I’ve been involved in kids ministry for way more years than I can remember. I do remember the first opportunity I had as a church member to get involved with teaching though. My church had need for someone to assist in a preteen ministry. I filled that role and quickly knew that this could be my sweet spot in ministry. Ministry to preteens is always challenging but also one of the most rewarding for me. Here are a few things I’ve learned about preteens over the years.
- Preteens are not miniature adults. The preteen years are a push and pull of trying to find a voice in the world and still hold on to childhood. The brain of a preteen has not matured enough to process the realities of a grown up world. As leaders in preteen ministry we should be cautious when trying to push their square pegs of childhood into the round hole of adulthood.
- Preteens are changing. Most kids in the preteen age group begin the process known as puberty. During this time their bodies are changing dramatically and some of them are scared of what is happening. The chemicals that drive the physiological change toward adulthood also affect things like brain function, mental acuity and drive. It is entirely possible that during this time of change you will minister to two “different” kids in the same body during the same hour. Smile, it’s okay.
- Preteens are emotional. Points 1 and 2 lead us to the conclusion that preteens are emotional. Wrapped up in the physiological changes and the desire to find their place in the world, preteens can be crushed under the emotional stress of these factors. Those emotions can manifest themselves in many ways. It’s okay for preteens to appropriately express their emotions in our safe environment. If you need to have a chat one on one with a preteen to help decompress some of those emotions, do so with love and respect.
- Preteens are compassionate. One of the more unique things I’ve discovered about preteens is that they really are compassionate, even if they don’t want to show it. Preteens are able to communicate on levels differently from younger kids. Conversations with preteens can get deeper and more personal and during those times we discover the true compassionate nature of their hearts.
- Preteens are honest. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been questioned by a preteen on any variety of subjects. During puberty, their brains begin to process information in a very different way and they are constantly evaluating what is happening around them. If something doesn’t line up with the paradigm of their perceived truth, they don’t mind speaking up. Are they always right? No. But it does give opportunity to talk about what is true and right.
Ministry to preteens is valuable and rewarding and can be one of the richest experiences in leading kids. Understanding that preteens are experiencing life in fresh and new ways for them, will guide you as you help them navigate this awkward but important journey.