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“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NLT
Because of the way middle schoolers’ brains are wired, it’s easier for them to see something outside of themselves than it is to see it inside of themselves. For example, it’s much easier for them to talk about the way they see others being underestimated than to actually share the ways in which they may be feeling or experiencing the same.
For many kids in this phase, the struggle is not only to overcome those who underestimate them; it’s to overcome the ways in which they underestimate themselves as well! Middle schoolers are often paralyzed by fear of failure or embarrassment, causing them to hesitate in trying new things because they underestimate their ability to succeed.
Having an older, wiser voice speak into the life of your middle schooler is a big deal. As they may tend to tune out your voice more and more as they move through middle school, they’ll be tuning their ears to other voices around them, making who they spend time with all the more important in this phase.
Sheep are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible. One reason is that they play a part in relating the imagery of the Shepherd and his Flock to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The followers of the Good Shepherd are… well… SHEEP. With this in mind, many thoughts about sheep have come about. First off, sheep are thought to be really stupid. Stories I have heard involve sheep mindlessly following the other in front of them, no matter what is going on, so if a Shepherd put a staff out for one sheep to jump over and then took it away for the next sheep, the rest of the sheep would “follow the leader” and jump in the same spot. Secondly, we hear out of Luke 15 that 100 sheep could be doing fine and then one of them might go astray, so the Good Shepherd has to run after that one that decided somehow to just wander off, even though the routine is the mindless following.
So does that make us STUPID SHEEP, and is Jesus greatly placing prominence on Himself and belittling humankind?
Being less and less agriculturally inclined in society today, and not in the business of raising sheep, I discovered what many people may already know. Sheep actually have some distinct attributes that put them at a higher IQ than one can imagine.
They are right below Pigs in IQ and can be considered the same level as cattle. MOOOOO!!!
Sheep can actually recognize facial features and remember them for years. Take that iPhone number kazillion and one!
Sheep can pick up on different emotional states pretty easily. (In a BAAAAAD mood???)
Sheep can also express their emotional state by the various sounds they make.
Sheep can self-medicate themselves and graze on needed nutrients depending on their current physical status
Sheep also can distinguish between voices and know when their name is called.
Wow! Maybe sheep are smarter than we think! With all these amazing facts (and believe me there are more from sheep enthusiasts), maybe Jesus is wanting us to feel more than “stupid.”
John 10 paints a picture of a Good Shepherd that knows His sheep. He calls them by name. He protects them. He gives them abundant life. He oversees every aspect of their lives. In fact, He oversees the deepest part of our inward being. The keeper of the our mind, will, and emotions. The place that we tend to keep hidden behind the outside, natural part of ourselves. Our Souls!
Maybe Jesus is revealing His true heart to us and the heart of the Father for mankind. All we need to do is respond to the call when we hear our name. He willingly lays down His life for US, the SHEEP! Do you know His voice?
or better put… DO YOU KNOW THE SHEPHERD AND OVERSEER OF YOUR SOUL?
Peter was asked to do something by Jesus. “FEED MY SHEEP” Those words must have echoed in his mind for the rest of his life. After denying Jesus on the road to the cross, he finds a place of forgiveness and reconciliation. Then he is given a noble task. To follow Jesus and point others to the Shepherd of the Sheep.
Maybe those thoughts settled in his mind in a way that gave him the wisdom to encourage his flock with these words:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25 ESV
The comfort we can find in Peter’s words lands on the word RETURN. The truth is all of us have strayed away from the heart of the Father. We have something within us that decides to wander away, even when we do a good job of following most of the time. Peter understood the word “RETURN,” and brings comfort in this truth. YOU CAN RETURN TO THE SHEPHERD AND OVERSEER OF YOUR SOUL. Just as Peter did. We all have the ability to RETURN.
Where are you today? Wandering? Following? Listening to the Voice of the Good Shepherd?
Brian Vickers is a man with many talents and experiences.
Here is his list from his bio –
Follower of God/ Prov. 27:17
Shields of Strength
WABDL 14x World Champion
With all he sees and experiences, he is unashamed of his faith in God and has even traveled with Team Impact, sharing the Gospel in partnership with Local Churches across the Nation. On top of that, Brian still finds time to attend Oakwood here in New Braunfels, TX with his family. We are excited to have him Kick-Off the night at LOCKAPALOOZA as a friend and Passionate Follower of Jesus Christ!
By Ashley Bohinc, the Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange (The reThink Group, Inc.), and USA Executive Director of Carry 117- Ethiopia.
I have worked with middle school students in educational, athletic, and ministry settings for more than 14 years now. Although each context was uniquely different, there were still a few basic things about (most) middle schoolers that remained the same no matter what.
They will be intensely interested in you. Do you have a boyfriend? Where do you buy your makeup? What are you eating? Where did you get those shoes? What position did you play in soccer? They may not show it at first, but the moment you let them in (even just a little), they want to be in a lot. They are stacking up questions in their minds, and if they aren’t courageous enough to ask, they are waiting for just a hint of permission from you to let them know they can ask. Of course this only counts for some of the time with middle schoolers. Other times, you could walk into the room in a clown suit and they wouldn’t even notice. #middleschool
They exaggerate (and sometimes lie). Something happens at the 8th grade dance, and you find the girls huddled in a circle crying in the bathroom. If it’s trending, they are talking about it… non-stop. Friend drama is basically an all out brawl (with words or rumors). It thunders outside, and they act like they’ve never been in a storm before in their lives. They see a snake outside, and it’s most certainly trying to eat them. Their teacher is obviously the most unfair person on the whole planet. Oh, and they didn’t copy that homework or cheat on that test; they were just scratching their head! You get the point. It’s a phase full of all out exaggeration.
YouTube is Gucci. According to many research studies, 80%-95% of Generation Z seeks advice through YouTube channels and videos. The most searched videos are about real stories, day-in-the-life videos, behind-the-scenes videos, or how-to videos. They want to know about relationships and dating, teen trends, advice on how to do new skills, and more. If they don’t know how, they go to YouTube. If they don’t know what it is, they go to YouTube. If they want to become famous, they go to YouTube. So basically, you should be on YouTube, too.
What their friends think matters more than anything else. This is difficult, because as puberty begins to change them from the inside out, middle schoolers are desperately trying to fit in. Peer approval will always trump advice from adults. They can’t be seen wearing those pants, hanging with those boys, or walking around in public without makeup. The point is, students at this phase care more about what their peers say than anyone else. That’s why finding an influential student to lead the charge on a new initiative or event you are having will give you more success. Because if Sadie thinks it’s cool, everyone will think it’s cool.
They push their parents away. Middle schoolers want freedom. They aren’t kids anymore, and when they are treated that way, they revolt. They pushback on everything from bedtime to chores to going places by themselves to social media. They want to make their own choices. The tricky part about this as a student leader is balancing earning their trust while still being for the parent. It is an art. Youth leaders have the privilege of standing in the gap between the middle schooler and the parent. But no matter what, always remember to let it be known that you are on the parent’s team.
They are incredibly insecure about what is happening to their bodies. They feel like they are the only ones going through this thing called middle school. Normalizing what’s happening to and around them is imperative. If you are trying to get a middle school student to do something in front of their peers and they resist, there is probably a physical explanation for it. Sweat stains. Period leakage. Wrong bra. Gas. Food in their braces. Acne. Though it’s all normal, it feels isolating to them. So don’t push them.
They want to have fun, but they want to be taken seriously. You can’t be boring, or they won’t want to be with you. They don’t want you to just allow them to have fun; they want you to have fun with them. At the same time, they want you to be real with them. They want to be taken seriously. They don’t want surface answers. They want direct, real explanations. When they tell you something that seems silly to you but real to them, you can’t laugh. You can’t dismiss it. You have to engage it with a matched level of seriousness to show them you care.
No matter where you’re working with middle schoolers, I think these seven things will stay true. It’s who they are in this phase, and it’s why they need people like you cheering them on and loving them as they figure it out.