to spend some cashola on some ‘set design.’ We hit up an Army-Navy store and got: a 20ft x 10ft camouflage tarp that we cut out giant letters (BASIC TRAINING), taped them on the tarp, and hung it as a backdrop; 3 recruiting posters, an American flag, some camo netting, a military-style cot on the stage (with a camo sleeping bag), and a Marine uniform from one of our adult leaders. It helped set the scene and was a nice change from the ‘normal’ set up.

ARTWORK: We had 3 primary slides that we used throughout the Summer: The main slide, the ‘notes’ slide (for the message), and the slide that we used as a background for our worship songs. Each had a camo background, but the 2 secondary slides had a slightly different twist. Below is the main slide, and all of our artwork was done by our resident artwork guru, Janet Beaver.

BUMPER VIDEO: For this series, we decided to make a video that we would play before message. We tried to incorporate the military scenes with what we were doing and below is what we came up with. It was put together with clips from a documentary by Canaan Brumley called, “Ears, Open. Eyeballs, Click.”

It was a long summer, but a good one. We as a Middle School team feel like we’re ready for the fall, and after this series, we feel like the students are too.


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A Typical Night IN Small Groups

Written to our Small Group leaders…

The previous post talked about the overall flow of a night at Small Groups. This will talk about the flow within that 50 minute block while you are actually IN the Small Group. This is not set in stone, but more of a guide for how to use that time with your students and minute designations are just estimations.

5-10 min – Week Recap – Don’t expect to just ‘jump right in’ with whatever lesson is on for that night. Some students haven’t seen each other since last Small Groups and maybe you haven’t seen any of them since last time either. Take a few minutes at the beginning to catch up with the highlights (or lowlights) from the past week. This will give them a designated time for sharing and this will help them focus for the rest of the time.

15-20 min – Devo Recap – With our new format for student devotions, we are placing a high priority on students being actively engaged in Scripture outside of church. By devoting a good chunk of time to recapping what they’ve read, they will see its importance and want to participate in the discussion. So instead of just asking “How many days did you do your devos?”, you can actually say, “Ok, Jimmy, on Wednesday when we were reading in _________, what did you put down for #3?”

20 -25 min – Lesson – This is where you (as a group) discuss that night’s lesson. I’m sure as you are looking through your leader guide, you will see there’s probably enough material for a 3 hour discussion. So pick a couple of your favorite questions/illustrations/etc (or come up with your own!) and use those to get a ‘solid’ 20 minute(ish) discussion out of them. Remember, this is not meant to be a 20 minute lecture where you (the leader) talk and they (the students) listen. Emphasize discussion and inclusion of everyone in it.

10-15 min – Prayer Requests/Prayer – This is an easy one to rush through or skip all together. Since it’s usually at the end, it becomes expendable, but fight the urge to just say, “Well, who wants to close in prayer?” Have students share requests and have them write down those requests so that they can (ideally) pray for them during the week. This is also for you so you can follow-up with requests during the week (through Facebook/email/text message) or just at a later meeting (“Hey Jenny, how’s __________ going?”). It shows that you care and helps build into the students a value of prayer in their own lives. Be sure to give students opportunities to pray OUTLOUD for each other too. It might seem weird and scary for some, but after awhile they might feel comfortable enough to join in. Again, we (you) are building the value of prayer and praying for each other into their lives.

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A ‘Typical’ Night @ Small Groups

After taking the Summer ‘off’ from Small Groups, Sunday night kicked them back ‘on’ for the school year. In case you are/were wondering what our Small Groups look like on a ‘typical’ night, check it out below.

**I will be using our Sunday nights as the model, so for Wednesdays, just start everything an hour later.

5:30-5:50 Leader Pre-Meeting

5:45-6:05 – Students arrive and hang out in Student Ministry Center Lobby

5:50-6:05 – Talk with students in Student Ministry Center lobby as they arrive

6:05-6:20 – First 15 (Group activity w/all students & leaders)

6:20-7:15 – Actual ‘group time’ in meeting room

Later this week, I will be posting some thoughts on the ‘group time’ and breaking it down a little more to give you some ideas how to use that 50 minutes a week with the students in your group.

– Josh

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Beyond – Monday

I love camp.

I love(d) coming early and working with the lighting/tech guys building the stage/set for the week. The guys I’m working with, particularly Nathan and Josh are both incredible at what they do and add so much not only because of their abilities, but because of their hearts as well.

I love working with Exodus (they were with us @ Kalahari). They are all tremendously talented, but they also have great attitudes and are willing to do whatever they’re asked. I’m thankful to them, Betsy, and everyone at the Liberty Ministry Team crew for working with us to have them come and hang with our (your) students for the week.

I love hanging out with your students. Whether I’m seeing them for the first time and they greet me with a slow-clap or I’m tooling around while they’re eating acting like I’m going to take their food, your students are a BLAST (and it’s only Monday!) We have prayed and are praying for each one of your students to allow God to work in their lives during their time here, and everything that they experience here this week (along with a willing and open heart) will hopefully help accomplish that.

I love working with our leaders. Ian, Allison, and Hope have all said that they want to give a week of their summer to spending time with and investing in your students. And while Ian as the Middle School Intern pretty much has to be here, all three of them have already jumped right in and have been  building into the students. They will have many chances to get to know your student throughout the week and hopefully influence them in some way for the cause of Christ.

Lastly, I love camp because of what it has meant in my life. Even before I was old enough to be a camper, I was here, at Pleasant Valley Ranch, with my dad who was running what was then called “Operation Everything.” I’ve been a junior camper, I’ve been a junior high camper, I’ve been a high school leader, a head counselor, and now a director on the core leadership team…all here at this camp. I’ve pretty much seen it all, but it still gets me excited to see a student connect with God in a real way at camp. That’s what makes the late nights, the long hours, all of the peripherals, worth it. The students. Your students.

I love camp.

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The (2) Thing(s) That Will NEVER Change

We welcomed in a new class of 7th graders in Middle School Ministry (MSM) this past Sunday morning (5/30). They weren’t that hard to spot; they were the ones taking baby steps and looking all around them like it was their first time at Disney  (not that I’m comparing our service to Disney……….ours is WAY cooler.)

In trying to give them something to leave with that is both tangible and understandable on their first day in MSM, I decided to talk to them about change. And as I was preparing during the week, I was thinking about all the things that change before we get to high school. Here’s what I wrote down on my white board:

– Food (As a baby, you eat baby food. But hopefully as a middle-schooler, you’ve since graduated to solid foods.)

– Diaper (Hopefully, this also is in the “past tense” category of your life)

– Relationship with Parents (You go from saying, “Sit with me, daddy!” to , “I said 200 feet, no closer!”)

Punishments, and athletic skills, and clothes, and friendships, and vocabulary, and favorites (movies, sports teams, music), school (teachers, classrooms, assignments), and privileges/responsibilities, and looks, and homes you’ve lived in, and……..


That’s a lot of things that are changing! Pretty much everything in a student’s life has changed or will change in the near future. And somewhere in all that is a desire and a need to develop some sort of identity. Can you see why students’ struggle with who they are? All of the things that they identify themselves AS are really just things that they DO.

Isn’t there ANYTHING that they can depend on?

Yes, there is ONE thing. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” What a GREAT message that we have when we can tell a student that everything around them will change EXCEPT for God and His unconditional love for us.

The 2nd thing that I would list as unchanging is God’s Word. And I tend to keep these two (God and His Word) very close together. That’s why I reference 2 things (but really, 1 BIG thing) that never change. The same passage in Joshua 1:9 that says, “…the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” that they read as a 7th grader will be the same passage as a sophomore in college.

We begin a new era in MSM with a new class. And although they will change and so will we, it’s encouraging to know that there are 2 things that won’t.

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MSM Dodgeball 2010 – Recap

Rather than write a lengthy narrative describing and recounting the events that transpired during the 2nd Annual MSM Dodgeball Tournament, I figured a lengthy bulleted list would suffice.

– The Turnout – We had an MSM event record 140 students (watchers/players) show up for some sweet dodgeball action! We were praying/hoping/planning for around 100, and once again God proved that our dreams were too small.
– The Teams – Last year we had 16 teams, but this year we had 23 teams, many of which were completely or primarily made up of students that were not from our church and of those, many I had never even seen before.
– The Team Names/GUYS – “The Grrr!”, “The Jewish Men/IRA”, “Black Knights”, “Crown of Thorns”, “Time Warp”, “Hawaiian Punch”, “The Bosses”, “Jay’s Minions”, “Leroy Jenkins”, “Super Generals”, “The Blanks” (CHAMPS), “The Bruisers”, “Gilly in the Mist”, “Team Canada”, “Fearsome Five”, “Canasota”, “Biff”
– The Team Names/GIRLS – “Rainbow Zebras”, “The Dodgeball Team”, “The Thunderstorm”, “Crown of Thorns” (CHAMPS), “Pink Shock”, “The Swimmin’ Women”
– The Tournament – We use a “Round Robin” tournament format where we just keep playing and playing and no one get’s “knocked out” until the playoffs. All the guys teams played at least 5 games and the girls each played 7 games. My dad helped create the match-ups and the winning teams reported right to him. We had the top 10 guys teams advance to a single-elimination tournament where “The Blanks” beat “Crown of Thorns” in the championship game. For the girls, we only had a championship game between the two top teams and “Crown of Thorns” topped “Pink Shock” to take the crown.
– The “Fan Zone” – We had poster-board and markers in the cafe area where students could make posters for their favorite team. Most teams made posters for themselves (shocking), but there were also some genuine fans who showed up to support their favorite team, and this gave them another way to do that.
– The “Sky Deck” – We opened up the stage for students to sit/stand and watch the games from. It created almost an “arena” atmosphere and kept the students who weren’t playing connected to the games. They had to be paying attention because they were right in the line of fire and sometimes had to throw dodgeballs back into play. But it worked out really well and was a tremendous upgrade from last year’s entry way watch area because it could hold 3 times the students.
– The Leaders – We had leaders in the cafe taking care of the food, we had leaders in the mezzanine checking on the people playing wii, we had leaders in the “Fan Zone” helping with posters and leaders on the “Sky Deck” keeping students somewhat under control, we had leaders refereeing and leaders taking pictures, leaders doing registration, and a leader organizing the games that were played. Without the leaders, there is no tournament. They made it happen. Thank you, each one of you. GREAT JOB!
– The Students – Attitudes have a tendency to be tested when competition is introduced, but I can honestly say that the students had great attitudes last night. Aside from the verbal disappointment that comes from getting out or losing a tough game, all the students should be commended. Even during the break in between while I was sharing my story, they seemed to be (for the most part) quite attentive. GREAT JOB!
– The Pictures – There are more to come, but for now, check them out HERE.
– The Promotion – We printed business cards for students to pass out to their friends. We printed postcards to give to our students to put on their fridge. We printed posters which we put in the stairwell leading up to our Middle School room and students also took some and put them up in their schools. We made announcements in our service, created an event on Facebook, and we made a video (below) which we showed on the Sunday before the tournament.

– The Prizes/Giveaways – Each winning team (guys and girls) got a $40 gift card to Pizza Hut so they could go celebrate their dominance. Each winning “Best Dressed” team (as voted on by a secret panel of judges) received a pair of “special” socks (girls got tie-dye while guys got Under Armour). We also gave away 6 “regulation” dodgeballs that were given away to anyone who was there (they put their name on a ticket when they came in and that was their entrance into the drawing.) We gave all of it away at the end.
– The Gospel – After about an hour of dodgeball, we took a break and had them all sit down while I shared the Gospel with them. I talked about how when I was growing up and playing baseball, I hated pitching because I could NEVER throw it where I wanted to, which is the whole goal of the pitcher. It was equated to that no matter how hard we try, we miss the mark (Rom. 3:23) and because of it we need the gift of God to save us (Rom. 6:23). I tried to make it somewhat sports-related because of the nature of the event and the students seemed to be following along well.
– The Invite – At the very end of the night, all of the students got an invite back to hang with us on Sunday morning at 11 for our service, “MSM Live.” I also included that,  “…if you’re already going somewhere on Sundays, go there” because I’m not into recruiting other church’s students. But I know there were students there that don’t have anywhere to be on Sunday and they all got an invite to hang with us and hopefully they’ll get an invite from the friend that brought them and we’ll see them Sunday.
– The Summary – It was a GREAT night. You should have been there. Much more to share. Just ask. : )

– Josh

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“Love Story” Series Video Bump

– This was Josh (me) and Amber’s (my wife) first video collaboration (if you don’t count this). It was shot on our living room floor with a giant blanket as the background and each heart and letter was cut out and placed by Amber. I stood on a chair behind her and held out the video camera to get the “overhead shot” look. It took 6 takes, but I think we ended up with a good finished product.

– It was inspired by the Napoleon Dynamite opening (check it out below)


Filed under Middle School, Ministry, Video