Jean Grasso Fitzpatrick, author of Something More, suggests several questions that parents should ask before placing their child into your ministry. We’ve adapted these questions for those working with preteens and the families of preteens:
[Q:] Are the leaders and teachers friendly and loving? While many youth workers are totally absorbed in the program for teenagers and give little attention to other family members, parents of these younger kids expect the preteen worker to be approachable for both the student and his parent.
[Q:] Do leaders appear happy to be working with kids this age? Parents of preteens are entering a period of family life that can be difficult and stressful. They want to know that the church leaders love their child, even on days they’re not sure they do!
[Q:] Are the workers trained to work with preteens? Preteen ministry is not where the “leftover” volunteers should get assigned. This team needs to have a balance of energetic young leaders, experienced older parents, and adults who truly understand the developmental characteristics and needs of early adolescents.
[Q:] Will my child get affirmed for participating? Many preteens begin to fight their parents over church attendance. After all, if they aren’t “fitting in” they don’t want to come. Leaders can help bring peace by being warm and welcoming when each and every child arrives.
[Q:] Is the goal of this ministry one that will encourage my child’s spiritual development? Yes, the preteens want fun, activity and relationships. But their parents are frightened about the coming teen years and want to know that their preteen is getting solid spiritual nurture that will continue preparing their son or daughter for the coming teen years and beyond.
[Q:] Will I, as a parent, be informed of the happenings of the group? While the youth department may not send home information, preteens have little concept of time, priorities, scheduling and the future. These parents are still the chauffeurs and still in charge of the family calendar; they need to receive the information from you, because their child will not bring it home.
And, perhaps the most significant question for everyone:
[Q:] Does it seem that my son or daughter would find a good friend in this group? Parents know that if their child doesn’t make a friend, he or she won’t be attending. There needs to be regular, structured activities that provide enough freedom for the peer-focused preteen to have social interaction and enough structure to help the socially insecure preteen feel safe.
Check back tomorrow, as I continue this series on preteens and their families. For more extensive articles, see Preteen Ministry Smart Pages (available at a discount from resources@kidZatheart.org). Articles contained in this book may be legally reproduced as you reach out to parents or train preteen workers.