When young adolescents hit grades six, seven and eight, lots of crazy things happen; bodies are growing rapidly, reasoning skills increase, boys are starting to like girls, girls are starting to like boys, and both are starting to think about what it's like to be a teen or an adult. They are not really children anymore, but they are not adults either. They are in a place we would call . . . The Edge.
The Edge is a radical new Catholic-centered youth ministry aimed at these young adolescents. The Edge is designed to meet their educational, spiritual, emotional and social needs. As part of the Catholic Church's mission to evangelize and spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, middle school youth are encouraged to go out and bring their friends to The Edge.
This ministry has been developed to work within either a parish middle school or junior high school program. Over the years, in a number of public school districts, the concept of middle school has been developed. This is where sixth, seventh and eighth graders are housed together. A Junior High program would be for seventh and eighth graders.
At St. Priscilla, we have opted for the middle school format. The middle school concept has forced many parishes to look at how they minster to their young adolescents. In the past, many middle school youth have been placed with a textbook in religious education classes at a church or in a catechist's home. Middle school youth would meet once a week for an hour or so in a setting that felt a lot like school.
Catechesis and educating our middle school youth in the Catholic faith is an important component of ministering to middle school youth, but it is inadequate if it is the only component. The classroom approach does not meet the communal, spiritual, psychological or social needs that a middle school youth ministry would incorporate in its process. The Edge solves this problem. It creates an environment where the youth are part of a community, rather than isolated in a classroom.
Middle school and Junior High youth have unique challenges that the Catholic Church must meet, or we run the risk of spiritually losing them. This stage is critical because youngsters in middle school are making decisions that will impact them for a lifetime. A solid middle school youth ministry allows for an easier transition, and it creates a solid foundation for high school teens entering Life Teen.
By including sixth graders in your middle school youth ministry program, you create a strong foundation for their years in seventh and eighth grade. By the time they are in the program as seventh graders, they have been challenged by the Gospel and have developed relationships with the adult Core Team members. They feel accepted by the Church, and they know what is expected of them.
Starting an early adolescent youth program in seventh grade might be too late. By the time young adolescents are in eighth grade, they are as big as many adults and believe they know more than you! Because of this, St. Priscilla will include sixth graders at The Edge.