Preteen Ministry for Small Churches – Why Bother?


**This is a guest post from Nick Diliberto from

Many churches everywhere are realizing the need for a preteen ministry. Most large churches see the need for a ministry specific to 4th, 5th or 6th graders. Sometimes because of the large amount of kids in attendance and other times in an attempt to target the specific needs of preteens.

However, many small churches and church plants miss out on effectively reaching preteens. Not having a high attendance, all elementary ages are lumped together. Consequently, the older kids often disengage and churches miss an opportunity to effectively reach students. In other churches, a Sunday school class for this age group is created, but with little impact. Often, leaders struggle with how to grab their attention and battle restless 5th grade boys who seem to enjoy terrorizing them. If you’re a small church, odds are you recognize the need for a preteen ministry. Let me give you a number of reasons it should be on your radar. Some you may have thought of and some you haven’t.

Why bother launching a preteen ministry in a small church?

Preteens are unique. They’re not children anymore nor are they teenagers They’re in transition and are undergoing change in every area of life: physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual. They require a unique approach to ministry that fits their specific needs.

Preteens face unique issues. Emerging issues like healthy guy/girl relationships, peer pressure, poor self-esteem and bullying are some of their many struggles. If we can speak God’s truth in all these areas, we set them up for success now, in the teenage years and beyond.

Preteens are relational. Peer relationships become a priority. They want to spend more time with friends and develop relationships with others their age. That’s why preteens check out when mixed with younger kids. Also, peer influence becomes stronger. A healthy preteen ministry creates a safe place where students make good choices and learn from their peers what it means to follow Jesus. Instead of peers negatively influencing one another, positive influence is abundant.

Preteens can own their relationship with Jesus. A relationship with Jesus can become real, no longer something just for their parents. It can surpass the rituals of showing up for church or shallow prayer. Programming can be infused with elements that encourage preteens to experience God and walk with Jesus in everyday life.

Many churches make the decision to launch a preteen ministry based on numbers. Numbers shouldn’t be the determining factor, rather meeting their specific needs should. And that requires having some type of programming just for preteens.

In small churches, preteen ministry can take on many different forms. Not everyone has the resources to split up age groups on Sunday, so they explore other options. Maybe they have monthly relational events for preteens or launch a preteen midweek group.

In my next post, I’ll give small churches tons of ways to specifically target preteens. So, stay tuned for more.

Nick Diliberto is creator of, which provides creative curriculum and resources for preteen ministry. He is also the preteen columnist for Children’s Ministry Magazine and Children’s Pastor at Seven San Diego Church.


  1. says

    I can relate to the others who have small classes with mixed ages. I’ve been with this group for 3 years now; they are very tight but I can see the need to have the 10 – 12 yr olds (two young ladies, one young man, and visitors) moving into a “teaching” that is all about what they are experiencing at this stage of their lives. I am cautious to have our older kids ministering to the younger by helping out – I feel they need their own class time to grow; and not feel like they are too big for the class and so they can be helpers.
    I’m not sure our pastor is aware of our unique situation….and so I am going to find some tools here to share with him so he will help me figure out what to do… I like the out of class idea – that would help them to know they are recognized, and that we all care about them.

  2. says

    I would say to experiment with ways to separate preteens from other ages, even if it is for a portion of the service. For example, small group time. Another idea is to recruit preteens to help and lead activities, crafts, games, etc.

  3. says

    Thanks—this reaffirms the decision I made when deciding the age groupings this year in our revamped Kids ministry. In our church 6th grade is the youth group so our 4th and 5th graders make this preteen class. It is kind of small right now but I felt it important, for many of the same reasons you listed here, that they have their own class.

  4. Beth Malak says

    This is perfect timing! My Sunday School class consists of 2 young men, age 10 and 13. Our church basically has several 3-8 year olds, but only these 2 in the pre-teen age group.

    I have been struggling to find adequate Sunday School material for my two boys. It is discouraging for me as well as them when only one of the two show up some Sundays.

    I appreciate all the guidance from you as well as others who might be in this type of situation.

    THANK YOU. Looking forward to future information.

  5. zenaida ricafort says

    this is what i need for my childrens ministry. please make it more understandable so i can apply it effectively to my ministry. I have mix ages and can you share some tips on how to handle the different ages. Thank you so much GOD BLESS.

  6. Tony Wining says

    Just wanted to let you know that while I was on my way to work this morning, one of my prayers was how can I get more kids into our kids club. I will use this. GOD works in amazing ways. I believe that this is an answer to prayer. Thanks

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