Over the last 27 + years that I have served the Lord in children’s ministry, God has shown me how critical it is to be intentional about ministry to preteens. What decades ago became apparent to church leaders and parents regarding teen ministry now needs to be apparent to church leaders and parents regarding preteens. Preteens are capable of abstract thought and can understand adult concepts. They are internally questioning everything they’ve been taught. It is the ideal time to reinforce their Bible knowledge with answers about why God’s Word can be trusted in every aspect of their lives, to build deeper relationships with peers, leaders, and parents, and to make their faith their own.
Apologist Josh McDowell in a 2013 Christian Post article said, “Twenty years ago, the phrase was, ‘If you don’t reach a young person by 18, you probably won’t reach them. Now, atheists and agnostics have the same access to your kids as you do; it’s just one click away. The Internet has leveled the playing field, and now if you don’t reach a child by their 12th birthday, you won’t reach them.”
2 Timothy 3:14-15 teaches: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Use It or Lose It! Kids may lose their early spiritual foundation if it is not used and reinforced. The Journal of Adolescent Health states that “Throughout childhood and into adolescence, the cortical areas of the brain continue to thicken as neural connections proliferate. In the frontal cortex, gray matter volumes peak at approximately 11 years of age in girls and 12 years of age in boys, reflecting dendritic overproduction . Subsequently, rarely used connections are selectively pruned  making the brain more efficient by allowing it to change structurally in response to the demands of the environment .
1 Peter 3:15 teaches – “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
An effective preteen ministry should include:
- a focus on apologetic teaching in an engaging, fun, and interactive way so students get excited about their faith, make their faith their own, and become equipped to effectively engage those who believe differently. Areas to be addressed would include:
- how to interpret Scripture for themselves (context, grammar, etc.)
- who God is (attributes/character) & correcting common misconceptions.
- how recent scientific discoveries support the Flood and biblical teaching (biology, zoology, genetics, geology, astronomy, archaeology, etc.).
- how Jesus is found in the whole Bible from Creation and how He fulfills the elements of the Tabernacle.
- what it means to follow Jesus (how to tap into supernatural joy, peace, strength, grace, wisdom and how testing and trials build a mature faith).
- how Christianity differs from all other religions and finding common ground to begin conversations.
- how God has worked through ordinary people since the beginning of human history and how this is their time in history.
- how God has gifted them to serve Him and others.
- about spiritual warfare and how to be victorious.
- events for fun and to serve God & others and deepen peer relationships
- serving food together at local senior center.
- ice skating, trampoline park, mini golf, go-carts, hiking, movie and/or game night, scavenger hunt, etc.
- helping at local food bank.
- preteens helping together at events already offered to local community.
- help leaders to plan a fun night for younger kids and have preteens as leaders.
- create way for preteens to help together at existing church events.
- provide training for preteens to serve on a kids’ worship team, with tech needs, helping in classes with younger kids, helping with setup or cleanup needs, be part of a greeting team, etc.
- a team of committed leaders who will build relationships with them, leaders who:.
- love Jesus and Scripture.
- grasp God’s vision for investing in the next generation.
- can enjoy students who are in a time of transition in their lives, creating an atmosphere where students feel love and acceptance and have a place to belong – even when they are silly or blurt out answers or questions.
- recognize parents as the primary spiritual leaders and actively partner with them for the benefit of the kids.
- would lead a weekly life group or Bible study for preteens, giving students a place to belong with game & hang-out time, deeper teachings, interactive discussion/questions, and prayer time.
- would be available to organize, host, and/or attend preteen events on a regular basis (scroll up for ideas).
- would work with youth leaders and parents to facilitate smooth transition to youth ministry.
The time is now to meet the needs of kids by equipping them with the knowledge and confidence to stand firm in their faith, but to prepare them to engage their world with the life-saving eternal message of hope through the sacrifice and victory of Jesus Christ.