“What I learned about marriage from middle schoolers”

Wednesday night is middle school night.

What that means is that Wednesdays at the church I find myself surrounded by 30+ middle school students who are all taking in unhealthy amounts of caffeine, sugar and junk food (I should probably start offering a salad bar instead of pizza, pop and candy). Week to week there is no telling what Wednesday will be like. Some weeks I feel like a zookeeper who accidentally left the displays open and is now trying desperately to chase down the freed animals. But other weeks, I find myself in over my head with the brutal honesty of the students as they share openly about their life.

Last night was the latter.

The topic this week was marriage. Why teach marriage to 12 year olds? Because more and more I am finding out that people are getting married only to realize no one has ever shared with them how God designed it to work. So we start young at 4:12. Middle schoolers and marriage.

Few topics I preach have a stronger impact than relationships, family, and marriage. Nothing cuts deeper to the heart of a middle school student than hearing what a marriage ought to be and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is not his or her experience. The pain of hurting marriages is pervasive in our student ministry.

We broke up into small groups last night and I had a group of 6 middle school boys. We have 30 minutes for discussion and we barely got past the first question: “Where have you seen a poor example of marriage?”

I was stunned as one by one, 5 of the 6 boys shared devastating stories of their families, their parents, and what they have gone through. Few things are harder as a youth pastor than telling students that marriages are a gift from God; because they so desperately want to believe it, but their life experiences won’t allow them to.

We finished our time together by praying, I sat back and listened as each boy awkwardly stumbled through his words as these middle school students prayed for their own parents, and the parents of their friends.

Children praying for their parent’s marriages. So beautiful and so broken as the same time.

I see brokenness in the fact that parents ought to be leading the charge, setting the example, and discipling their children.

But I see beauty in how God redeems even the most difficult situations and is willing to use a 12 year old to glorify himself and set a Godly example.

I am not a parent, and I don’t pretend to be an expert on marriage either. In fact it is generally uncomfortable for me to give advice in these areas. But I am on the front lines of the lives of students, especially those students whose lives are being shaped by their parent’s marriage.

While concluding one of the most prominent New Testament passages on marriage, the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Marriage is a gift from God, meant to display the love Christ has for his people. Marriage is about the gospel. Yes it is a mystery, it is difficult, and it is confusing…but marriage should be gospel-centered. 

Your marriage should be teaching your kids the gospel.

Children are meant to see their parent’s marriage and see the love, forgiveness, and commitment that Jesus Christ has for us, his people.

Just as Christ loved, pursued, and cared for us in the midst of our rebellion and imperfection, so marriages ought to be centered on selfless love, continual pursuit, and constant care through trial, tribulation, sin and suffering.

Parents, you need not have a perfect marriage, but you must have a gospel-centered marriage. This is the greatest gift you can give your children.