On a recent evening at our church, we had mid-week classes happening which is normal for many churches. Most were adults in these classes which were being taught on how to pray, how to have a Jesus focused marriage and others. I wanted to see what was happening with Middle Schoolers (6th through 8th graders) and walked over to the room where they were meeting. As I got to the door, I could hear a high amount of chatter and what sounded like something fun happening. I assumed it might be a game going on of some sort. But to my surprise when I walked in, the energy and chatter was not just a game, it was about something else pretty great happening in there.
All across the room in small groups were middle schoolers sitting in circles of 4 or 5 in each group. There they were with Bibles open and reading out loud to each other a section from the Student Edition of Lee Strobel’s “Case for Christ” book. I wasn’t sensing a spirit of boredom but of engaged interest. I know this was not just the average middle schooler on their own, picking it up and doing this – but it was the prayerful and strategic planning that the middle school leader put into this. She was starting each section of the class by raising the tension of the tough question and asking “How do they know the Bible is really from God and different than other religious writings?”. “How do you know the Bible hasn’t been copied so many times, that it is filled with errors and can’t be trusted?” Any Middle Schooler (or any adult) would of course wonder these types of questions. She did some teaching and used visuals on the screens, and then had them breaking into groups to then read a section out loud, and look up Bible verses correlating to the study. She then had them up on a stage doing some role playing to explain what they learned and how they would tell someone else.
As I was observing this, I could not have felt a more heightened sense of joy thinking how these middle schoolers were proactively being taught how to have confidence in the Bible. Through this four-week class they will be addressing several things that Lee’s book teaches about the resurrection and other key beliefs of the Christian faith. To be studying some apologetics in 6th grade is exactly what I believe needs to happen, more than ever today.
Having been a former youth leader in a church focusing on high school age, the issues of life and questions about faith that middle schoolers face today are what junior and seniors and even young college age were facing a decade ago. It’s why I believe parents and youth leaders must take apologetics and teaching youth why we believe what we do, seriously. What I think is so wonderful about Lee’s book, Case For Christ being used for middle schoolers is it is trusted source with the author being Lee - but also that it is addressing questions that even if they haven't personally asked yet, they certainly will one day. What I loved watching this class, was that the teacher took the effort to not just make it about head knowledge but then had them doing some role playing and making it fun to learn. The role playing was then how the apologetics would be used in and why what they are learning matters.
I was very thankful for the teacher in Middle School class putting in the effort that she did with the middle school volunteer team. I was very thankful for Lee Strobel in the effort he has put into creating materials to help Christians of all ages build confidence in what we believe. I truly believe apologetics is needed and teaching about tough questions of faith beginning far earlier than in years past. I do believe that even in middle school, teaching apologetics and reasons to believe can be done. I saw it firsthand and if the teacher is passionate about it and uses trusted materials and books like Lee’s books – it can happen. I have great optimism and hope for this next generation. Not only that they learn these things for their own faith development, but thinking of all the influence they will then have being trained in ways to respond to tough questions when asked by others...I have great optimism and hope for this next generation and thank you Lee Strobel and other apologists who are faithful over the years to equip us to equip the next generation.