by Jake Niven
Middle school pastor
I love getting to see some of the awesome things that our middle school students do for Jesus. It is one of the things that motivates me to continue challenging students in our church. Every Sunday morning we provide a worship experience for Grades 5-8 in the gym at Christ’s Church. Not too long ago we had just finished a series called “Hear Me Roar.” This series was all about challenging middle school students to greater boldness in their lives—the kind of boldness found throughout the book of Daniel.
The first week of this series we talked about the fact that in order to become bold we need to fill up on God first. As we taught about being bold together there was a particular week in which we said that sometimes we have to choose peace while we are in a pit. Sometimes our boldness is not what we say but what we do. While serving in the court of King Darius of Babylon, the prophet Daniel ran into grave danger because he chose to be bold in praying to God three times a day. King Darius and his officials didn’t worship Daniel’s God, but his officials were very jealous of Daniel, so they had set a trap for him. They had gotten King Darius to sign an edict that whoever prayed to any god other than the king would be punished and thrown into a den of lions. Daniel did the right thing in worshiping his God alone, and he chose peace in the midst of lions that wanted to devour him.
If you know the story, you know how God rescued Daniel in the midst of the den of lions by closing their jaws (Daniel 6:22). The king was overjoyed when he called down to the den of lions to discover that Daniel was alive because he had faith in his God. Even though Daniel was surrounded by some ravenous beasts that would devour him, his sole trust was in God alone. In a similar way today’s students are surrounded by chaos that can feel like lions waiting to devour them.
As a part of our worship experience in the gym, students participate in small groups revolving around the lesson for the day. On this particular Sunday when we were talking about Daniel, I sat in a girls’ small group, listening in to what they had to share. A quiet, timid, middle schooler named Makenna spoke up about her boldness this year. She shared that a teacher at school asked her class to write about how the earth was formed. Makenna chose to write not about evolution but about God’s creation. Regardless of what others may have written, Makenna chose to be bold in what she believed in and wrote about.
The conversation in her small group didn’t stop there. She was talking about a video she was going to post on Youtube to share with her class at school. This video consisted of a church song that we play during the pre-service each Sunday while students dance to it. Makenna was so excited to create her own dance video and she wanted to share that with her class at school.
After being encouraged by her small group, now this timid, middle-school girl is all about boldly sharing her faith. Makenna’s eyes got big as she leaned in and told our small group, “Now I’m trying to lead two atheists at school to Jesus!” After our gym worship service that Sunday, Makenna went straight to her parents in the auditorium and told them, “I want to get baptized today.”
I was told about this good news and quickly headed to the auditorium to help her take the next step in her journey. I encouraged her dad to baptize her as I was there alongside to support them in this awesome decision. That morning ended with us all sharing in tears of joy. Makenna had set a great example in not just talking about her faith but boldly putting it into action!
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18, NIV).