We see a lot of churches spending time and energy to provide the preteen group with the latest technology, creating the most incredible games and activities and ensuring that everything is slick, cool and up-to-date. We spend a lot of time trying to keep current with the latest trends for preteens. But we have to ask, how much do these things really matter?
While almost any preteen would say those elements are critical, are they really the top priority? Are they what preteens want and need MOST?
Maybe a couple more questions will help answer those… Why do we see a mob of preteens a the mall on any Saturday afternoon? What is it that makes so many young teens want to join gangs? What are these kids looking for?
Preteens need relationships.
The need to experience authentic relationship is real for all of us…at any age. God himself said it was not good for Adam to be alone (Genesis 2:18). In the preteen, we see this need expressed at the mall! The more our families break down, the less time we spend with our kids, the fewer friends kids find in our neighborhoods and churches, the more our kids are drawn to the “mall mentality”…or worse. What can we do?
Create “family” at church.
Creating a relationship-based ministry is priority #1 for preteens. And small groups are a powerful way to create space for these relationships to be built…both between leader and preteen and between the preteens themselves.
I’m not saying to skip the tech equipment, but get the foundation set first. Make sure you have the meat of the ministry – adult leaders. While many churches struggle with recruiting workers to “teach” (this word frightens the best of us), willing workers can be found who will be small group leaders.
Define this job as “hanging out with, talking to, and loving preteens.” The small group leader’s goal is to create a surrogate family for a group of five to eight 10- to 14-year olds. Any loving adult who is willing to spend time listening to kids can succeed at this ministry!
Jesus himself is our model: “Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them…” (John 3:20).
(This is a reposting of an article originally appearing on this site.)