I've been going over the notes from this years middle school pastor's summit. This is a gathering of full time middle school pastors that discuss important issues facing teenagers. I always read the notes and get something out of it.
One thing that caught my attention from this years summit was not one of the main topics of discussion, but I think it is very important to consider. There was a disagreement, a very minor disagreement over what to call teenagers. One youth pastor called them students, but the expert that the summit people brought in (Christian Smith) said not to call them that.
Christian said this because, #1 our primary work does not take place in a school, it takes place in a church. #2 If we call them students, we subtly reinforce the idea that teenagers identity is wrapped up in their performance. This is because a student can pass or fail a class. They can do well or they can do poorly. So if someone is not a good student they can think that they are not a good person or a person without value.
I realize that in the big picture this doesn't seem like a big deal, but since we are called, lift STUDENT ministries, I just thought it should be something to think through. I also realize that we started calling them students because they didn't like being called kids. I'm going to casually ask a few high schoolers and middle schoolers how they feel about different ways of being addressed.
For now, when I refer to them, I'll just call them "you guys." That sounds loving right?