One of my greatest joys and sources of fun was ministry with preteens.
Preteens know that youth ministry is just around the corner and, at times, I felt like I was leading the Israelites who were waiting to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and I wouldn’t say “Go!”
I wanted them to be successful in navigating the move to youth ministry, so I took intentional steps during that last year to prepare them for the transition.
Transitioning from being the oldest to the youngest members of a group can be daunting for some preteens.
Here are some steps you can take to prepare your preteens for the transition to youth ministry:
Help preteens develop a group identity.
Transitioning from being the oldest to the youngest members of a group can be daunting for some preteens. The youth minister may not know who is moving up and, if a church is not careful, it is possible for some preteens to disappear from ministry without anyone noticing.
Prepare a preteen ministry space.
Create a preteen ministry space with a separate room, logo, curriculum, etc. Many curriculum lines offer specific materials for preteens that can be used on Sunday or Wednesday evenings.
Enlist transitional leaders.
Consider asking some middle school youth leaders to be Vacation Bible School teachers or attend events for preteens before they move to youth ministry. This helps preteens develop relationships with a few youth leaders and gives them connections to a “face” they know when they arrive and take part in the new crowd.
Plan events for preteens to get to know one another.
Many preteens attend different schools and may lack the opportunity to connect socially outside of the church classroom. Extended time to converse, make connections and begin friendships is important. These events also give parents a needed chance to practice releasing their children on a smaller scale.
Schedule a transition event.
Have a spring event to introduce preteens to the youth ministry area with pizza, games and a special appearance by the youth pastor.
Plan a welcome party.
Work with youth leadership to host a “welcome to youth ministry” party with preteens and the youth who transitioned the year before.
Enlist youth mentors.
Enlist and train older youth to mentor preteens and show them how youth ministry works in your church.
Involve the whole family.
Have a family time for parents to meet and interact with the youth ministry leadership team.
Consider planning a weekend mission trip with preteens leading. Be sure to explain the biblical purpose of missions and service before you go.
Prepare preteens with gospel training.
Train and equip preteens to share the gospel with their friends and commission them to be gospel-bearers in their interactions with others.
Present preteens with a youth study Bible.
Gift preteens with a youth study Bible, much as first graders are gifted with a Bible to mark their passage to children’s ministry.
Find ways to enjoy this transitional year. This is a year of great opportunity and potential. Build
confidence and memories for the preteens in your ministry. Make this year count for the kingdom of God.