PRETEEN MINISTRY ESSENTIALS

The following material is based on experience and some of it has been written about in book set called Preteen Launchables by Group Publishing. I recommend this book set because it is bar none the best published material about preteen ministry. I reinforce concepts from it as well as add my own thoughts and ideas. This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything that a preteen program needs and it is in no particular order. But they are essential to a successful program.

1. Fun
Having an element of fun in your program attracts preteens. Without it, you’ll bore them out of their minds! With it they’ll keep coming back again and again.

2. God experiences
Preteens deep down crave God and want to experience Him. They’re ready and mature enough to have experiences that draw them near to God. Give them opportunities to serve in the community, go on mission trips, and worship God. Consider doing a worship night every couple of months (see events page for more more details).

3. Food
If you’re group is small, provide snacks for them. If it is big, maybe open a snack bar charging a small amount for candy, chips, etc. Preteens love food. I remember a skinny preteen boy one day at the water park who ate a hot dog, nachos, two hamburgers, and an ice cream cone for lunch. He was hungry! Preteens are rapidly growing and love food. You might not want to stuff them with junk, but offer some snacks or food at events, midweek services, etc.

4. Friends
Preteens need friends who are followers of Christ, so provide opportunities for them to connect with each other in your programming. They’re in transition in just about every area of their lives and having a positive peer group that carries on to their teen years can be very beneficial.

5. Creative messages
It has been said that preteens can’t sit still to hear a message or that it isn’t the best way for them to learn. I disagree. What’s going to happen when they go to youth or the adult service when that is the main way ideas are communicated? Prepare them now. Be creative and avoid boring lectures. Use Power Point, object lessons, video clips, drama, and anything else you can think of to spice up your messages. The communicator should be fun and energetic. Be quick and to the point. A time limit of 10-12 minutes is a good guideline. Don’t stop here though. Preteens need to not only hear the message, but experience it too.

6. Experiential learning
Stimulate their senses through movement, taste, touch, smell, discussion, etc. Give them an activity that reinforces the lesson. Have them go outside and discover figures in the clouds to reinforce God’s creation or mankind’s uniqueness. Cook a bag of popcorn at the beginning of the class and fill the room with the delicious smell. But don’t give it to them till the end of class to reinforce delayed gratification or patience. Be creative and have fun. There are books out there that can help you, but some of the best ideas I’ve gotten were my own. As you go through life, look around and ask yourself what lessons can be taught from everyday objects. Ask yourself, “how can I get my students to experience the topic I’m teaching?” Unleash your creativity that you have lying inside of you.

7. Cool atmosphere
Preteens need a place to call their own. If possible designate a room specifically for them and make it preteen friendly. Come up with a theme and decorate it accordingly. For example, our 4th-6th Grade program is called Club 456 and the entire room looks like a street skateboard scene. Graffiti is spray painted on parts of the wall and skateboard guys hanging from the cieling.span> We also have video games in half-pipes with skateboard brand stickers on them, foosball tables, hockey tables, and a DDR station. We were worried that it was too boy friendly, so we built a girls section with couches, fuzzy pink chairs, and girlee magazines for them to read. On the coffee table near the couches are card games and other miscellaneous games to play. All of these items create a unique preteen feel. Also, newcomers love it too! If you don’t have a separate room for your preteens, try to get one. If you share one, be creative and think of ways to move decorations & games in and out of the room. If you don’t have money, then do fundraisers to get it. If your room and ministry is small, then start small with decorations and games.

8. Age targeted media
I don’t know if this one is critical to the health of a ministry, but it is important. And a lot of children’s ministries miss the mark with this one. I know in the past, we certainly have. We live in such a media driven society that having Power Point, video equipment, a website, etc. are all really important. First, make sure to have all that stuff. Use Power Point and video clips from popular movies to reinforce lessons. Create a website to enhance your effectiveness. If the ministry is new, then set goals to implement all of this stuff over time. Take baby steps. Second, realize that the graphic art needs to be somewhere in between Nickelodeon (nick.com) and Pac Sun (pacsun.com). Unfortunately, there are few good examples out there. Preteens emotionally connect to images. Like it or not, it is the world we live in. We want them to connect to our ministry and God, so make sure your media are preteen friendly. Educate yourself on preteens’ interest– movies, websites, clothes, etc. Ask them questions, observe them, or take surveys to find out what they like. Use those things to help you discover appropriate graphics. Find people in your church who are good at this type of stuff and delegate the responsibility to them.

9. Relational time
Give your preteens time to connect with each other. That is part of the reason why having a room with lots of stuff to play with is a good idea. They connect with others when they are engaged in these activities. We might not think they’re building relationships when they’re playing a video game or foosball, but they are. So, allow time in your programs for them to simply hang-out and play. But don’t stop there. Give them opportunities to connect in small groups, which can provide meaningful relationships with God and each other.

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