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The Preteen Leaders Conference begins tomorrow, and I’m excited to get to lead two breakouts for some of the attendees. The first of the breakouts is titled, “Connecting with Parents of Preteens.” We will look at why it’s important to integrate the home into preteen ministry, and how we can call parents to engage in the strategy.

In preparing for the session, I dug out my notes from a study that was released a few years ago by Barna Research and The Rethink Group. Along with tons of other great findings, here is what the research found when it came to the strategy and/or expectations for parental involvement:

    • 46% of parents admittedly do not have a plan to accomplish the desired outcomes in their children.

    • 72% of parents said that the church could be a good help for the development of this plan

    • However, only half (45%) said the expectations (action plan) of the church were clear

If you don’t have a strategy to connect the home with your ministry, the question is, “Why not?”

It is clear that parents are looking at the church as a great source of training and equipping. They recognize their role in the transfer of faith to their children, and they see value in what the church can offer.

If you do have a strategy to connect the home with your ministry, the questions is, “How clearly have we communicated this strategy to parents?” and “How are we measuring the success or failure of our strategy?”

As much as parents look to the church for training, we are not doing well at meeting that demand. Stop blaming parents for not caring or not being active in their child’s spiritual development, and start communicating a strategy that they can understand and execute.

It has been a long week being away from my wife and my daughter. It’s not that I have an unhealthy co-dependence or anything. It’s just that she is honestly my best friend, and I really enjoy being around her. Whether I’m just sitting or going, I’d rather be doing so with her.

This time away has been a little extra hard because I also miss my daughter. And for the first time in her life, I think she misses me as well.

This is where God spoke to me.

To try and combat the homesick feelings, I’ve been having a Skype conversation with my wife and daughter each day. Several times this week, my daughter has asked for me or gone to the computer and said, “Daddy?”

She misses me. She wants to talk to me. She loves me that much that even when I’ve been seemingly absent for 5 days, she still knows I’m there and wants to talk to me.  She’s only 16 months old.

Do I really miss my Father (God) and want to talk to him? If He were seemingly absent in a period of my life, would I still seek Him out and want to talk to Him? Am I even conscious that He is always there?

We laugh and joke that all the screaming and babbling my daughter does is “preaching.” But this time I think she really did deliver a message from God.

One of the challenges that I’ve found in working with preteens is the uniqueness of this ministry.  I’ve learned to borrow from resources in children’s ministry and student ministry, but the most helpful tools have come from other preteen ministry leaders.  That’s what I’m super excited about heading to the Preteen Leader’s Conference put on by the team at FourFiveSix.

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The Preteen Leader’s Conference is designed by preteen leaders for preteen leaders.

This will by my first time to attend the conference, but I’ve heard great stories of the connections and experiences others have had. During last year’s conference, I followed the twitter feeds and blog posts of other leaders as they attended the conference. When the conference ended, I made the decision right then that I would be attending the conference in 2012.

If you work with preteens or have an interest in launching a preteen ministry within your church, you really need to be at the Preteen Leader’s Conference. As a bonus, you can attend for just $137 if you register in the next 10 days. You can register to be a part of this unique experience HERE.

This week has been a busy week for me, both professionally and personally.

Professionally, this past Sunday was the launch of our new ministry year.  1300 kids and 700 volunteers made for a really exciting day!  I was excited about the number of new volunteers that we have in the Preteen Ministry. 

Personally, this Thursday is our little girls’ 1st birthday.  It doesn’t seem like Maggie should be a year old already, but we’re excited about celebrating that with family.  It’s been so much fun watching her grow and develop over this first year. 

As I think about the way that Maggie has developed over this first year of her life, I can’t help but notice the similarities between her development and the development of new volunteers in their first year of service.  For example…

1. Most of what our daughter learned was learned in the last 4 or 5 months.
Talking, crawling, walking (not there yet), following instructions, eating solid foods…all of these things were learned in the final months of her first year.  This is a good reminder to stay confident in new volunteers.  While they may not completely get it on the first week, they will grow and develop.  Give them time and keep encouraging.

2. Most of what our daughter learned was what we chose to teach her
My wife was intentional about teaching Maggie some sign language.  She consistently taught the signs over and over until our daughter understood and used them on her own.  New volunteers are going to learn what we chose to teach them.  What are we choosing to teach our volunteers? Even if the answer is “I don’t know”, we’re still teaching something and chances are it’s not good!

3. Some of what our daughter learned was through others’ example
Being around other kids has helped Maggie to learn new things.  This is especially true when she is around older kids. I love for Maggie to be around kids who can walk and talk because this models the behaviors that she is trying to develop and master.  It’s important that we give new volunteers the opportunity to rub shoulders with experienced volunteers.  Trust in your experienced volunteers to model the vision and strategy for the new volunteers.  Pretty soon the new volunteer is an experienced volunteer and ready to model for someone else.

4. Our daughter was motivated to learn new things because we rewarded her and celebrated her accomplishments
When Maggie says a new word or masters a new skill, we can’t help but love on her and praise her.  She gets the biggest smile on her face because she knows that she’s done something well.  New volunteers need the same type of encouragement.  As they develop and grow, they’re not sure if they’re doing everything correctly and they are searching for approval.  Spend time each week celebrating and rewarding new volunteers.  If the time comes when you need to correct a volunteer, it’s much easier to do so when you’ve also poured encouragement into their life.

5. Our daughter is not perfect and she has a lot of boo-boos
Part of growing up is making mistakes.  Maggie is learning to stand and walk, and it seems like she falls 100 times a day.  New volunteers will make mistakes.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely make my fair share of mistakes. There will be scenarios that you just can’t train them for.  It is the role of the leader to keep encouraging and helping them to learn through mistakes.

How do you nurture your new volunteers?

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