Can we just agree that working with preteens can be challenging? OK, OK, that was a bit tongue-in-cheek. But seriously, preteens are facing issues today that previous generations didn’t face until they were in their mid- to late- teenage years. On top of that, this generation of preteens faces a unique challenge from previous generations with their instant access to information and social circles. This “always-on” pressure adds a layer of challenge to preteens’ lives that can, in turn, make engaging and equipping preteens for the future challenging for ministry leaders and parents.
As kids move into their preteen years, their faith is going to be tested. Not all that long ago, for example, a child who was being bullied may only have faced that bully while at school or in the neighborhood. Now with ever-present, always-on devices at their fingertips, preteens may find themselves with the inability to escape a bully. Constant stressors like this from life’s circumstances, peers, and the culture at-large are pressing in and straining the faith of many preteens. For me, this sparks a mental image of gold being refined by fire. Preteens are often caught in and shaped by the flames of life’s circumstances and relationships, but preteens need the church to be strategic in equipping them for what they are facing, to help them refine their faith according to God’s Word, and to prepare them to understand and interact with the world around them with a biblical worldview.
“You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7 CSB).
Preteens are facing many trials, yet they may not know how to stand firm in those trials so their faith may result in honoring God. Part of our responsibility as ministry leaders and parents is to show them how to stand firm. Here are three keys to help strengthen your ministry to preteens through Bible study.
Key 1: Deeper Study
Preteens have the ability and desire to move from Bible stories to Bible study. As church leaders, we can help move them toward opening their Bibles and exploring longer passages. Challenge them to think critically about what the Bible is saying, seeing more of the context of each test within a chapter, a book, and the Bible as a whole. Help them see that it is OK to ask hard questions humbly as they study God’s Word.
Key 2: Engaging Conversations
After seeing what the Bible says, engage preteens in meaningful conversations about what the biblical text says. Help them think through “Since the Bible says ______, but my friends say _______, how can I understand what my friends say through the filter of what I know the Bible teaches.” Preteens, despite the stereotype, do enjoy talking. They may struggle as they move from “kid-friendly” vocabulary toward “student” vocabulary, but give them the opportunity to express their thoughts and engage them in dialogue.
Key 3: Life Action
In light of the deeper Bible study and honest dialogue, help preteens consider “What’s next?” How does what I read in the Bible change my response to my friends? How does what I read in the Bible change the way I pray for those at my school? These types of life action questions can help move preteens toward a renewed mind and living out their faith.
LifeWay Kids is excited to introduce Forged: Faith Refined, a brand new preteen study built on these 3 key principles for preteen ministry. Forged: Faith Refined is a low-tech, 8-volume resource released quarterly over two years. Each volume includes 13 weeks of age-appropriate study to help preteens understand biblical answers to questions they may be asking and leading them to engage the culture around them through a biblical worldview. Volume 1 explores the question “What is truth?” through sessions like “Who defines truth?” and “Why should I care what the Bible says?” Upcoming volumes will discuss themes of identity, authority, relationships, and more.
Join us as we set out to equip preteens to face their world with strengthened faith through Forged: Faith Refined. Learn more at lifeway.com/forged.
Jeremy Carroll is the team leader for LifeWay Kids Discipleship Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he has been active in local church ministry for nearly 20 years in TN, TX, and AL. Jeremy earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A Middle Tennessee native, he and his family live in Murfreesboro, TN.