Written by Nick Diliberto

Back in 1998, I started the first preteen ministry at my church with a handful of students and volunteers. Within a few years, it grew to 150 preteens and impacted hundreds of young people’s lives.

At the time I was overseeing 1st-3rd grade (elementary) and 4th-6th grade (preteen). Nearly ten years later I transitioned out of full-time ministry for about a year and a half. I was honored to see two volunteers, who had been on our team for years, step up to the plate. One led the elementary ministry, and the other led the preteen ministry. This continued on for years. In fact, one of them continues to oversee the Children’s Ministry now.

The rest of the volunteer team was in great shape. We even had a good number of guy volunteers in our preteen ministry who stayed with us for a really long time.

I was proud of the team that was built and humbled to see the ministry flourish long after my departure.

We all want to build a dream team of leaders who collectively work together to impact the lives of kids and preteens.

The big question is…


All I can do is tell you what I did. And in my experience, these suggestions work in children’s, preteen, and youth ministry.

So, here goes…


You’ll always be recruiting new people. It never ends. So, always have your antenna up. Look for volunteers inside and outside your peer group. Look for the young and the old.

Build a  reputation of excellence in your ministry. Over time, people will see what you’re doing and want to be a part of something great.


If you haven’t developed a training program, then start now.

Share the vision, mission, values, and practices of your ministry with your team.

Provide job descriptions and hold training sessions equipping them with ways to do their job more effectively.

Give them the “how to” of their assigned position, and you’ll set them up for success.


Once trained, pair the recruit with a coach. It could be yourself or another team member.

A coach is someone who has the same job description that the new recruit observes in a ministry setting.

The coach basically says, “watch what I do.”

It is a good idea to debrief after each session in order to help the new volunteer process why certain situations were handled as they were.

The coach will also work through the next two steps with the recruit.


At some point, it is time for the new team member to be released. They need to spread their wings, make some mistakes, and have some fun with kids and students.

Now, don’t throw them out to the wolves all alone. Make sure the coach is close by monitoring them and if necessary, ready to step in for a save.


As the coach watches the new team member, it’s a good idea to do a quick debrief afterward. A quick meeting where the coach gives feedback on the positives and negatives can be really helpful. I suggest a period of time (2-3 months) where the coach monitors a new team member before completely releasing them.


Take every opportunity to encourage and thank your volunteers. Keep the vision alive in their hearts. Take time to talk with a team member who is walking through a tough time in life. Watch for burnout and give them a break when needed. Nurture your volunteers so they hang around for the long haul.


One of the primary reasons volunteers stay for a long period of time is due to the relationships they develop. So, provide opportunities for your team to connect with each other. Go out to eat, watch a movie, play putt-putt, watch a football game, or go shopping together. Find out activities your team enjoys doing and plan some outings!


Lead your team. Cast vision, communicate the ministry’s values and keep the team focused on established goals. Leadership is one of your primary functions, so educate yourself on it as much as possible. Read books, attend conferences, etc.


Following these suggestions will pay off in the long run. Be persistent and you’ll reap the rewards of your hard work. There is no greater satisfaction than developing a winning team who persistently and consistently makes a difference in the lives of the next generation!

– Nick Diliberto, Preteen Ministry

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