Written by Nick Diliberto

How do you make your preteen ministry the highlight of your students’ week?

The answer isn’t cool curriculum, crazy games, engaging worship, creative messages, or any other “program” element that you can think of.

In order to answer that question, you have to go deeper. Your preteen ministry has to fill a craving deep in the heart of every preteen.

What is that craving and how do you fill it?

Every preteen has a desire to belong to a group that is bigger than themselves.

They want a feeling of “belonging” and “acceptance”.

They want to be a part of a group that has a purpose.

The need to belong to a group is one the reasons preteens love playing sports.

My son Joey is playing tackle football for the first time. Because he is a part of the team – he feels a sense of “belonging” and “acceptance”. He takes great pride that he is on the Miami Dolphins football team! As a football team, they have a purpose that is bigger than any one team member. Their purpose is to play football as a team – to score more touchdowns than the other team.

Sports and other activities preteens are involved in fill the need deep in the heart of preteens – the need to belong to a group bigger than themselves.

I like to call it a “group identity”.

Your preteen ministry can provide a “group identity” that is much more powerful than any sport or other activity a preteen is involved in.

The power of a “group identity” is what will motivate students to come to church every Sunday. They’ll never want to miss church!

So, how do you unlock the power of a group identity in your ministry? Here are three ways…

1. Create a group where preteens are accepted “as-is” and accept others as-is.

Often preteens don’t feel like they are accepted “as-is”. They pretend to be someone they aren’t just to get affirmation and acceptance from their peers.

Your preteen ministry can provide a place where preteens are celebrated for being themselves. A place they can take off the “masks”, just relax and be whoever they really are.

They need a place to be accepted, affirmed and valued by peers and other adult leaders.

When your ministry is a place where preteens are accepted “as is” and accept others “as-is” they never want to miss a Sunday. You’re beginning to unlock the power of a group identity…

Here’s the second way you can unlock the power of a group identity.

2. Create a group where preteens are “known” and “know others”.

So often, preteens have shallow relationships with others their age and other adults in their lives.

Preteens in your ministry want to be known. They want friends and other adult leaders who know their hopes, fears, dreams, crazy family lives, school problems, likes and dislikes. They want deep relationships with people who care about them.

Preteens also want to “know others”. They want to know what is going on in their friends’ lives. They want to know the good and the bad going on in others’ lives.

When preteens are “known” and “know others”, they identity with your ministry.

But there is one more thing you can do to unlock the power of group identity…

3. Create a group where preteens know and own the mission.

Jesus gives your student’s the mission to love God and serve others.

He wants them to enjoy a close friendship with God, the creator of the universe. He wants them to be “other focused” rather than “self focused”.

That’s their mission as followers of Jesus.

Preteens can go beyond knowing that mission. They can “own” it by actively being a part of the mission.

They can take steps throughout the week to grow closer to God. When at church, they can talk about their relationship with God…motivating and inspiring each other to keep their passion for Him alive.

Preteens can take on leadership roles within a preteen ministry. They can serve others at church by being greeters, small group facilitators, worship band members, run video and sound, help create and deliver messages, etc.

Preteens can help plan outreach events. They can come up with ideas on what to do and be a part of the logistics to pull off the event. All in an effort to serve others.

When preteens “know” and “own” your preteen’s mission, they’ll never want to miss church. Why? Because they have a role to play in loving God and serving others.

When you unlock the power of a group identity, the highlight of a preteens week will be coming to church!

How do you create a “group identity” in your preteen ministry? Leave a comment and share your ideas.

Written by Nick Diliberto, creator of PreteenMinistry.net.


  • Sherry
    5 years ago

    Excellent ! I am just starting a pre teen class….and this was quite helpful to “break the ice” this week !

  • Our church is a small church we don’t have many kids. We are lucky to have 30 people at church. In 2012 a 11 year old girl was baptized at the church because her great grandma went there. When I congratulated her I told her maybe she would be the start of a youth group. Now we have around 35 kids who come on a Wednesday night for food love and community projects to do. Hardly any of them attend church nor do their parents. Yet they still come and bring their friends. We have 3 to 4 volunteers who help. Our kids range from 5 years old to 18 as many have to bring their siblings. God has blessed us with the kids coming and ability to keep going. I would love to see them attend church and their parents to get involved. Something that is constantly on my prayer list.

    • Melissa, we will agree with you in prayer that this comes to pass and these young children will start attending church along with their parents and be involved in the activities. When God is the center families are stronger.

  • This was very helpful. I have one boy who will blurt out things like, “You’re fat” or “I don’t like you” to other kids. He is the associate pastor’s son. Any ideas on how to handle this? We correct him in front of everybody but I feel like he’s doing damage to kids who are really struggling.
    We have been teaching on the body of Christ and loving one another but we only see them once a week.

    • We are so glad that you found this helpul. I think the best way to handle the situation is to keep showing him love and talking with him when he does these things. As leaders, we can only do so much with the time that we have with the kids. We will keep you all in prayer.