Middle School

Our goal is to provide an open atmosphere where students can know that they matter. Where students can be honest, open, heard, and accepted. We not only want to teach the way of Jesus to our young people, we want to show them what it looks like in their world with support, care and encouragement. 

MSGleaningMS Gleaning

Youth News

Jeff  Message from Jeff

July 1,   2020     SUMMER VACATION

Bethany, Rob, and I have written out a 30-Day highly interactive devotional guide for our youthThe Weirdest Summer Ever?

They take about 5 minutes or so each.  We would love it if you would encourage them to take advantage of it.  Among the topics covered:

  • Social Justice
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Sheltering-in-Place
  • Family Dynamics
  • Friend Dynamics
  • Frustration with God
  • Listening to God
  • and more

One essential part of the mission trips and other overnight experiences we do are the guided quiet times we facilitate with youth and adults.  They usually take 10 minutes or so and help our youth reflect and process recent events gently guiding them on their walk with Jesus Christ.  While we normally do them after breakfast you can do them whenever works best for you.

Most of our youth have more time on their hands.  At the same time, we have been attempting to join you (the family) to help them process all the events of recent days.  While this devotional has been written and formatted for teens you would enjoy it also!  Lead by example and get a couple copies or you could share the same one (doing it separately).  While you’d lose the chance to write down your truest thoughts you and your kids may enjoy reading others’ reactions when doing it themselves.

I’ll be texting all our youth shortly so they can access the book directly.  Just as we encourage healthy eating habits or study habits, we hope this makes it easy to encourage healthy spiritual habits.  We encourage all of you to take advantage of it and of course you can pass it along to others.

Have 1 Minute to Read? – Upcoming Details 

1. Virtual Homebound Visits and Time Capsule (scroll down for more details )

    • Since we can’t visit the homebound in person, we’re asking our youth to do it virtually!  Can be done anytime; we'll give you a template to work off as you get to listen,  learn, encourage, and be encouraged by others

    • Please contact Jeff for setup:

    •  See a short example of what a Virtual Visit looks like:                    Visit with Carol

    2. Prodigal Parent Series #10: Worshipping at Home

    + 5 Youth Pastors in Marin talk about things anybody can do at home to bring their families closer to God. And you get to watch!

    + On Facebook and YouTube 

    3.  Wednesday Bag Lunch Program - (Details below)

    • *  THIS Wednesday, 7/8/2020   10:00am - 11:00am

    • *  Westminster Parking Lot, 240 Tiburon Blvd., Tiburon

    • *  If you're able, we are collecting bag lunches for the food insecure

    4 Minutes  to Read? - Monthly Middle School Zoom  July 5th

    Due to a confluence of factors we’ve decided to move towards monthly MS Zooms for the foreseeable future.  We’ve always recognized that many of our youth are simply “zoomed out” by the weekend.  While those who have joined us have enjoyed the connection, the hijinks, and the conversation, they still carry a bit of disappointment not seeing all of their friends.

    We will continue to do our quirky Zoom gatherings on the first Sunday of the month starting in July.  It’s important to us to keep a sense of overall unity to the youth group.  Since our small groups will be geographically focused these monthly Zooms should help.  If you’re one of the lucky ones whose our traveling this summer you’ll still have a chance to join us.

    Have 8 Minutes to Read? - Parental Influence in Children's Spiritual Lives

    This week a group of Marin youth pastors are having a conversation about specific things families can do at home to help their families grow closer to God.  As we all prepare for many more weeks of no Sunday services, we thought it would be helpful to provide this resource to you.  There will be more to come about it.  In the meantime though here’s some “light” reading on why it’s so important for you to find ways to remain engaged in your children’s spiritual lives even as they enter adolescents and try to convince you they want nothing to do with you.

    Parents are still the most significant influence in a child’s spiritual journey…


    And here’s one specifically about mothers…


     Have 8 Minutes to Read?   Even More on Family Meals

    . Read this excerpt from the American College of Pediatrics: https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/parenting-issues/the-benefits-of-the-family-table

    Have 5 Minutes to Read?  - May They Text All Hours of the Night

    We all recognize that adolescents aren’t normally the group of people to reach out in a time of difficulty.  I mean, that’s assuming they have figured out what they are feeling is difficult.  So, we’ve been trying to reach out through the channels that we have to our youth.  Unfortunately, one of the most effective channels we have, our contact work (showing up at games, clubs, schools, etc.) is unavailable to us during what can at least be described as strange times.

    Normally, our policy is not to send any messages to youth after 9:00pm any night.  I often times will schedule messages to arrive the following day.  We know that many teens have trouble sleeping because of the amount of screen time they’re getting.But, over the past couple weeks I’ve started to recognize that for many that is the only time they will decompress… after 900pm.  After “school” is over, after family has gone to bed, when you’re finally left to your own devices (in all senses of the word). I’m not sure if my corresponding with young people later is best but I do know that it’s the only time, so far, that any of them have opened up to me.Naturally, I felt vindicated when reading the following CNN article…

    These effects could last a long time.

    Steve Schneider, a high school counselor in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, said the trauma is already setting in amongst students, whether people can see it or not."The ramifications of this in the world of education are going to trickle for years," Schneider said. "This will follow any kid that's in high school right now. This will follow them through graduation. It's not short term."Because Schneider can't meet with his students, he's left to guess at how they're faring via emails or phone calls -- though many don't respond.

    Some of his students are angry. Those tend to be the teens who enjoyed school or the seniors who looked forward to pre-graduation events. He can manage those students because they're responsive.

    But then there are the teens he compares to turtles -- the ones who are so overwhelmed by the shakeup in daily life that they recede into their shells, close their eyes and ignore it all. That's the response that troubles Schneider most."We just have a lot of kids who've simply said, 'I'm just not going to do it,'" he said.

    Still, they're getting through it, little by little.

    When Schneider isn't counseling other students, he's checking on his 18-year-old daughter, a senior. He stopped outside her bedroom door one night when she looked glum.Without saying anything, he hugged her. She sunk into his arms and cried."This is so hard," she told him. But she's coping, he said, as best she can. Schneider sometimes hears her up in her room, singing and strumming her ukulele. He knows she stays up until 1 a.m. talking to friends, who she may not see for months.

    That wouldn't fly before the pandemic. Now, he lets her talk all night.

    Have 9 Minutes to Read? - Why Teens May Never Be the Same After the Pandemic

    Here’s a link to the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/us/teens-coronavirus-coping-wellness-trnd/index.html

    Have 5 Minutes to Read? - Opportunity to Serve Others Now (Wednesday Bag Lunch - details)

    This past week we’ve been in touch with families wishing there was something they could do to alleviate some of the suffering and also just to have a good reason to get out of the house.  At the same time, we’ve been in touch with our friends at Sausalito Presbyterian Church who’ve been hosting our hot lunch program about their needs going forward.  Since many of their volunteers are seniors and considered “at-risk” and many of the vendors who’ve been providing them with food have had to scale back service we thought you might be able to help in a small way.

    Further, the Marin Health and Human Services (our public health department) asked us to help so we could spread the word about COVID-19 best practices.  Since many in the homeless population place far more trust in churches than the government they’re hoping we can relay some information to protect that population with the meals we provide.  This is considered an “essential service.”

    This is what we need:

    • 1.  Brown Bag Lunch (in your bag please include)

      • * Peanut Butter and Jelly

      • * Thinly sliced deli meats and cheese

      • * Bananas, Oranges, Cuties

      • * Yogurts

      • * Hummus, Guacamole, etc

      • Soft foods such as:

      • *  Juice or Water

      • * Chips/Crackers are okay and appreciated

      • * Soft Cookies or other soft treats

    • 2.  Print and Drop the attached info into each bag            Flyer for Bag Lunch

    • 3.  Say a prayer for each bag

    • 4.  You’re also welcome to include:

      • *   An encouraging note

      • *  Sanitary supplies

    Feel free to make as many as you’d like.   We’ll be doing this every week for the foreseeable future.

    Special thanks to one of our high school adult leaders, Jeff Heely, who has volunteered to be at WPC  Wednesdays between 10:00am – 11:00am to collect and deliver all the bagged lunches.   If for some reason you need to reach Jeff Heely here you go: 

    What is a mission trip? - UPDATE COMING JUNE 16th

    Nothing spurs on a young person's spiritual journey like a mission trip. What is it???

    It's a 5-day trip we take annually where we serve the community during the day and bond as a group through fun and spiritual activities in the evening. Showers come at a premium (and usually with a time limit), we make and clean all our own meals, we sleep on the floor together, laugh together, sing together, play together, and simply grow together as a result of serving together. It may sound strange that paying money to work for someone else while "roughing it" would be the highlight of your summer, but time and time again, for the youth with us, it.

    We always want to present our mission trips as a cultural immersion program where our youth don't just serve but also get a change to learn from the community that we're in. We have built relationships with the people we serve and serve with over the past couple years. We have been asked to come back every year by every group! Your kids will get to pick which service project they want to be a part of (they might not get their first choice, but that's our goal). Some of the things we'll be doing are:

    •  - Upkeeping a community farm alongside the homeless

    •  - Serving at a soup kitchen

    •  - Playing and doing crafts with underprivileged children

    We'll also be taking time for play and fun, quiet reflection, debriefing as a group, and worshipping together. And, since we're in Santa Cruz we'll of course have to take a couple of hours at the beach and boardwalk. We really want to immerse our students in life in Santa Cruz, especially the parts they don't see while on vacation.

    Mission trips are the springboards in our youth ministry that lead our youth into deeper connections with their faith life. the best part is it happens naturally because of the connections they make with their adult leaders and each other. These relationships (with God, their leaders, and each other) are spurred on throughout the year leading our youth towards taking active roles in the church, community, friend groups, and schools. For most of our youth, their biggest growth begins in Santa Cruz!

    We've been in contact with our friends in Santa Cruz to figure out what's best for them this summer. When we plan our mission trips ti's with a 60/40 or 50/50 consideration of what's best for the community we're serving and what's best for our students. It's an imperfect balance but our heart is in serving the needy and serving youth.

    This summer we'll need you to be flexible and have an open mind.

    Based on the feedback we're getting from the people there, it's currently like a 50% chance the Middle School Mission Trip will take place on its current dates. If the sites we're working with happen to change their plans, we'll change ours.

    It's our goal to give you at least 20 days' notice of trip departure. In other words, if we say we're going to leave June 22nd, then we would let you know by June 2nd. With so much in flux I'm afraid that's the best we can do.

    We plan on serving the people of Santa Cruz if for no other reason that all our partners plan on and expect us to be there. We don't want to let the people of Santa Cruz down. We also recognize that each of you has a different situation. Some of you can'ta wait to give your child this opportunity while others of you would rather your child sit this one out. Please know, we are going to respect every family's decision.

    We will keep you posted. I welcome your feedback on this whatever it is.

    Jeff Shankle

    Office:  415-383-5272 x218

    Have 7 Minutes to Read? - Teaching Grace in the Home

    One of the central tenets of our faith that may differ from others is the idea that we don't really do anything to reach God. Rather, God comes to us. Regardless of how "religious" we are or how much we know about the Bible. Despite the mess we make of own lives and others, despite how often we disappoint ourselves or others, we are always loved. Through the Holy Spirit, God's presence is with us always. Even more, God wants to be there with us especially in the messiness.

    We call this grace.

    You and I might be able to appreciate the grace God gives. That we are loved by something so holy regardless of what we do or don't do, but it may be hard to instill this sort of thing in the heart (not just the mind) of a young person. We all know that our faith can't solely be taught. It has to be experienced.

    So how do we experience it in the home?

    Just say, "I'm sorry" to your teenager more. That's a great starting place.

    "I'm sorry for the tone of voice I used when I asked you about your homework."
    "I'm sorry that I misunderstood the conflict you were having with your brother and jumped to an unfair conclusion."
    "I'm sorry that I wasn't sensitive enough to how tired you were from soccer."

    In today's world our youth feel extraordinary pressures from all kinds of angles. We want them to know that their family is a safe place. And we hope that they are an example of grace to others.

    If you want to make your home a hub of grace, try the following:

    1. Keep your personal antennae up for times when your own fatigue causes you to speak unkindly to your kids.
    2. when you feel like you've wronged your kids, tell them that you're sorry and ask for their forgiveness. Say, "Is that okay?" or "Does that make sense?"
    3. Make sure you are quick to extend forgiveness to your kids when they need to do the same.


    Parents Corner - Middle School

    Middle school can be the most stressful and yet thrilling stage of a young person's journey to adulthood. Middle schoolers are growing in so many ways and are being given new opportunities for both success and trouble. There are 2 things we value that help inform all of what we do as church with middle schoolers:


    Relationships - We know that much of what is taught in church can be ambiguous. That's why it is so important for us to have well-equipped and screened volunteer adult leaders who spend time with middle schoolers in their world.  So while we offer strong programs on Sunday mornings and at other times, what drives our focus is the time we get to spend with middle schoolers over a burger and fries, at a movie, or simply cheering them on at the events that they're involved in. We not only want to teach the way of Jesus to our young people, we want to show them what it looks like in their world with support, care, and encouragement.


    Service - We think middle schoolers have gifts and passions that should be used in the church and the community. Our middle schoolers do everything from write material for our worship services that create whole interactive festivals to commemorate certain parts of the year. With so much creativity and energy our middle schoolers are very much an integral part of the entire worshipping community of Westminster.  They are also involved in the community through various service projects that take place throughout the year and an annual Spring Break mission trip. 
    Serving Others - Middle School
    Service projects for middle schoolers take place throughout the year. All are invited to participate. 


    Please check with Jeff for Serving Others activities.