**This is a guest post from Nick Diliberto from PreteenMinistry.net
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 PreteenMinistry.net, 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.