- The Teenage Years
Below is an excerpt from the article "Faith Life in Middle School", Modus Vivendi, Winter 2019, pp. 14-18. Read the full article.
Nathan Pettit teaches Christian Studies and is Dean of Student Life in the Middle School and orchestrates Middle School Chapel. Modus Vivendi recently spoke with Nathan about the Middle School Chapel experience. During our conversation, it became clear how students’ faith, academic, and social/emotional lives are supported both in the classroom and during Chapel on Tuesday mornings.
MV: HOW DO YOU APPROACH MIDDLE SCHOOL CHAPEL WITH INTENTIONALITY?
NP: We prayerfully and collaboratively design a Middle School Chapel curriculum aimed to capture the students’ imaginations with the beauty of Christ and his Kingdom. We also provide ebbs and flows in conjunction with what we find healthy for students, for example, we incorporate local pastors and people who are passionate about Middle School students in our speaking rotation; we highlight and celebrate important dates on the church calendar: Reformation Day, Advent, Lent, and Easter, for instance.
MV: WHAT SORT OF OPPORTUNITIES DO STUDENTS HAVE TO SHARE THEIR TALENTS AT CHAPEL?
NP: We have a Chapel band, which practices each Friday as part of our Servant Leadership Clubs. Students with musical ability and a desire to serve participate by leading our student body in worship each week we have Chapel.
Another aspect of this bleeds into our Advisory program, which is connected with Chapel. Advisory is a place where students are regularly applying what we’ve learned in Chapel through discussion, activities, and service projects—each student is asked to bring his or her skills and passions into that realm as we continue to work out what we’ve heard and experienced in Chapel.
MV: HOW DO YOU SEE STUDENTS’ FAITH LIFE INTERSECT WITH REAL SCENARIOS THEY ENCOUNTER IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL YEARS?
NP: Such a huge part of the Middle School years is the question of identity. Students regularly question how they fit in, how their interests and gifts match up with others, and so forth. We hope one of the ways their faith grows in their Middle School years at Bear Creek is by rooting their identity in Christ.
This fundamental area shapes the way students relate to one another, seeking to treat one another with dignity and respect. We hope it fuels a great work ethic academically, without making everything about their grades.
MV: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SHIFTS YOU ARE SEEING AS TO THE CULTURAL CLIMATE FOR STUDENTS IN THIS AGE GROUP?
NP: I see students trust and seek out their teachers more than ever. I sincerely believe that our students feel known and cared for in our hallways—they understand that their teachers care about their academic endeavors, yes, but also so much more about their holistic formation, who they are becoming. When students trust and respect their teachers, the classroom becomes a vibrant learning environment as well as a place of social, spiritual, and emotional growth.
The way students socialize and relate is changing more and more with the rise of technology and the use of social media. Students collaborate for school via text and FaceTime. They organize study sessions on online forums. They Instagram, Tweet, Twitch, and Snap each day. With so many distractions and stimuli, we covet our hallways and classrooms as a phone-free place and provide numerous ways for students to participate in face-to-face interaction, discussion, and activity. We find that immensely valuable for their health and development.