Why we do missional communities for high school students and not for middle school:
This has to do simply with the age of the students and where they are at in their development. Generally middle school students, as Jean Piaget would classify them, are still in a “concrete operational” stage. This means that they can think and process concrete objects and events that they observe. Because of this middle school students tend to learn and grow best when surrounded by a large group of peers. When middle school students are able to share a common experience or event they are able to process the concrete things that they observed in the experience or event. This is why props, skits, tangible worship experiences, and visual lessons play such a crucial role in a middle school student’s spiritual growth (definitely not underplaying the relational aspect that middle school students need to have with leaders at this age – it is probably more important for middle school students to be in relationships with those older than them than for high school students). So, with that being said, usually a relational structure that has these concrete tangibles in them tend to have the most “success” with the middle school age.
Now, with high school students, Jean Piaget would put them in the developmental category he calls “Formal Operational.” This means that at this age students are able to process abstract ideas, theories, and hypotheses that are presented to them. This generally takes place in more of a discussion/conversation oriented environment. Therefore, the missional community setting fits great with this. Because such a big part of student missional communities are discussions about what God is speaking/doing in our lives it fits perfectly with helping the students process the things they are wrestling with in their journey with God.
In fact, we are finding that they are starting to thrive more in the “Social Space” (20-50 people aka Missional Community size) and even “Personal Space” (3-12 people), as Edward T. Hall labels it. Whereas, at the middle school age, they tend to thrive more in the Public Space setting.
High school students tend to be over the skits and games (for the most part). They want the conversations about life and about God as they try to figure out who they are and who God is calling them to be. Also, they want to feel the sense of purpose in their life. The MISSION within the missional community gives the high school student some of that purpose that they are looking for.
So, based on trial and error and various theories we have read such as Hall and Piaget we have found that doing missional communities for the high school students has been the most effective.