This year I have spoken with over 100 preteen leaders from around the United States and Canada. In each conversation I found that they all had one thing in common: an approach to preteen ministry as unique as the individual.
I am blessed to serve in a church that acknowledges preteens as a vital ministry in the church. They recognize the distinct characteristics of this age group and show support by giving resources. Our preteen ministry has its own staff, budget, and space on campus. We have developed a ministry model that is running effectively for our church and the preteens who attend. We approach this age group with the same desire that we have for our church people—helping students and families move towards authentic Christian living. This fleshes itself out in many ways but some of our staples are large group weekend services, mid-week small groups, winter and summer camps, a mission experience, and outreach events throughout the year. There is no perfect formula for preteen ministry, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach that can be implemented. The key to successfully ministering to preteens is finding out what the needs are in your church and then meeting them with a plan, creativity, and excitement.
Perhaps your church has preteens included in the children’s ministry. Maybe they are placed within the student ministries department. Or, maybe your preteens have a place all their own. Regardless of what umbrella of ministry your preteens are placed under, they are there. You have preteens! Most churches have not yet thought through a strategic plan for preteens or are just starting to. Remember they are under your care, they are sitting through your services, and they need you to notice them and meet them where they are.
Countless studies have been done on preteens, their brain development, physical changes, and even how they grow spiritually. But, the question is, have you studied your preteens? Are you meeting their specific needs in your church? Many times I’ve seen preteens disengaged in a church setting, because their specific needs are not being met. One of the biggest mistakes is treating them as young children or, on the other end of the spectrum, expecting them to grow up too quickly. I hope that regardless of where your church has placed this sometimes-awkward age group that you will be intentional in ministering to them. We are all a bit different, but we have the same end goal—leading people closer to our Creator.
Over the past few years there has been a wave swelling in the area of preteen ministry, and I believe it’s only going to surge in the coming years. More and more buzz is surrounding this age group, evidenced by a growing number of resources, both online and in print. Authors, bloggers, and publishers are finding value in accommodating the particular needs in leading these students. And, studies show that this age group is in a prime time to develop a lifetime commitment.
God placed you in your church with your methods to lead your preteens. Lead them well no matter how you go about it. Lead these students into the presence of God. Speak truth to them in a way they will not only understand, but in a way that draws them closer to the heart of Christ. Acknowledge where they are and create a ministry that is tailored for them. A well-crafted and planned ministry will not only motivate students to participate, but will result in life change.