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When I was a kid, I absolutely despised summer reading! The only reason for me to pick up a book in the summer time was to prop up the broken leg of the ping-pong table! But over the years, I’ve enjoyed the slower pace of summer and the opportunity it brings to read some books on my wish list. I may not get through them all, but here are the books I have on the agenda for this summer:

1. Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Bruce A. Ware
I’m currently reading this book, and I am loving it. The purpose of the book is to enable parents of 6-14 year olds to guide their child through all major doctrines of the Christian faith. This book is Systematic Theology 101 put in an understandable, easy-to-use guide for parent-child discussions. I am definitely going to recommend this book for preteen parents.

2. Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson
I’m really excited about the emphasis that our church has placed on discipleship for the coming year. I’ve heard great things about this book, and I really think it can help me better define discipleship for my life and ministry. I’m also looking for some major themes that we can use to better train our leaders who are discipling preteens.

3. Speaking to Teenagers: How to Think About, Create, and Deliver Effective Messages by Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins
I’ve been in the Children’s Ministry world for 10 years, but I feel a shift occurring in our preteens and in our ministry philosophy. I really want to call them up and challenge them on a deeper level, so I’m hoping this book will give me some ideas for how to move in that direction. I know it may not be 100% applicable to preteens, but there are always transferable nuggets.

4. Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
As we launch our new preteen ministry, the first year of curriculum is going to include teaching on some major doctrines: Biblical inspiration and authority, what is sin, the Gospel, etc. I spent two semesters going through Grudem’s Systematic Theology textbook, so I’m hoping this book will be a refresher for some of the points made in that book.

5. Growing up Too Fast: The Rimm Report on the Secret World of America’s Middle Schoolers by Sylvia Rimm
I’m intrigued by this study. The study surveyed over five-thousand preteens to look at the big issues they face in this stage of life. Many of the issues were thought to be “teenage” issues, but the study found that many preteens (and even younger children) were struggling with the issues.

6. Adolescence Isn’t Terminal by Kevin Leman
This is another book that I want to read in hopes that it might be a recommended resource for preteen parents. I’ve read other books from Dr. Leman, and I’m a fan of his research and writing style. The book tackles some major preteen issues such as sexual maturity, peer pressure, relationships, etc. The reviews all say that is very practical and helpful for parents, so I’m looking forward to reading it for myself.

What books are you reading this summer?
What books should I add to the list?

Main Session #3 at the Preteen & Parent Retreat was led by Dr. Robert Lewis, author of Raising a Modern Day Knight and founder of Men’s Fraternity. I’m convinced that you could drop Dr. Lewis in any culture to talk about any topic, and he would inspire that audience and leave them wanting more. I know that our parents could have sat for hours discussing the topics that he brought up. Here are notes from his session:

Stay humble and know that to be a good parent you will always have to be in the posture of a learner.

Barna, “most parents assume they know what to do”

Here are some helpful things to remember in parenting:

1. 75% of all great parenting is a good marriage. (Build your marriage!!)

  • 40% of kids don’t have dad at home
  • Single parent homes, poorer health, poorer jobs, sexually active, drugs and alcohol more present
  • Two parent homes with poor marriage will have same characteristics as single parent home.
  • In the 50’s homes were not child-centered.  Today we are child-focused not marriage or home focused
  • Little parenting in the Bible, but a lot on marriage. (ex. Ephesians has 12 verses on marriage and 1 on parenting.)
  • A good marriage leads to good kids

2. Always keep the long-term in view when parenting

  • What is the long view? Where you as a parent’s primary focus is on character and Christ
  • You cannot make their popularity your major view
  • Contrast Tim Tebow vs Tiger Woods
  • Write down what you want them to be (know Jesus, loving, giving, responsible, loyal friend, others focused, etc). Will they be a difference maker or a problem?  Ask God to help you find ways to help instill these character traits.

3. Seek to balance discipline and instruction with love as a parent

  • Four quadrant figure from Men’s Fraternity (permissive, neglectful, authoritative, authoritarian)
  • Authoritative is high discipline and high love.  This is the best parent
  • Number 2 is the permissive which is high love and low discipline
  • Number 3 is neglectful…low discipline and low love
  • Number 4 is authoritarian…high discipline and low love
  • Ephesians 6:4 Fathers do not provoke your children to anger
  • “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!!!” 6 times in the Gospels
  • Boys are looking for their Dad to say they are good enough

4. It is smart to sharpen and customize your parenting approach to each child by using objective testing tools

  • You will need help knowing your child.  You are not objective.
  • The more we know about our child’s uniqueness the better we will parent them
  • Today good testing mechanisms: personality, design, aptitude, and intelligence tests
  • First test is personality test. Robert uses melancholy, sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic. by Florence Letour
  • You don’t ever change your personality
  • aptitude test is a must before college (Aims aptitude testing)
  • Design test in High school
  • Intelligence testing will be done in school

5. Real Christianity for a child is caught or lost at home

  • Do not become dependent on the church for your child’s Christianity
  • Paul said follow me as a follow Christ. Should be the model of your home!!
  • Number one thing of families is to be open and honest in communication, especially about your Christianity
  • Don’t pretend and live different from what you say.  Kids will sniff that out and it will inoculate them against Christianity
  • Be authentic!!!

6. Avoid the four horseman of “Too Much”

  • Too much control.  Micromanaging a child 12 to 18 will kill them.  “I will trust you until you prove me wrong”
  • Too much money and stuff spoils and pacifies
  • Too much of high expectations discourages and wounds
  • Too much taking care of. Too much care in sons will steal their masculinity. Moms have to unplug the mom cord when they turn 12 or 13.

7. Spend lots of personal time with your child one on one

  • They will have unbelievable doubts from their friends, and quality time will help them.
  • Date your daughter

8. Provide clear gender vision

  • Focus on sexually, socially, and spiritually
  • Bless them by answering what it means to be a man or what it means to be a woman.
  • Need a Biblical Definition of manhood and womanhood

Part 2 of an amazing weekend was a Parent Meeting to cast vision for the future of preteen ministry at our Church. Our church is embarking on a new journey to be a church that is…

making disciples who live by God’s grace and for His glory at home and across the world.

While striving to accomplish this mission, there are certain values that will define who Fellowship is as a church. These values are: Connection, Transformation, and Multiplication.

As preteen ministry, we want to align with this vision and these values. This means change—exciting change.

We had over 250 parents show up for the meeting. Some had heard rumors of change, some were completely oblivious, and many had helped us pray and plan for this day. With the parents and the preteens in the room, we officially launched Fifty6, our new preteen ministry.

I have to admit that we were nervous about the change and communicating that to parents. The church has had a great preteen ministry long before I came, and I didn’t want to them to feel like I was running it into the ground. As we communicated the vision, the room filled up with excitement. Parents caught the vision and they bought in.

Here are three things we communicated to help parents “buy-in” to the vision for preteen ministry:

1. Information
To help parents see where we were going, we literally walked them through every detail of what a Sunday morning would look like. We intentionally scheduled the meeting in the space that will become our preteen ministry space—even though it currently smells like gym socks! We gave them a detailed time schedule for what a Sunday morning would look like for their preteen. And then we gave them a 2 year scope and sequence for the curriculum that we are currently writing. We wanted them to know everything we knew about what preteen ministry would look like moving forward. As G.I. Joe says, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!”

2. 6th Grade Leadership Team
This is more than a curriculum or room change, this is a philosophy change. We are viewing 5th and 6th graders differently than we have in the past. One aspect of that is the ability for 6th graders to lead and serve on our campus. We communicated our vision for 6th grader to be a part of a Leadership Team that serves by leading worship, running production tech, greeting guests, setting up, etc. The preteens were jumping at the chance to fill out an application. Parents bought in to the vision because many of them had never seen their preteen that excited about coming to church!

3. Parent Involvement
A huge part of the philosophy change is a better strategy for partnering with parents. We talked with parents about how we partner with them to cover tough subjects like sex, pornography, substance abuse, relationships, etc. Our role is not to have that conversation with preteens, but to equip parents to have that conversation with preteens. We wanted parents to understand that our ministry exists primarily to strengthen their relationship with their preteen so that they can transfer faith to their son or daughter.

How do you cast vision to parents, volunteers, or preteens in your ministry?

It is really hard for me to fathom that I’ve stuck with this for a whole year. I’m not usually that disciplined.

There are tons of reasons why I started blogging and many reasons why I continue to do so. The most important of which is to network with other preteen, children’s, and student ministry leaders on how we can be more effective at reaching the next generation. I have to admit that I started blogging because I thought I might have something to offer, but in this first year I have been blessed with so much more than I could ever give. (What an example of God and His Grace!)

Here are the things that I’m most thankful for from Year #1:

1. New Friends
Blogging has connected me with so many great leaders that I probably would have never had the chance to meet. I’ve met people who are asking my advice (not many), and I’ve met people who have passed on loads of wisdom to me. It is such a blessing to get to build these relationships that help me personally and in ministry. To all my new friends, “Thank you!”

2. New Ideas
This past year has been one of the most fun and most fruitful years of ministry in my life. God has brought so many people into my life to share new ideas, and this has really stretched me. We’ve all tried some things that don’t work, and we’ve all found a few golden nuggets here and there. It’s such a blessing to be able to sit down with other leaders and share those ministry ideas.

3. New Opportunities
Ok, so I totally did not see this one coming. I felt God calling me to take a risk and throw my ideas out for others to read and discuss, so I took the risk. Never in my wildest dreams did I think those thoughts would go further than my wife and maybe a few friends. Instead, those thoughts have reached to 13 different countries. I’ve gotten emails from missionaries in Africa…AFRICA! I never knew what God would do with the blog, but he has used it to open new doors. In the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to do some writing for Preteenministry.net, FourFiveSix, Lifeway Christian Resources, Kidmin360, and others. I’ve gotten the opportunity to go and speak at churches and the Preteen Leaders Conference. God has used blogging to bless me and my family is some really cool ways.

Here comes Year #2!
This year, I want to continue what we’ve done in year #1, but I also want to grow into providing some resources and materials for those launching a preteen ministry.

We are getting ready to launch a floor-to-ceiling overhaul of our preteen ministry. We’re changing our strategy, our room, and pretty much everything in-between. This is going to be an exciting transformation for our church. In this process, we’re learning some things to do and some things not to do, so I look forward to sharing some of what we learn about launching a preteen ministry.