Quaranteens: Three Ideas to Help Students Grow in the Pandemic

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By: Tim Elmore

It’s been over a year since students all over the world were sent home from school and instantly had to learn how to learn from home. Teachers tried to maintain academic standards as students transformed their bedrooms, dens, and kitchens into classrooms to try to meet those standards. 

Some call these middle school and high school students quaranteens

They’re now voicing what it’s been like to spend 12 months in a lockdown, knowing rites of passages for past high schoolers will not happen for them. The senior trip, the prom, the graduation ceremony–all of these are morphing (at least slightly) and teens are feeling the angst of it all. In an interview, some said to me:

“My anxiety has gone up a thousand percent.”

“I pretty much feel lonely all the time.” 

 “I love spending time on screens, but I hate them now because that’s all I do.”

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute said, “The cost will be borne by families because increased online use is associated with anxiety, depression, obesity and aggression — and ‘addiction to the medium itself.’” Did you know that screen time has doubled year over year during the pandemic?

What the Teenage Brain Needs

I do not claim to be a neuroscientist, but as I study brain development in teens, it is clear that adolescence is a time of measurable change in hormones and other chemicals that change how a person reacts to life. Their brains are pruning themselves, moving from childhood thoughts and feelings to adult thoughts and feelings. It’s an in-between stage where a parent, teacher, or coach observes shifting emotions on any given day.

My point is simple: The essentials COVID-19 has stolen from teens are the very elements they need to develop and thrive. Three realities are clear:

  1. Their brains need socialization.
  2. Their brains need structure.
  3. Their brains need sleep.

Teens Need Socialization

One of the primary ways teens mature is through social contact. They are testing boundaries. They’re assessing patterns of thought. They are comparing themselves to others and forming a sense of identity. This happens when they spend time with both adults and peers. The pandemic has forced them to separate, so adults need to help them find ways to get connected and socialize as part of their development. Students see it as fun, but we know it’s actually how they’ll grow during their adolescent years. 

Consider how kids develop their values during their childhoods.

  • Ages 1-7: Imprint by observation. (They observe adults and emulate what they see.)
  • Ages 8-13: Modeling by heroes. (They now choose their heroes and imitate them.)
  • Ages 14-20: Socialization by peers. (They compare and contrast via relationships.)

What if we got just as intentional about encouraging teens to find places they can connect with each other for non-academic purposes as we are about academics? Driveway small groups, community service projects, or even the Clubhouse app are great starting points for students to socialize and grow together. 

Teens Need Structure 

The pandemic hasn’t removed structure completely, but it has reduced it significantly. For months, the typical routines of classes, athletic practices, band rehearsals, and school plays have dropped and in some places disappeared for months. Most teens need this structure in their daily schedules. It prepares them for adulthood and enables them to build disciplines and habits in their lives. Consider the benefits of structure:

  1. It fosters a sense of security as norms are established. 
  2. It provides clarity and combats ambiguity.
  3. It can build good habits through a maintained routine schedule.  

Stick to a schedule that works. Set a time to wake up, exercise, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, or whatever your student needs to start the school day. If it helps, allow your teen to sleep in a little later than normal. Just like in most classes, phones should be off while doing schoolwork. Keep the TV off during school hours, too, and limit the time they watch the news. Plan mini breaks and a one-hour lunch break.

Teens Need Sleep

Most of us recognize how important sleep is to an adolescent, even more so than an adult. The average amount of sleep that U.S. teenagers get is about seven hours, perhaps a few minutes more depending on where they live. However, studies show they need between nine and nine and a half hours. Teenagers do not get enough sleep for a number of reasons including a shift in their sleep schedules and the number of hours they spend on a screen, especially right before bedtime. 

In my interview with high school students, the majority of them acknowledged their sleep patterns have been “wrecked” by the pandemic. Some are on their portable devices even more these days and unless they are intentional about their time, phone addictions can develop. Below are some ideas to foster good sleep habits in students:

  1. Ban portable devices in the bedroom, and charge them somewhere else.
  2. Limit caffeine intake. Instead, drink more water. 
  3. Encourage exercise every day–walks, shooting hoops, running, etc.
  4. Start a habit of reading 30 minutes before falling asleep.

Socialization. Structure. Sleep. They’re basic needs that teens have, especially in a pandemic. It’s up to you and your teens to figure out what’s missing and apply it.

One of our applicable Habitudes is called “Surgeries and X-Rays.” Before a doctor performs an operation to repair a patient’s bone, that surgeon will always take an X-ray to see the fracture and determine what repair is necessary. It would be ridiculous to simply cut into the patient and begin wandering around with a knife, looking for a possible problem in the dark. So it is with students. I suggest you take time to reflect together on what they’re missing. Assess where they stand. Do a conversational “x-ray.” Then they can do the necessary surgery by removing unhealthy habits and inserting healthy ones in their place. 

I AM A WORSHIPER MIDDLE SCHOOL CHALLENGE

WHAT REALLY IS WORSHIP?

When we are faced with this question, many things might pop up in our minds. That movie scene, where monks are walking in a single file line, mumbling something in a monotone voice. We might easily envision the “praise and worship” time during a church gathering. Maybe you have read an account of a great man of faith that portrayed a “worshipful” way of life. Perhaps you have encountered God yourself, and visions of that moment bring back encouragement or remind you of a sense of great conviction. The truth is, if we are Christ Followers, we are meant to end up DOING WORSHIP FOR ETERNITY.

BEGINNING WITH THE END IN MIND

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,

AND HIS SERVANTS WILL WORSHIP HIM. 

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Practically, it takes effort to worship an INVISIBLE GOD.

Lets really think about this for a second. At least Revelation states that those who follow Jesus will “SEE HIS FACE.” So what are we supposed to do now? It seems a bit odd to an outsider to see people gathering on a weekend, singing songs, closing eyes, and talking to some BEING that is UNSEEN. As a believer, have you ever explained what WORSHIP IS to an unbeliever? How about trying to explain this thought to a group of young teenagers that mostly look at things in a concrete way and are learning to think in an abstract way.

This is where the lava lamp seems to help…

Worship is like a lava lamp…

Worship is like a lava lamp.  

If a lava lamp is not plugged in, it doesn’t do anything. Once it is plugged in, the lamp begins to heat up, the colorful wax in the center begins to react to the heat, and the “lava” does what it is meant to do, produce interesting shapes and designs that might make us ask, “How does it do that?”  

Similarly, once you start a relationship with JESUS, you begin to encounter him in your daily life, sort of like the LIGHT BULB turning on to heat the wax. 

Your Spiritual “LIGHT BULB” comes to life and you begin living from the INSIDE OUT, reacting to what the Holy Spirit “heats you up” with. Worship begins to be that NATURAL RESPONSE to what God has started on the INSIDE. 

The Truth is that WORSHIP is simply a RESPONSE.

When we start a relationship with JESUS, we begin to hear the “still small voice” that leads us to line up with the Word of God. As we read TRUTH in God’s Word, we find that His Spirit transforms us internally, We begin responding to His leading. As we follow Jesus as our example, it is like we begin responding to what we were wired to do in the first place. Every response, whether you are responding on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, is an act of worship. Every move toward Jesus and His Righteousness is a move of WORSHIP.

Worship is an INTENTIONAL response to an INVISIBLE God. 

What would it look like if you began to consider WORSHIP to be an INTENTIONAL RESPONSE to GOD in your daily life?

If you are willing to take the WORSHIPER challenge consider this:

  • Write Out a prayer to GOD from your heart for the week
  • Set a reminder on your cell phone or device to remind you to connect with GOD through prayer.
  • We are challenging our Middle Schoolers to take the WORSHIPER CHALLENGE for the next 40 days and take the journey of discovering what Worshipping God is all about.  We have some Devotional Journals left as a gift to your student to help them walk with JESUS and GROW in their relationship with HIM, or you can check out the link below.
CHECK OUT this Student Journal HERE

Middle School Overwhelmed Sunday Series

Our Sunday Series is taking us through Key Verses in the Psalms that share truth to tackle faith’s ups and downs.

Each lesson gives your student the opportunity to study Scripture and apply it to their own life. Below are the passages we are studying and the main takeaway from each lesson.

Additionally, each lesson includes a memory verse, and we’d encourage you to learn these verses alongside your child.

Sunday, Feb 21
When I Want to Cry Psalm 80  
THE TAKEAWAY It’s ok to grieve. Christ-followers cry out to God to remind ourselves of who he is and what his plan is.
KEY VERSE “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” Psalm 80:3 (ESV)
Sunday Feb 28
When I’m Happy Psalm 103  
THE TAKEAWAY Joy in God’s grace and love for you is a praise you can always bring to him.
KEY VERSE ““The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 103:8 (ESV)
Sunday March 7
When I Feel Wronged Psalm 79  
THE TAKEAWAY We cry out to God in times of trouble, but we also leave justice and vengeance up to him.
KEY VERSE “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23 (ESV)
Sunday March 21
When I’m Thankful Psalm 100  
THE TAKEAWAY God delights when we give thanks, and he’s given us endless reasons to be thankful.
KEY VERSE “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” Psalm 100:4 (ESV)

Believe Weekend Sessions

After a JAM PACKED weekend with Worship, Challenging Teaching, Student Hangouts, Small Group Discussions, and Fellowship with the people of JESUS, we celebrate 19 decisions to follow Christ and 18 students that followed in believer’s baptism.

Whether you are jumping back in with us or joining us for the first time, we hope that these messages and worship songs bless you on your journey in following JESUS.

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Session 4

RESPECT – 2KINGS 2:23-24

When you throw around ideas in a meeting to find a THEME something like… BELIEVE WEEKEND… other ideas swim through your head as well!

Don’t worry, we are not asking GOD to bring any SHE-BEARS to Believe Weekend. Our intention is to challenge students to BEAR FRUIT. A completely DIFFERENT MESSAGE than this one!

However, if you are a parent in sudden need of a quick lesson on RESPECT, this IS IN THE BIBLE.

‘He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord . And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.’ 2 Kings 2:23-25

Can You Hear Me Now?

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

Okay, so the Verizon guy… wait the Sprint guy… whoever he is with, gave us a simple phrase that sticks out in my mind all the time. Our family totally changed services here in New Braunfels in order to HEAR ONE ANOTHER. From where we live currently to where we go out and about, we continuously found certain areas where our calls were dropped. Then, as we moved out of the “dead spot” we magically connected again. Needless to say, we made a move TO BE HEARD.

As we are looking at PRAYER or CONNECTING WITH GOD as a church, our Middle Schoolers are going back to the basics of what it means to connect with God.

That same question, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?” seems to come up as we focus on prayer as well.

The BEST example we have is JESUS HIMSELF, as he preaches His first (and need I say LONGEST) sermon that cuts to our hearts, even today. In this Sermon, presented on a mountain, he directs His people to think about the “WHY” when it comes to prayer.

“Don’t be like the hypocrites, for they love standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:5 NIV).

 “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then, your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”  (Matthew 6:6 NIV).

WHAT IS THE REWARD?

When we create a space and a place to CALL ON the Lord, we get more than an instant download code for 20% off on a flash sale. When we make time to focus on the person of JESUS and call out to HIM, we get more than three wishes for all our dreams to come true. Our REWARD is far greater than a “good day” or a material possession.

OUR REWARD IS A DEEP RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS.

Isn’t that what our hearts truly call out for? I believe we are moved to choose a payment plan and upgrade to a new cell phone because we value the close relationships in our lives. We desire to connect with others on a deeper level, and we want to guarantee a secure connection.

How does the value with our Father translate to our daily lives?

I believe that an intentional TIME and PLACE builds a foundation for a deep encounter with the God of the Universe through Jesus Christ. How have you created an intentional time and place this week to connect? How have you seen the ultimate reward work out in your own daily walk with Jesus?

Believe Weekend January 28-30

Believe Weekend Schedule

Thursday- Jan 28

6:30pm        Student Check-in (bring CAN donations from home)
7:00pm        Session 1
8:15pm        After Event
8:45pm        Dismiss

 

Friday- Jan 29

6:30pm        Student Check-in (bring CAN donations from home)
7:00pm        Session 2
8:15pm        Breakout Groups
9:00pm        After Event
10:00pm      Dismiss

 

Saturday- Jan 30

2:00pm        Student Check-in (bring CAN donations from home)
2:30pm        Session 3
3:45pm        Breakout Groups
4:15pm        Event
5:00pm        Dinner
5:30pm        Session 4
6:15pm        Breakout Groups
7:00pm        Baptism celebration Dismiss

7:30PM        DISMISS

Best Christmas Ever Parent Cue

REMEMBER THIS

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:14, NIV

THINK ABOUT THIS

Best Christmas Ever is a series designed to help students recognize that the best things about Christmas aren’t the things we typically tend to remember first during the season. They’re the things God did for us thousands of years ago. Though encouraging students to embrace abstract concepts like the fact that God is with them and wants to know them may be difficult for some middle schoolers to grasp, it’s important to help them recognize these key elements of what Christmas is all about. These are things they can celebrate and understand as they grow in maturity and relationship with God. 

Daily Cues

Morning Time

Take time to celebrate the person who spends a lot of their time with your middle schooler: their Small Group Leader! Write them a card, shoot them a text, give them a call, or put together a little Christmas gift for them to show your appreciation for how they invest in and care about your kid. 

Drive Time

Let each member of your family share what activity would make their Christmas the best Christmas ever! Maybe it’s a Christmas movie marathon, a drive to see holiday lights, a special treat made at home, or a chance to serve someone else. Whatever it is, let each person choose their best Christmas ever activity and then, make an effort to do each one this holiday season. 

Meal Time

Make an effort to bless others this holiday season. Choose a day to make Christmas cookies, cards, candy, or another holiday treat together as a family. Then, deliver them to your neighbors to spread a little Christmas cheer to those around you this week.

Bed Time

Read the Christmas story together as a family this week (Luke 2:2-20). After you read, discuss some of what you read as a family. Talk together about what this story means for you today and how you can remember it during the holiday season.