Kristen Otte

Finding Love and Laughter through Story

Lessons from a Week with Middle Schoolers


Last week was Mid High Mission Week, a new endeavor for the youth ministry at Forest Hill Church. During the week, a group of twelve middle school youth participated in a variety of mission projects during the week. To cap the weekend off, the group went on a weekend retreat near Peek’n Peak Resort in New York.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect for the week. It wasn’t easy to find mission work for the group because many organizations have age restrictions. And middle schoolers.. well.. I love them, but they are a challenge. But, as the week progressed, I witnessed our youth doing amazing work and I found myself being renewed and reminded of the power of God’s love.

The Mission Work

We started our week at 8am at our home base, Forest Hill Church. Our youth prepared and served a pancake breakfast for our regular visitors to the food pantry at Forest Hill Church. This project was designed by our middle school group during Sunday School in the spring. They wanted to do an outreach to meet this group of people where they are. We had around fifteen people come for the free breakfast. The youth were excellent chefs and the food was excellent. More importantly, our youth noticed how happy and thankful people were for a free breakfast and for youth willing to serve them.

On Wednesday, we travelled to the Christopher Home in Rocky River to host Family Promise. Family Promise is an organization dedicated to helping homeless families find long-term housing. In the interim, Family Promise provides housing through a network of host churches. Our group was responsible for providing dinner for three families and being evening activity hosts.

The highlight of the evening at Family Promise was the epic game of kickball after dinner. The FHC youth played with the families including the moms and teenager kids staying at Family Promise. The families and kids were able to forget about all the stress in their lives and have fun. Before we left, one of the teenager kids at Family Promise told us this was the most fun he has had in months.

Thursday morning our group travelled a few miles up the road to Medwish International. MedWish collects, sorts and redistributes donated and excess medical supplies and equipment to hospitals and clinics in developing countries. After a long tutorial, our youth jumped right into the sorting. They worked hard and asked questions to ensure they were sorting correctly so that these medical supplies could get to a needed destination.

Thursday afternoon, the youth returned to Forest Hill to help in Abundance Acres. Abundance Acres is FHC’s vegetable garden and the harvest is donated to FHC’s food pantry. The youth quickly drilled the compost bins together before helping in some other areas of the garden.

Friday afternoon, the youth capped off mission week with a trip to Judson Park, a retirement community, to participate in poetry hour. The youth brought their favorite poems to share with the residents and listened as the residents recited poems of their own.

We capped off the week with a retreat. We hiked, swam, shared in daily devotions and played capture the flag, werewolf and many other games. The weekend was full of fun and laughter, a great way to end the week.

What did I learn this week?

Life is Better when We Get Along

I was so impressed with the group dynamics of the middle schoolers. All the youth got along, but it was more than being friendly. They looked out for each other and made sure everyone was included. This was especially true on the retreat when they shared food together and played games. The more I reflected on the group dynamic, the more I realized how special it was – and not just for middle schoolers, but for any group of people with different backgrounds and interests. They accepted each other’s differences for the betterment of the group.

The Power of Presence

Much of our mission work centered on our youth being present to people. Our youth cooked breakfast, dinner, and completed other tasks, but the most important facet throughout the week was showing up. The youth took time to volunteer and to make people smile when they needed it most. Our group was present to those in need. Often I am overwhelmed when I think about tackling the problems of hunger, homelessness, and inadequate health care. But this week, I was reminded being present can make a big difference in people’s lives.


5 thoughts on “Lessons from a Week with Middle Schoolers

  1. Pingback: Phase 3 of the Whirlwind Summer: Cherokee, North Carolina « Kristen Otte

  2. Great job!!! Continue to spread those “Shiny Eyes & Smiles” everywhere & everyday throughtout the life.

  3. Excellent story! Thanks for being their leader.

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