What’s in a name? Really, everything.
A name conveys so much about a person or group.
Who they are, what are they about, what they do…so, what do people think or believe when they hear the name middle schooler or junior higher?“
If you hop over to Google and type in “middle schoolers are….”, autofill will quickly tell you what culture thinks of them. Here are the “top three” results that popped up;
I’ve often been met with a few cheers when I’ve shared this with students, but the sad reality is that they know that this is what the world thinks of them. More accurately, they know that this is what adults often think of them.
Whether it be at school, in their home, or at a local business (there’s a gas station down the street from my house that has a giant sign that reads “No more than 4 middle school students in the store at once”) their name carries a lot of negativity and in turn effects their relationship with those in authority.
Yet this reality provides us an opportunity to have a greater impact in the life of a student by treating them differently and defining for them what it truly means to be a middle schooler/junior higher.
So, where do you start? You start with their name. This is simple but important; what you call the individuals in your ministry plays a part in shaping the identity of your group. As I wrote earlier, I’ve shared with my students those Google results but when I do so, I do it to contrast with them who we think they are and more importantly, who God says they are. We call them “students” and we contrast that with what they were just called in the environments at our church: “kids”.
Something simple for example; as a kid your parents had to check you in and pick you up, as a student you check yourself in and your responsible for finding your parent/ride afterward. Why? Simply because we trust you, we believe you can, and want to empower you with that responsibility.
Simple, yet it communicates a lot of value and begins to instill in them disciplines that we want to see them develop throughout their time with us so that when they leave our environment they know what it means to be valued, to be responsible, and to take ownership of things.
Language shapes culture so what language are you using to inform, invite, and inspire your students to be who God has created & called them to be?
What passage of Scripture and 3-4 statements do you consistently share in every environment/setting (programming, leader meeting, parent email…) that helps shape the culture of your ministry? *If none, then let me encourage you to prayerfully begin to have conversations with your leaders as you begin to head in that direction and create a culture of value for students.