Recently, I was struck by our 8th graders who were able to enter into Eucharistic Adoration so prayerfully during our annual 8th grade “Welcome to Life” Retreat (where our incoming seniors host a weekend retreat for our incoming freshman). It occurred to me that their prayer resembled that of an upperclassmen’s. Why did that shock me so much? Most of these kids have been at weekly Edge Nights and on Edge retreats for the last three years. It shouldn’t shock me at all that they are deeper in prayer than other middle schoolers their age. How did this happen? How do we take our Edge kids deeper? Here are a few practical ideas to implement in your Edge programs to help reach new depths in prayer:
Whether it is a three-day overnight, a 2-day weekend, or just a day of reflection, make sure you are giving your kids an opportunity to grow deeper in the Sacraments. A retreat is also a great way for your high school upperclassmen and adults to really be creative in preparing the retreat. The kids will look forward to it every year and will allow for deeper prayer experiences that can’t occur at the weekly Edge Night. Be sure to include opportunities for Reconciliation, Adoration, and Mass. Edge has many retreat guides already created for your use. Take the time to look at them or create your own.
Once a year (or even once a semester) host a praise & worship night during Edge. A great idea is to have this night following the Edge Retreat. Allow the kids who were on the retreat to share their experiences and then lead into Adoration. So many people fear doing Adoration with middle schoolers. Have no fear! Tell them that this is a big deal – they will rise to the occasion! Make sure you invite your music ministry to the night to play. Have some guided prayer time and even some silence (believe me, they will respond to it).
Weekly Prayer nights.
Try offering your middle schoolers an opportunity to pray outside of Edge. Choose one other night during the week and hold a middle school gathering. We do a “Pizza & Prayer” night with great results. The kids can enjoy some quality prayer time in community followed by a pizza party. During the night, have some candles lit, and music playing. You can rotate praying the Rosary, leading a Bible study, or talk about a topic facing middle schoolers today.
Small Group Prayer
Every week we are in small groups and perhaps it is always the Core Members leading prayer. Instead, have the kids take turns opening and closing in prayer. Create a schedule to rotate and let them know when they have prayer. Allow them to be creative in doing those prayers. Make sure you model for them first a good opening and closing prayer, but then allow them to take the lead.
Make sure you are inviting your Edge kids to your Life Teen Mass, or better yet, set aside one of your other weekend Masses and have the Edge kids be the lectors, ushers, and collectors. This way they are seeing the importance of Mass attendance and their involvement in it.
Remember, if we set the bar low, they will only reach that low standard. But, if we set the bar high and let them know the bar is set high, they will respond greatly! Our Edge kids are ready to go deeper in prayer. As a youth minister for both Edge and Life Teen, I can see the great fruits in taking our Edge kids deeper. It will deepen your Life Teen program as well since it will be able to take freshman to a place where they may not have been able to go to until junior year. If we are doing solid middle school youth ministry, it will only result in more quality high school youth ministry, and therefore, more passionate and loving disciples of Jesus Christ!