When I talk with student and children’s ministry leaders, I’m hearing more and more interest in preteen ministry. If you polled the churches in your area, most of them probably have a preteen event on their calendar and some may be thinking about launching a preteen ministry. We officially launched our preteen ministry, Fifty6, in 2012, and it has been so amazing to see God work in and through those 5th and 6th graders.
I get so excited when I hear a church move toward starting a ministry that is specific for preteens. Starting a preteen ministry is exciting, but it can also be a little daunting. If you’ve gotten the go-ahead to start at preteen ministry at your church or if you’re putting together ideas to present to your pastor, here are five areas that should be considered when starting a preteen ministry:
What ages will be in the preteen ministry? Preteens are typically children ages 9-12, and could be anywhere from 4th grade to middle school. You’ll need to decide what grades or ages you will include in the preteen ministry. Be sure to consult with parents, review how the local schools divide these grades, and think about what will be the best transition between your children’s ministry and student ministry. After you’ve identified the ages, be creative with a name (logo) for the ministry that uniquely identifies those students.
If you’re going to start a preteen ministry, you’re going to need designated space. Find some space in your church that is available and let preteens own that space as their own. If the church does not have space to spare, consider designating an entrance as the “preteen entrance.” Even this will help to be intentional in reaching preteens. Remember, the space determines what you can and can’t do in your services. Try to find a space large enough for large group and small groups.
As preteen ministries continue to sprout up across the country, more and more curriculum options are available. Search for a curriculum that works best for your church and your environment. Always plan to edit the curriculum to make it work best for you. Whether you buy a curriculum or write your own, the key here is that you choose something different from your children’s and student ministry curriculum. If you’re stumped about what’s available or what topics could be covered, feel free to contact me for a copy of our scope and sequence for Fifty6.
Once you’ve determined the identity, space, and curriculum for preteen ministry, begin to recruit leaders to serve alongside you in the new ministry. When looking for leaders, don’t focus on their age or “cool-factor.” Instead, search for leaders who have strong conversation skills and relationship building skills. This is also the area where you might choose to focus your volunteer training. Leaders who can build trust with preteens and get them talking are invaluable when starting a preteen ministry.
Before and after you launch a new preteen ministry, focus on a few key events to promote the ministry and build relationships. Fun events like game nights, lock-ins, or trips make great on-ramps for preteens to engage in this new ministry. They might not engage in your weekly service, but events can help them to connect with leaders. Service-oriented events like painting the preteen space, community clean-up, or item collection for a partner ministry also help to build relationships with preteens and their parents. Other events that could be helpful to the new ministry might be a parent & small group leader breakfast, summer camp, or leadership training for preteens.