At our Wednesday night preteen experience each week we challenge preteens to “Move Beyond the Ordinary, to Live Life Extraordinary.” This phrase shapes what we do each week as we seek to help preteens understand more about God and enter into a growing relationship with Him. Over the course of many brainstorming sessions, several of my key leaders and I came up with this phrase. We thought it would challenge the ideas that many preteens have about going to church and following Jesus. Our goal is after teaching preteens about the extraordinary life God has for them, they would grasp the understanding that God is writing an extraordinary story and they are part of it. When we asked preteens about what went on during their week, we didn’t want to continue hearing answers like, “boring” or “I don’t know.” We wanted them to get on board and let God do extraordinary things through them. Our hearts’ desire is to see them live out the exciting, extraordinary story that God calls them to be a part of.
Kids of all ages love stories. They are drawn in by the exciting adventures, memorable heroes and detestable villains. God’s Word is full of these type of stories that can draw kids in and leave them wanting more. Many of the preteens I work with have grown up hearing the stories of the Bible. While many others hear them for the first time and take them as just another cool fairytale. A few weekends ago, my wife taught the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to a group of preteens. They were engaged with the story of three men who stood up for what was right in the face of death, were thrown into a fiery furnace, and through God’s power lived to tell the tale. At the end of the story she paused and said. “And the coolest part of this story, is that it is true!” One preteen spoke out with a sarcastic and questioning “Really?” This question is all too common with the preteens I work with. At this age, they are starting to ask different questions about the Bible and the events in it. No longer are they content to just take the story as truth. They are working through doubts about what they really believe to be true about God and His Word. I believe at the heart of these questions, preteens are really asking, not only is this all true, but what in the world does this have to do with me?
With these questions in mind, we need to shape how we teach preteens to address where they are in their spiritual formation. They are at an age where they are ready to take this faith on as their own, if they have the right support and guidance. I believe that when it comes to teaching the Bible to preteens it is vital for them to understand that the Bible is not just full of stories, but it is God’s Story. They need to understand that the Bible is the meta-narrative of God redeeming His people back to Him. They need to understand how Noah relates to Abraham and how Joseph relates to Moses, and how all of the stories that they have heard are God working through His people to accomplish His plan of redemption.
They also need to understand that the story doesn’t stop when they close God’s Word, but that God is actively writing this story in their own lives. Giving context to these stories within the Bible itself helps preteens to see the bigger story. They can begin to see how it impacts their lives right now. Preteens need to know that the stories in God’s Word are true, and He is writing them into that story.
Once preteens grasp that they are part of the story, we can start to show them that every time they walk onto their school campus, or go to their sports games, or even play in their neighborhood, that they are walking into another epic adventure with a deeper storyline. They have the opportunity to fight, and love, and learn alongside the mightiest Hero of all time—Jesus! When they understand their part in the BIG story that God is writing, they move beyond the ordinary of everyday life and start to live the extraordinary life that God has called them to.