Blog/CYM Blog Embracing the Chaos by Steffanie Williams I remember it well: the panic and craziness that was my first attempt at a parish middle school ministry. I suppose I had it coming. There’s probably a reason you don’t find too many middle school programs called “Chaos!” Our parish Edge program has come a long way from there- but it has come with a large share of ups and downs. Are you considering starting Edge at your parish? Or perhaps the Edge ministry you currently run needs some tweaking? Here is how I moved Edge at my parish from chaos to, well, a little less chaotic: 1. Plan… Plenty of people have asked me- “You can just throw a ball out there, right?” Well, no. They’re middle school students. That awesome combination of “tween”, plus hormones, plus a desire to “be a grown up” that will exhaust every possible resource you have in your back pocket… and then complain because they’re bored. And bored teens don’t return. Be intentional about your plans – every time. You probably have to schedule your year in advance to reserve a gathering space – why not take the next step and plan the first semester of Edge as one cohesive plan? Planning long term will help you prepare your Core Team, offer more prayer experiences, maybe collaborate with other ministries, and even allow your Pastor to know what’s coming up. This group may have a lot of energy, but they have a lot to give, too – don’t sell them short. 2. …and be flexible! Inevitably something will come up, forcing you to adjust on the fly. More/fewer teens will show up, Core Members will flake out, or a monsoon will hit when you planned to be outside. Have a plan in place, but be ready to change it to accommodate the circumstances and get out of your own way. It’s not “your” ministry, it’s God’s- and He most definitely knows what He’s doing. 3. Minister to the Parents We can complain all day when it comes to the parents, but what good has that ever done? What are you doing to invite parents along on this journey of faith? After all, it is their children you’re ministering to, and the parents are the primary catechists. Are you helping to equip them for that responsibility? Have a Parent Meeting, share the vision of Edge at your parish, actually do the “To the Parents” portion of the EDGE night. Ideally, parents won’t just be involved your Edge program, they’ll transition to the Life Teen program right along with their teen. Invest the time in building relationships with the parents and they’ll be your biggest supporters. 4. Pray Pray for the ministry, for the teens and their families – but don’t stop there. Pray with the teens. Don’t skip the Opening Prayer. Don’t skip the Closing Prayer. Don’t not offer Adoration because you think they’re too young, or too crazy, or you run out of time (part of that planning thing!). Some of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever witnessed have been praying with Edge youth. They’re not little kids, and they are capable of going deeper than most can imagine. Jeremiah 1:6-8 is a scripture we love to use- and it’s true. They’re not too young! Model prayer and authentic living, and they will surpass even your wildest expectations. Embrace the awkward that can happen in middle school ministry – because this age group is just so raw and authentic! Overall, love on those middle school youth. Our world is broken, and they need to know there is a safe landing in the arms of their Church.