Harnessing the High Energy Level of Preteens

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Energetic preteen ministry game
**This is a guest post from Nick Diliberto from PreteenMinistry.net
Preteens have a high energy level. If you’ve worked with them for five minutes, you know this to be true. They can’t sit still for very long, get easily distracted like to move around a lot. Especially the boys. The body of a preteen is rapidly changing and the brain is undergoing a tremendous amount of change. Because of these changes, preteens are naturally hyper.
The dilemma is that I, like many other leaders, have a significantly lower energy level. I’m 36 years old and married with three kids. My life, like yours, is busy and often energy draining. My idea of a good time is sitting down to read a good book in peace and quiet. Many of the leaders on my team, except High School students, are the same way. As a result, the typical leader is a bit freaked out by preteens’ high energy level. Often it becomes a roadblock to learning and a point of frustration for many.
The key is to harness their energy and use it constructively. How? Here’s one way: provide energy releases. My friend Patrick Snow, director of SuperStart, came up with this terminology. I like it.
Preteens are in a continual state of building up energy screaming to be released. It’s a part of their physical development. I’ve actually read research that says the brain of a preteen learns best after bursts of energy releases. It clears the mind and opens it up to learning. Preteens are going to release energy, so you can either fight against it or use it to your advantage.
I’ve found it effective to play an active large group game at the beginning of the service. That way, we hit the ground running and any pint up energy is immediately released. Often times the game is related to the day’s topic, and often it isn’t. The key is to keep them moving, setting them up for the next element, which for us is usually a large group message or worship.
Another energy release is worship. Make worship interactive and experiential. Encourage them to let loose and move around.
Lastly, small groups are an opportunity for an energy release. We usually do small groups after a large group message. Since students have now been sitting for some time at this point, we start with some sort of activity that gets them moving. We then move into reading the Bible or discussion time.
Preteens have way more energy than us leaders. Instead of it being a source of frustration, learn to harness that energy into a positive direction. Experiment with your group and discover what works best.

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.


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