**This is a guest post from Nick Diliberto from PreteenMinistry.net
I remember one of our first over-the-top preteen events. We named it Nick at Night and it was held on a Friday night. It was a clever name because my name is Nick and the event included lots of Nickelodeon style-games. We rented water inflatables and played games like slime dodge ball, slime soak battle and more. We encouraged preteens to invite their friends and had a huge turnout. Everyone had a really cool time and they talked about it for months afterwards!
Momentum from the event created a launching pad for friendships within the group to be build. Those who attended made some new Christian friends, which is foundational to spiritual growth. During discussion time on Sundays, students felt more open to share. The group was coming together and beginning to experience a sense of community and unity.
Relational events are key to building friendships.
Preteens are relational creatures. On their journey towards adolescence, they experience an internal shift and make friendships with peers a priority. Friends become more important. As Christians, it is critical that preteens are connected with others who are also following Jesus. Preteens are hugely influenced by their peers. So, being connected to the right group is important because it creates positive peer pressure. In this environment, the group influences each other to make good choices.
Relational events outside of Sunday or midweek services provide an opportunity for preteens to meet new friends and strengthen relationships with existing ones. When preteens attend a fun event, they let loose. They’re able to simply have a good time and connect with friends.
Having something fun planned for them is a draw to attend. The events don’t need to be heavy on preparation. Some easy relational events that have been successful with our preteens: laser tag sleepover, inflatable party, paintball, video game night, amazing race, swim party and a bowling/movie combo event. Whatever you do, keep it simple. The idea is to create an opportunity for preteen to build friendships.
Nick Diliberto is the 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.