An incredible trend is developing across our country. Kids are getting involved in meaningful ways and are seeking to change their worlds. “It’s easy for typically self-centered [preteens and young teens] to think of no one other than themselves from dawn till dusk – and then dream about themselves at night. Ironically, these most self-centered individuals find huge satisfaction in helping other people. They just need a little nudge.” Today’s preteens want to make a difference.
Our job is to challenge our students by giving them opportunities to explore missions firsthand. We need to create an interest in missions!
Involve preteens with teen missions projects. Preteens want to do anything that the teens are doing. So expose them to good role models by getting them involved in supporting your youth group’s members as they prepare for a missions trip. One church has the preteen department host a spaghetti dinner in order to raise funds for the high school’s missions trip. The older youth recognize and thank their preteen supporters in church when they return from their outreach.
Expose preteens to interesting missionaries…and only interesting missionaries. Not every person called to the field is gifted to work with children. Don’t bore your students by parading every visiting missionary through your preteens department. Be selective and help each guest prepare by suggesting he or she share hands-on artifacts, cultural snacks or games that are common to the foreign field.
Connect preteens with real kids. One way to hook kids’ interest is to have them financially support a child through a ministry designed to reach children their age, like KidZ at Heart International (kidzatheart.org), or a relief agency like Compassion International, Food for the Hungry, “Operation Christmas Child” through Samaritan’s Purse, or Reach International.
Another way is to help your students get to know kids just like themselves who are serving with their families on the mission field. Have your kids send care packages, including tapes of favorite shows or new Christian groups, and of course, favorite foods not available on the field. Throw a party for the missionary family when they return home for visits. And have your students correspond with their peers, especially on birthdays and holidays.
Join me this week at the FourFiveSix conference in Rocklin, California!
The FourFiveSix Preteen Leaders Conference is coming: April 18-20 in Rocklin, CA. And we hope to see you there!
 Mark Oestreicher, Help! I’m a Preteen High Youth Worker! (Youth Specialties, 1996).
 Gordon & Becki West, Preteen Ministry Smart Pages (Gospel Light, 2005).