What are you celebrating today? A raise? Winning the lottery? A newly renovated room for your preteens? The lesson that went perfectly last Sunday? Fifty preteens who committed their lives to Christ this week? Rapidly growing attendance? A waiting list of highly qualified volunteers? A church full of people who adore and encourage you? A sweet and peaceful family life? A whole day where you walked and talked with Jesus without slipping?
Yeah, me neither. I’d love to be celebrating any one of these things, but they’re just not likely to happen. Preteen ministry is the best ministry to be in, but it’s not always the highest priority. Preteens don’t sit still or cooperate instantly. They’re likely to move to junior high ministry and forget all about you. Preteen ministry is time consuming and you can get paid more working at the local fast food restaurant.
However, Scripture tells us to rejoice always (Phil. 4:4). How do you do this when your preteen boys are more interested in making gross body noises or your girls insist on texting through the lesson? How do you rejoice when you pour our heart and soul into planning an event and only a few kids show up? How do you celebrate when the junior high classroom is picked for renovations and you’re still meeting in a leftover room with nothing to draw kids in?
Perhaps we’re trying to celebrate the wrong things. Paul most likely penned the words about rejoicing while chained in a stinky, dirty prison. Yet, he celebrated. He celebrated wherever he was because he celebrated the risen Christ. He celebrated what God was doing.
I started thinking about this as I was planning our summer camp this year. Our theme was “Celebrate.” Each day, we picked a different celebration, like 4th of July, Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving, and New Years. What a fun theme! We could party all week, hand out gifts, eat fun food, sing, and celebrate! But as I was thinking about it, it seemed like the message should be more about celebrating no matter what. We’ve come to think that happiness and celebrations only come when times are happy and things are going well. But things don’t always go well—for us or for our students.
So, how can we celebrate every day of the year? We can celebrate God’s greatness. We can celebrate that God meets all of our needs. We can celebrate that God is with us, always. Look at your preteen ministry. How do you see God’s greatness and provision? Whether you feel God’s presence or not, is God with you? Is your preteen ministry yours or God’s? How is God feeling about His ministry? How is God feeling about you?
How about planning a celebration? Get a cake. Plop on some trick candles that won’t blow out. Celebrate what God is doing. Celebrate His great work in and around you. Blow out the candles and watch them reignite as a reminder that God’s light is never extinguished, nor is God’s loving-kindness, grace, mercy, or forgiveness. You can celebrate God every day of every year, no matter what else is happening.
No matter how many preteens show up this week, celebrate. No matter how you think your preteens are responding, celebrate. No matter how good or bad you think things are, celebrate. Celebrate God and what He is doing. As Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say, rejoice!”