Archives For preteen ministry

On Sunday mornings, the hallways of our kids ministry are bustling. There are parents picking up kids, parents dropping off kids, and just a lot of conversations and connections happening each week.

I’ve found that it’s a great place for me to slow down and be present with families and kids. As families pass in the halls, I’ve heard one question over and over again. The question is:

Did you have fun?

I’m all for fun. I think fun is such an important ingredient to reaching kids, but there is so much pressure wrapped up in that question. ‘Did you have fun?’ implies that our primary focus should be spending 90 minutes entertaining kids. I wonder how I can compete the all the entertainment that kids have at their fingertips, and even more so I wrestle with the conviction that this should not be the measuring stick of Sunday morning. There is so much unnecessary pressure in this question.

This is also no knock against parents. Admittedly, I’ve asked my kids the same question. Every parent wants their kids to enjoy coming to church so that there’s not a battle every Sunday morning. I want to be more focused on how the Gospel connected with the heart and less on how the teacher did or did not entertain for the full 90 minutes. As a pastor, I can’t expect a parent to change the question they are asking until I’ve cast a vision for something greater. The more I heard this question, the more it caused me to think about the question I wish every parent would ask instead.

When a child comes running to the classroom door to head home with a waiting parent, I wish every parent would be excited to ask:

What did you learn about Jesus today?  

This question anticipates that children are learning who Jesus is and all that He has done to seek and save the lost. The immediate inquiry about Jesus means parents are excited to hear how their child is learning the riches of the Gospel. And this question provides our ministries with accountability to keep the message of the Gospel as the central theme to everything we do.

Think about this for a moment: If every parent asked that question, would your kids ministry provide kids with an answer? 

This is still not the predominant question being asked in our hallways, but I’m praying that it would be heard more and more each week. We have tried to explicitly emphasize the Gospel in every aspect of our kids ministry. There are other steps we need to take to get parents thinking and listening for how their child is growing in the Gospel. We will keep working on reaching kids with the Gospel and equipping parents to engage in Gospel-centered conversations with their kids. As we do what is humanly possible, I’m trusting in God and begging Him to fill our hallways with the question I wish every parent would ask.

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It’s 9:00 pm Saturday night and Bill is frantically searching his email for the lesson that was emailed to him earlier in the week. When he finally finds it and prints it off, it’s 10:00 pm. He glances at it (not really to read it but just to make sure it all printed), and then shoves it in his Bible so he’ll have it when he leads his small group on Sunday morning.

Is this how your volunteers prepare to lead a small group? In the busyness of your life and theirs, how can you help them prepare to lead their small group well?

To help our small group leaders, I included a page in our training manual called “How to Prepare for Sunday Morning in 15 Minutes or Less.” The idea was to give them a practical way to be well prepared for Sunday by spending a little bit of time with the lesson each day. Here is what we included:

I adapted this schedule from an example found in Wholly Kids from Lifeway:Kids. This is an amazing resource on how kids learn, how to design engaging environments, and how to lead volunteers.

 HOW TO PREPARE FOR SUNDAY MORNING (in 15 minutes or less!)

Monday

  • Read the Fifty6 Team Email and print a copy of this week’s lesson
  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible

Time: 5 minutes

Tuesday

  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible
  • Read the Large Group teaching time

Time: 10-15 minutes

Wednesday

  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible
  • Read the Small Group portion of the lesson—Think, Discuss, & React

Time: 15 minutes

Thursday

  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible
  • Write down your responses/answers to the Small Group discussion questions

Time: 15 minutes

Friday

  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible
  • Pray for the students in your group by name

Time: 10 minutes

Saturday

  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible
  • Write down some fun or engaging questions to use during Huddle Time
  • Review the lesson and rest!

Time: 10 minutes

Abstract big speech bubbleWe recently started spending time each week thinking through the creative elements for our preteen ministry. (I really want to share more about that process later.) Our worship and planning had basically been an afterthought until now.  Our worship leader is very gifted, and he’s been like a spring rain for me in a dry creative time. After just a few meetings, I already feel like our preteen ministry has become more effective and definitely more creative.

Next week, we’re launching a series on prayer. One thing that came out in the creative planning was that we really wanted to create space for preteens to pray. As we’re talking about what prayer is and how Jesus taught us to pray, it’s important that preteens have space to practice.

Our series artwork has based on a collage of conversation bubbles. Our series point is that prayer is a communication between us and God. As we thought about how to make space for preteens to practice prayer, here are the ideas we’ve come up with:

  • Create a Prayer Time at the end of teaching time for Week 1.
  • During the Prayer Time, each preteen receives a personal size conversation bubble to write or draw their prayers.
  • The “conversation bubbles” will be collected in small group and used to create a large wall mural between Week 1 and Week 2. The “conversation bubbles” will be “collaged” together to form a large conversation bubble on the focal wall of our preteen space.
  • Week 2 will begin with a Prayer Time for preteens and Small Group Leaders. Personal size conversation bubbles will be available to record prayers. They can then be placed on the collage at the focal wall
  • All worship lyrics and Scripture slides will be presented in conversation bubbles on screen to illustrate that these elements are also part of the communication between us and God.

I’m really excited to see preteens using this space for prayer. We want prayer to become an integral part of our preteen ministry, so we plan to keep the theme of conversation bubbles going even after the series.

Here are my questions for you:

1) What is your process for planning the creative elements in your ministry?

2) How do you create space specifically for prayer with your preteens? If you’re a parent of preteens, what has helped them feel comfortable communicating with God through prayer?

books that helped in ministry

7 Practices of Effective Ministry

Strategy. I was handed this book when I was just a part-time intern during college, but I have kept at least two copies in my office ever since. I’m always passing 7 Practices of Effective Ministry on to other ministry leaders! This book is all about strategy—why we do what we do. It has helped me to be intentional in ministry and keep focused on the end goal.

Holy Discontent

Passion. I don’t remember where I picked up this book, but I’ll never forget reading it. Holy Discontent gives some great examples of how God ignites a passion in our hearts that will not go away. It is that issue or cause that keeps you awake at night and calls you into the fight. Hybels labels it our “holy discontent.” The insights of this book have helped me discern God’s call on my life and challenged me to pursue that passion with everything.

Next Generation Leader/Making Vision Stick

Leadership. These two books are made to be read together. Next Generation Leader gives a great blueprint for strong leadership. The tips given in this book are designed to develop a long-lasting leader. Reading this book on leadership with Making Vision Stick really has helped me to survive in ministry and navigate through tough changes.

Let the Nations Be Glad

Perspective. I love John Piper and his zeal for Christ. Let the Nations Be Glad provides a great perspective for any Christian, but especially those in vocational ministry. The book can be summed up from Piper’s quote of the Westminster Confession of Faith: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Even when ministry gets hard and distracting, it is great to know and understand that God created me to glorify and enjoy Him!