Navigating the Two Phases of Middle School (Orange Conference 2015 Notes)

This week, we’re hosting the Orange Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. With this year’s conference we are also unveiling new resources and sharing insights from our research in The Phase Initiative. We even are offering a series of breakouts all about navigating the phases of your phase. To serve leaders who attend our talks and those who are following along online, I’ll be posting notes from each session on the blog.

Whether or not you were able to make the conference, I hope some you gain something form these notes that prevent you, your team, and your parents from missing the distinctive opportunities of the phase you’re in and the phases to come.

Here are the notes from the breakout titled “Navigating the Two Phases of Middle School,” which was led by Tom Schefchunas.

Phase Defined: A time frame in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future.

  • The phase that should matter most to you is the phase they are in now.
  • The phase that matters most happens before or after this phase.
  • Adults tend to assume, “They are like me now.”
  • Adults tend to assume, “They are like I used to be.”
  • Every kid at every phase is changing in six ways: physically, mentally, relationally, culturally, emotionally, and morally.
  • The vast majority of research on teens: They aren’t grown up yet.

Your Role | Affirm Their Personal Journey

Read Their Mind…

So students in the two phases of middle school will believe they can win.

  • Know what can be expected of them and know how they think so they will hear what you say and know what to do.
  • BIG IDEA: Middle schoolers think like an engineer.
  • Middle schoolers construct new thoughts and learn best through trial and error.

Children are most like adults in their feelings. They are least like adults in their thinking. More information does not make them think like us.

— Catherine Stonehouse

Discover Their World…

So students in the two phases of middle school will feel they belong.

Sixth: Who do I like?     The Goal: Gain Stability.

Seventh & Eighth: Who am I?     The Goal: Discover Uniqueness.

DON’T MISS THIS: The buffer in every crisis is love.

Interpret Their Motives…

So students in the two phases of middle school will discern what they should do.

  • Moral emotions are instinctive. Moral development is not.
  • If you want to help a middle schooler develop a moral conscience, you have to interpret and influence their motive.
  • The ultimate motive is love.
  • Preschoolers are motivated most by acceptance.

Play To Your Audience…

So students in the two phases of middle school will discover how to relate to God.

  • Your job is not to redefine God to middle school students. Your job is to help middle school students rediscover how to relate to God in middle school.
  • How middle schooler relate to God: God’s story redeems my story.
  • When you affirm their personal journey you help a middle schooler own their own faith andvalue a faith community.

Three Ideas to Help Middle Schoolers Mature in their Relationship with God

  1. Connect the dots. Have a series that connects the story.
  2. Expect a crisis. Don’t pretend to be an expert.
  3. Be consistent. Show up every week.
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Kristen Ivy

Executive Director of Messaging & Director of The Phase Project
Kristen earned her Bachelors of Education from Baylor University in 2004 and a Master of Divinity from Mercer University in 2009. Before beginning her career at Orange in 2006, she worked as a high school Biology and English teacher, where she learned firsthand the importance of influencing the next generation. Kristen and her husband Matt are currently parenting through the phases with a Kindergartener (Sawyer), a preschooler (Hensley), and her own “Zero to One” baby (Raleigh).

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