How to Equip Preteens to Own Their Ministry

Kissie-PoohWritten by Kathie Phillips

As we were looking to launch a Preteen Ministry this past September, it was very important to me that we allowed the preteens themselves to speak into what they’d like to see and experience. We wanted them to have ownership in their ministry.

One way that we did this was allowing them to vote on the name of the ministry.  I provided them with a list of 5 choices and they cast their vote on their favorite name. (We did this for two consecutive Sundays so that we could have as many children as possible be included in this process.)

Another way that we encouraged ownership amongst the preteens was to conduct focus groups. Our launch planning team (consisting of myself, a few of our current 4th and 5th grade leaders and a few parents) devised a list of 9 questions that the preteens would be asked.

Here is how we ran our focus groups:

  • Our church offers 2 service times, and since we provide programming for preteens at both services, we ran a focus group discussion at each hour in lieu of class time.
  • We decided to run our focus groups on the same Sunday that our outgoing 5th graders were meeting with our Middle School Director. We offered our focus group for rising 4th and 5th graders, since they would be involved in our newly launched Preteen Ministry.
  • We paired up 2 adult leaders with each group – a male and a female.  We wanted each sex to feel comfortable expressing their opinions.
  • We provided our leaders with a Moderator Packet so that they would be familiar with how things would run, guidelines for leading a discussion and the questions they’d be asking the preteens.
  • We served food.  We kept is simple by providing donut holes and juice.  This simple gesture provided a more relaxed atmosphere for the children.
  • We planned to run the groups indoors but because it was a beautiful day outside, our leaders took the kids outside and sat under a tree.  It provided a great, comfortable atmosphere for sharing.
  • The very last question that we asked was, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?”  We had them jot down on a note card so that they could do so openly and anonymously.  The reasoning behind this question was that we wanted to see what topics were on the children’s hearts.  (This helped us select the curriculum topics that we covered this year.)

Overall, the focus group concept was a great way to involve the preteens in the ministry that we were launching for them.  We wanted to know their likes, dislikes and preferences.  They were glad to be a part of the process and have seen remarkable ownership as a result.

About Kathie Phillips: Kathie felt called to Children’s Ministry at the age of 13. She is the Associate Director of Children’s Ministry at Central Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to overseeing Route 45 (Preteen Ministry for 4th & 5th graders), she also oversees The Treehouse (for 1st – 3rd graders). Married to Lance and mom to Daniel and Kennedy, Kathie shares practical tips and inspiration for kidmin leaders each week on her blog,

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