Imagine if God has called particular people in such a time as this to minister specifically to preteens to help them develop the knowledge and confidence needed to stand firm in their faith throughout junior high, high school, college, and as adults in the midst of an increasingly hostile culture! Imagine if they were armed for victory! Imagine if they were equipped to engage their world with love and truth and excited to live out their individual calling from the Lord! I have seen it happen, but it requires the intentional and often sacrificial investment of churches, parents, and leaders. Even then, there are no guarantees – but without it, few young people can effectively navigate the trials of life and avoid the pitfalls, lies, and deceptions with which they are targeted.
As many of us have heard, nearly 70 % of students brought up in the church walk away by adulthood (that figure does not include the majority of children in America who do not go to church). When I look upon the innocent faces of children, it breaks my heart that the world’s lies and deceptions will be successful in drawing many of them away from the relationship and life that their loving Creator has for them. My 27 years of ministering to kids has shown me that they can begin learning as infants in the Nursery and that they are capable of learning at a deeper level than has generally been offered in church curriculum. In the preteen years especially, students are beginning to think abstractly – allowing them to grasp complex issues when taught in engaging, interactive, & fun ways.
People who have have worked with preteens already know that they can be silly or serious, loud or quiet, tall or short, active or reserved, like to read out loud or hate to read out loud, enjoy competitive games or prefer low-key games, can blurt out thoughts or be irritated when others do, can think they already know everything about the Bible or feel that they do not know what the other kids do, can be uncomfortable or at ease, or anything in between. Across the board, preteens enjoy having fun, are easily distracted, and can become bored quickly. This can cause leaders to be intimidated or hesitant to minister to preteens and can cause some churches to move older preteens on to youth ministry because they are seen as a distraction to younger students and a challenge for teachers.
However, I believe that just as God calls particular people to minister to the nursery or preschoolers, younger elementary children, junior high, high school, college-age, adults, seniors, or a myriad of other groups or people – He has also called people to specifically minister to preteens. Sadly, in many churches, preteens have been undervalued, underestimated, and under-served. Prayerfully consider the following:
- What if they understood the Creation vs. Evolution debate having learned about recent scientific evidence that strongly supports the biblical account?
- What if they learned about logic and how to identify assumptions, circular reasoning, straw man arguments, etc.?
- What if they knew about geological, historical, zoological (including dinosaurs), & genetic evidence for Noah’s Flood and how the Ark shows God’s mercy and serves as a symbol of salvation?
- What if they knew how the Bible came about and why we can trust it?
- What if they knew of archaeological evidence that supports the biblical account?
- What if they knew how to interpret the Bible for themselves and developed the habit of a daily quiet time, allowing God to speak to them through His Word?
- What if they understood the heart of God and trusted His guidance in every aspect of their lives?
- What if they understood what God says about prayer and are provided with opportunities to actively pray for each other, family, friends, church, community, state, country, & world.
- What if they understood what real worship is and the importance of keeping God in first place in our lives (what it means to follow Jesus).
- What if they understood how God uses the trials in our lives for good?
- What if they knew their spiritual gifts and had opportunities to serve using them – thus personally experiencing God’s power & faithfulness?
- What if they understood what God says about forgiveness and could live a life free from bitterness?
- What if they understood the gradual revelation of God through His Word and how His love and mercy are evident throughout?
- What if they understood more about heaven and the rewards Jesus has for those who choose to follow Him?
- What if they understood the principles of spiritual warfare and how to live in victory?
- What if they were aware of people God has used throughout history to make a positive impact on the world (sometimes one person sold out to God accomplished amazing things) and understood that this is their time in history?
Imagine what God can do with a generation of believers who learn these truths as preteens? Is God giving you a glimpse of His vision for this age group? Is He calling you to minister to them? If you are a pastor, is He calling you to reevaluate what your church is doing? If you haven’t yet read it, please scroll down to read my earlier blog, “Why Intentional Preteen Ministry?” posted on 10-28-2018 for additional details.
You may see this as a daunting task, but remember that when we join God where He is working (Henry Blackaby in “Experiencing God”), our own limited ability is supernaturally infused with His power and faithfulness. Prayer is critical because God may give us the vision before it can be implemented. Each church would need to adapt to its own needs & facilities. God may have you start small, adding different aspects on a gradual basis. You could start with just bulletin inserts from “Creation Moments” (can can also be used as handouts). We need to pray for the Lord to guide our steps and cast the vision clearly to church leadership. Once they support it, share the vision with others. Pray for God to raise up just the right leaders who share a love for the Lord and His Word and that they will hear His guidance clearly.
This is exponentially more effective when parents participate with series and events because it opens up more discussion and shared insights at home, providing tools and excitement for parents as their kids’ primary spiritual leaders. I do not believe it is an accident that so many amazing resources are presently available for kids, preteens, teens, & adults. Perhaps that’s why God had me create this website – so people can easily find available resources. Parents can start with just a membership to a Creation or other Apologetic subscriptions (some are even free).
Is God calling you to invest in preteens with God’s love and truth, walk beside them as they begin to take ownership of their faith, and help equip them to rely on the Lord to do what is not possible in their own strength so they can experience His power and faithfulness? A number of people have not only answered the call to intentionally minister to preteens, but make it easier for churches (no need to reinvent the wheel) by offering great resources and training for other people and churches to use:
- Sean Sweet of “FourFiveSix” preteen ministry uses the analogy of kids learning to ride a bike. Preteen leaders hold on to the bike at first and then run beside preteens as students step out in faith – all the while encouraging, equipping, and providing resources for them. Sean also offers an annual in-person preteen conference, an annual online preteen conference, training at your church, & other online training.
- Clint May founded “L.I.T.” (Leaders in Training) and trains other church leaders in implementing the program in their church. They now have complete programs for younger kids as well.
- Nick Dilberto, founder of “preteenministry.net” also offers curriculum and resources.
Believers who develop that kind of faith when they are young will not be easy prey for Satan and his schemes, and they can serve as valuable members of the body of Christ now (not just in the future – David Walters coined the phrase and other leaders have also communicated, “Kids Don’t Have a Junior Holy Spirit”).
Imagine how much preteens could inspire others (even those much older), as they follow Christ, join His Kingdom work, and experience a sense of purpose and the abundant life Jesus offers. I and others have responded as Isaiah did – “Here am I. Send me!”. Interestingly, God gave me a love for preteens after I answered His call to minister to them. He does have a sense of humor. Sometimes, God has passion, joy, fulfillment, and fruitfulness awaiting us in unexpected places. Is He calling you?
© Constance Rice 2019