This is something that I am asked often and it’s a question that can be difficult to answer. Many church leaders and teachers feel that it’s not our place to address some of the everyday issues that preteens face: cliques, bullies, peer pressure, social media etiquette, sex education, modesty, purity, puberty, hormones, emotions, loneliness, and so on. It is a delicate season of life. Parents often feel ill equipped; church leaders often feel as if their hands are tied and that families should tackle these issues at home.
Knowing that these volatile years shape kids for the rest of their lives, what CAN the church do for preteens? Certainly, there are appropriate ways to approach sensitive topics, usually in partnership with parents. But on a weekly basis, how do we disciple preteens?
The answer is the gospel. Every week. Each time you are with the preteens in your church, engage them with the gospel. How does that look? Constantly remind them that God created them in His image, and He has a plan for their lives. Share that Jesus came to suffer and die for sin, was buried and raised from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God today. Remind preteens that before Jesus ascended to heaven, He left them with a Helper—the Holy Spirit resides within believers and fights for them daily as they encounter temptation. Tell them that they can be forgiven and that no sin is beyond the power of the gospel. Assure them that the gospel is good news for them and it’s good news for their friends.
You see, the gospel covers all of life—even preteen life. The gospel is THE answer. We must tell kids and tell them often. Many of them may have already made a decision to follow Jesus. That doesn’t mean we should stop telling them the gospel. Connect the gospel to every Bible study you lead—and be careful not to attach the plan of salvation to the end of a story. Truly connect the gospel to every portion of Scripture.
As believers, we need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Our precious preteens need the same treatment. The gospel is God’s perfect gift to us. And what we have been given freely, we should give away freely.
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5a
Jana Magruder serves as the Director of Lifeway Kids. Jana brings a wealth of experience and passion for kids ministry, education, and curriculum writing. She and her husband, Michael, along with their three children attend Forest Hills Baptist Church where she teaches The Gospel Project to preteen girls.