Preteen ministry is perfectly perched—in the middle of the learning progression between elementary and teenager. It truly is an emerging ministry. We’re perfectly perched to make a difference in our students’ lives and in the direction of our ministry. This perfect perch, however, isn’t completely perfect. Winds of change can be precarious. Lack of resources make for shaky limbs. We’ve been keeping an eye out for resources that can help steady the perch and give encouragement in the winds of change.
There have been many conversations about what to call students in the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade range. At fourfivesix, we prefer to call them preteens. Others call them tweens. We’ve toyed with postkids. We like students, too, but that’s too broad. Whatever the terminology, they’re at a unique stage. They’re no longer kids and they’re not quite teens. This provides great opportunities for us. We can and should be an interested part of children’s ministry. We also can and should be an interested part of student ministry. Perching on this fence means we should listen and learn from both arenas. We’re part of a perfect ministry for helping students make the giant leap from children’s ministry to student ministry. If we’re doing our job well, there shouldn’t be the big dip in attendance in junior high.
Know where your students are coming from and going to. Study both worlds. (Tell your pastor you need double the conference budget for this reason!) We in preteen ministry are blessed because we can benefit from both worlds. We can also be a benefit to both worlds.
How can we do this, though? If you missed the Preteen Leaders Conference in Indiana in April, go to the website to find some cool resources. Children’s Pastors’ Conference, KidMin, and Youth Specialties are all offering great sessions at their conferences this year, specifically focused on preteen ministry. (There are undoubtedly more conferences, but these are the ones we know about.) Check out their websites to see all of the opportunities! Go with your co-workers from either children’s or student ministries. Engage in conversations to learn more about the kids and students at your church, as well as build relationships with key people who will be sending or receiving your students.
SuperStart! is a fantastic opportunity where you can join your preteens for a two-day faith experience that will be the highlight of their year. If you haven’t checked this out, you should. It’s designed with preteens in mind and will do much to grow your students and your ministry. They have an easy-to-use, informative website that will get you excited.
While there are not the vast resources for preteen specific ministry as there are for children’s or student ministries, both of these worlds provide great print and online resources. Ask your co-workers for their recommendations. There are pioneers in preteen ministry who provide great resources, too. Have you checked out the fourfivesix.org or preteenministry.net websites? There’s plenty of info there. There are some fantastic blogs about preteen ministry, also. Check out jcisonline.com or mattmo.org. And, don’t forget to browse the curriculum websites, too. Reading is always a good idea. You’re doing it right now! Kuddos to you! There’s great info in every KidzMatter Magazine issue on every page. Do your Google search to discover even more print and online resources.
The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) has done some great research and posted it on their website. Look especially at their page called “This We Believe.” It contains an excellent summary of lots of research they’ve done. Two of my current favorite books are Jesus Centered Youth Ministry by Rick Lawrence (just re-released and updated) and Artificial Maturity by Tim Elmore.
If you love preteens and your ministry, join the movement! Perching is great, but soaring is a whole new level … and so much more thrilling! Attend a conference and talk to one of the presenters about how you can become a catalyst. Join one of the conversations about preteen ministry online. Listen, learn, and contribute. Return to your perch when you need to. Reflect on how blessed we are to be part of this fabulous, caught-in-the-middle, life-changing ministry. Collect new resources. Network with some new friends. Rest. Spend time with God. Then, take off again. We have an almost perfect perch, a completely perfect God, and a pretty perfect moment in time.