(Also, be sure to check out "How to Help Preteens Follow Jesus" below).


As previously mentioned, if you want to effectively point preteens to Jesus, then it’s important to first understand the quirky preteen brain.
Because once you do, you’ll be able to effectively communicate what it means to follow Jesus.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check this out:
(On the same page, we also give away for free 14 awesome preteen games.)
But, that’s only the first step.
Once they “know it”, how do you get them to “own it” and follow Jesus in their everyday lives?
That’s the question we’ll tackle here.
First of all, it’s important to understand where preteens are in their spiritual development.
#1 - Preteens are capable of “owning” their relationship with Jesus.
It’s important you get this point, and an analogy might be helpful.
My friends over at FourFiveSix came up with an illustration that works perfectly.
It’s called “Letting Go”.
I remember being about 8 years old when I first rode a bike without training wheels. I was way behind most of my friends the same age. They had been riding a bike for quite some time.
One day I was over at a friend’s house, and one of my dad’s friends was there. His name was Junior. He looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “Today you’re going to ride a bike without training wheels, and I’m going to help you!”
I said, “Ok”. I took the training wheels off but was really nervous!
I jumped on my bike. He grabbed the back of my shirt. My dad was right behind me next to Junior. I started pedaling faster and faster while Junior was holding me up from behind. My dad was cheering me on.
Junior got up to a full sprint, and then gave me a big push.
I somehow managed to stay up. I could feel the wind rushing in my face. I couldn’t believe I was still on two wheels and let out a big shout as loud as I could. Junior and my dad were close behind cheering me on.
I kept pedaling all the way down the block, and then fell over. I jumped up and gave Junior and my dad a big high five. They gave me a huge hug and congratulated me.
I was elated that I could ride my bike all on my own. It was so awesome!
All I needed was someone to believe in me. I also needed someone to “let go”. Thankfully, Junior and my dad were there to do both for me.
The preteen years are when the training wheels of faith need to be taken off. Preteens are no longer children. It’s time for 4th-6th graders to grab hold of the “handlebars” of the faith in Jesus and “own it”.
Yes, it is possible for preteens to “own” their relationship with Jesus. They’re ready and willing.
They’re capable of..
Taking steps to nurture a relationship with God on their own.
Paying attention to what God is doing in and around them.
Developing habits like prayer, worship, Bible reading, etc.
The problem is that preteen and youth ministry leaders often unintentionally get in the way of this process.
As a result, when students graduate high school they stop coming to church. They stop following Jesus.
We don’t want this to happen.
3. In order for preteens to own their relationship with Jesus, we need to “let go”.
Our job is to create an environment for God to move in their lives.
We can’t force them or make them “own it”. We simply give them opportunities to do so.
Back to bike analogy.
Junior and my dad had to “let go” of me. They had to allow me to ride the bike on my own. However, it was important they stayed close by in case I fell and to give me encouragement.  
As preteen leaders, we need to “let go” of the preteens in our ministry.
We can’t treat them like kids in children’s ministry. That would be like keeping the training wheels on.
"Letting go" means our #1 job is to create an environment for God to move in the lives of students.
Then, to help them recognize what God is doing in their lives and in the lives of those around them.
You’re letting go, but staying close by to help them in their faith journey.
When it comes to “letting go”, here's another analogy that might be helpful.
4. You’re a coach, not a teacher.
A coach gives guidance, encouragement and equips you to succeed in the game.
But ultimately, the coach sits on the sidelines while you’re in the game.
A teacher communicates information to his/her students and expects that information to be remembered.
Most preteen ministry leaders think their role is to be a teacher. That’s not the case.
I’m not saying to avoid teaching preteens. A coach does “teach” his players. You should teach preteens about God, the Bible, and Jesus.
But a coach helps his players put into action what he/she teaches. That’s the ultimate goal. Players will take what the coach taught, and then do it.
Usually, it’s not done right the first time. It takes a little more guidance from the coach and practice from the player.
The same is true in preteen ministry.
As you give students opportunities to pray, hear God’s voice, share their faith with friends, worship, etc…
…they might not be perfect at it.
But the more they do it and get encouragement from leaders, the more natural it will become.
Now, you might ask…
What does it look like to be a “coach”? How exactly do you “let go” in preteen ministry? Glad you asked.
Here’s the answer.
#5 - Look for ways to “let go” by asking, “How can I let go and empower preteens to take ownership?”
When it comes to the “how to” of “letting go”, there is no cookie cutter approach that works for everyone.
However, here a few ways to do it.
After a teaching, give students time to reflect on the message.
Allow them a moment to hear God speak to them.
How can they apply what was taught in their lives?
You can do something as simple as giving them a postcard and asking them to write down one truth that stuck out to them most, while playing worship music in the background.
Then, break up into small groups and have everyone share what they wrote down on the post cards.
In this moment, you’re “letting go” and allowing students to hear from God.
You’re empowering them to focus on one truth from the lesson that was the most meaningful.
Although you’re “letting go”, you’re right there beside them offering guidance and encouragement.
Do Something
Another way of “letting go” is to do an activity of some sort that challenges students to “do something” after a lesson.
For example, I once did a message on Evangelism. Afterwards, I handed out post-it notes to everyone and instructed students to write down the name of at least one friend (more if possible) who didn’t know Jesus.
When everyone was done, students found a random place on the wall to stick their post-it note.
They were then instructed to find a random post-it note and pray for the name written on it.
I challenged students to be praying for the name on that post-it note throughout the week. I also told them to be praying for the name they wrote down on their post-it note.
I encouraged them to look for opportunities to invite their friends to church and share the message of Jesus.
This activity put preteens in the driver's seat. They didn’t just listen to a message and then talk about it. They actually did something with the message.
A Call to Action & Follow Up
Another way of “letting go” is to give preteens a call to action, and then follow-up.
For example, let’s say you did a message on doing random acts of kindness.
After the message, you challenge students to do one random act of kindness by the next time you meet.
Then, the following week students are given an opportunity to share, in small groups, the random act of kindness they did.
Some students probably didn’t do anything. But odds are some did. And those preteens will inspire the others to take action.
This is yet another example of “letting go” in action.
Give Students Ownership of the Preteen Ministry
Preteens are ready to serve. Your job is to give them the opportunity to do so.
Here are some ways to do this:
Allow students to help plan and organize events.
Designate certain preteens to be discussion starters in small group. Their role is to help get the conversation started and continue moving throughout small group.
Allow students to sign up for the A/V team and/or greeting team. The A/V team handles all the audio/visual components throughout the preteen service. The greeters are in charge of check-in and making newcomers feel welcomed.
Give preteens an opportunity to choose an upcoming event and/or series topic.
Have students give input on the design of your preteen room.
These are just a few examples.
The basic idea is to always ask yourself this question: How can I let go and empower preteens to take ownership?
It’s so important for leaders to “let go” so preteens can begin to “own” their relationship with God.
If you found this helpful, be sure to share this with the volunteers in your preteen ministry.
I just wanted to let you know that something cool is coming soon.
I’ve been working on a special project that you’re going to be really excited about.
If you’ve enjoyed all these freebies and “mini-trainings”, you’re going to love this.
I’ll give you a hint: The project allows you to hit an “easy button” when “understanding the quirky preteen brain” and “letting go” .
More details coming soon.
Nick Diliberto, Preteen Ministry