Archives For preteen ministry

A month from now, preteen leaders from all across the country will gather together in Rocklin, CA for the Preteen Leaders Conference. In its 5th year, the conference is designed to spark conversation. It’s all about how can we better lead preteens to a deeper understanding of Scripture and their relationship with Jesus Christ. I can’t wait to enjoy the conversations and experiences that will happen at the conference!

At the conference, I’ll be leading two breakouts–Connecting with Parents of Preteens & Cultivating Leaders. Let me know if you plan to attend one of these breakouts. (I need some friendly faces to help me out.)

If you’re not attending the Preteen Leaders Conference, (WHY NOT??) I will post a preview of the sessions before the conference and full notes after the conference.

It’s not too late to sign-up for the conference. Click here to reserve your spot at the Preteen Leaders Conference!

Are you attending the conference? If so, leave a comment or send me a TWEET and let me know the #1 thing you’re hoping to gain from the conference.


Last weekend, I spoke at a 5th and 6th Grade retreat in Missouri. I ate dinner with the students on Friday night, and I just happened to sit down at a table of 5th and 6th grade girls. I quickly realized that two of the girls were not eating. I made a joking comment about how the food didn’t taste that bad, but their response was they didn’t want to eat because they were dieting. An adult leader at the same table said, “What have I told you about skipping meals and being on a diet!” I quickly realized that this was not a onetime thing, this was a war.

Research from Dr. Terry Bravender, assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. and medical director of Duke Eating Disorders Program, has found that 40% of 9- and 10-year-olds claim to be on a diet for weight-loss.

In an interview with HealthDay News, Dr. Bravender said, “It’s an unfortunate trend, but we’re finding that girls are becoming concerned about body image and dieting at ages as young as 7 or 8.”

Whether you have preteen girls or boys, here are a few things to consider:

1) Examine their Circle of Influence
Many preteens that struggle with appearance or weight do so because of outside influences. Stay involved and know who your preteen is hanging out with. You may also want to monitor the media influences received by your preteen. Preteens receive a distorted view of beauty and attractiveness from media. There will always be pressure on preteens, but parents and leaders must fight to limit negative influence as much as possible.

2) Start a Conversation
You will not be able to avoid pressure and influence from negative sources, so get to talking. The best defense is a strong offense. While some conversations may be necessary on healthy habits or good hygiene, avoid using stinging comments to motivate your preteen. Many adults can trace their struggle with eating disorders or weight management back to a phrases or comments made by their parents during preteen years. Instead, start talking to your preteen about beauty and appearance in the way that Scripture describes it. Use Psalm 139:14, 1 Samuel 16:7, Proverbs 31:3, or 1 Peter 3:3-4.

3) Change Your Own Habits
When speaking to preteens, I used to refer to myself as the “chubby, bald guy.” It would usually get a laugh out of them, and I thought it showed that I was comfortable with my own body enough to joke about it. WRONG! What I was really doing was labeling myself as chubby and setting a standard of appearance and beauty that would be passed on to those preteens. If your preteen is struggling with appearance and talking about dieting, take a moment to examine your own habits that they might be observing. Spend a day journaling the times that you look in the mirror, talk about weight or appearance, comments made about the weight or appearance of yourself or others, etc. You may not realize how much thought you give to weight and appearance, but chances are your preteen has noticed.

4) Get Help
According to Dr. Bravender, eating disorders typically emerge during 2 stressful periods in life, puberty and transition from high school to college. As preteens move through puberty, you may notice them struggle with the changes happening in their body. If your preteen has become over-obsessed with weight loss or body image, do not ignore these signs. Find a counselor or nutritionist that can help your family. Do whatever you can to restore the self-image of your preteen and reverse the damaging effects.

Whether you’re in ministry 100 years or 1 year, it’s bound to happen. You get stopped in the hall, or you get a phone call to let you know that a volunteer is leaving your team. In that moment, your first thought is, “Who can I get to fill that spot and how quickly can I get them?” However, there are a couple other steps to consider before you plug a new person in.

1. Do an Exit Interview
It doesn’t matter why their leaving your team, those volunteers have valuable insight and a freedom to share it. As the volunteer is leaving the team, it is a great opportunity to ask them about their experiences—good and bad. They will most likely share honest impressions that can be greatly beneficial you as a leader. An exit interview also shows value to that volunteer by allowing them to give input and evaluation to the ministry team.

2. Evaluate the Rest of the Team
Is there someone already on the team that can do this job? If so, would it be a good move for the team? There have been several times that a small group leader has left the team and a replacement was right under my nose. There are substitutes and assistant leaders in your ministry that may be ready to take the plunge into a full time role. Before you put it in the bulletin or stand on stage to announce the opening, consider those that are already on your team.

3. Take the Opportunity to Fill In
If you are able to find a replacement for a departing volunteer before the following Sunday, let me know how you do it! Most times, the process takes a little while longer. In that waiting period, take the opportunity, if possible, to substitute for that position. I have found that putting myself “in the trenches” can really help me to better understand what my team members need.

4. Celebrate the Volunteer that is Leaving (and do it publicly)
I am guilty of not doing this one enough. When a volunteer leaves, we focus on replacement, not celebration. The few times that I have paused to celebrate the volunteer have been great experiences. Celebrating the volunteer shows them and the other volunteers that their service is invaluable. Praising and celebrating a volunteer in front of their peers, especially those that are leaving on a sour note, gives them a lasting memory that is positive and encouraging.

5. Prayerfully Seek the Person to Fill the Position
Ministry is a beast that must be fed. As you read this, you’re thinking, “This is all nice, but Sunday’s coming!” I know that feeling very well. You need someone to plug the hole, and you need them now. Let me encourage you to spend more time seeking God and who He has for the position than you do actually searching for that person. You can run out and find the first willing body that feels sorry for your predicament, but it’s much healthier for you and your team to find a replacement that has been called and ordained by God for that position.

A few days ago, I posted Talking to Preteens about Sex—Part 1, which included survey responses from our 6th graders. The results showed that, contrary to what some may say, preteens prefer to discuss the topic of sex with their parents.

Now what? Most parents are wondering how they’re supposed to approach the subject of sex with their preteen. Here are a few tips that can help parents initiate these conversations:

1. It’s a Marathon, not a sprint.
There is way too much information and way too many questions to cover in one conversation. Due to the awkwardness of the topic, many parents will try to pack as much information into the first conversation as possible. Instead, we need to create an ongoing conversation. This means frequent conversations that answer immediate questions asked by your preteen, but save additional information for later conversations. Research from Dr. Steven C. Martino actually suggests that the more [frequency over time] a parent talks with adolescents about sex, the healthier those adolescents will be and the longer they will wait to have sex. As Christian parents, our prayer is that they will understand and embrace the truth of God’s design for sex in marriage.

2. Break the Ice
Don’t wait for your preteen to start talking. They have questions, but it is unlikely that they will take the first step. Look for opportunities to initiate these conversations. It could be something seen on TV, something that happens at school, or something that is said by a sibling. Ask preteens what or how they feel, and try to listen for their questions or concerns. If those opportunities are not available, pick a time in your routine to have ongoing conversations., such as riding to school, getting ready for bed, etc.

3. Do Your Homework
#1 and #2 really address when and how to have conversations about sex with your preteen, but what do you say? It is a great idea to partner with other parents of preteens to find out what is working and not working. There are also great resources available that speak on this subject from a Christian perspective. These resources can be for you, or some can be given to your preteen as a catalyst for conversation. They can read and ask questions at the pace that is comfortable for them. But, you still have to initiate by buying the book! Here is a short list of resources to check out:

Passport 2 Purity Weekend Kit

Questions Kids Ask about Sex: Honest Answers for Every Age (More medical-based than faith-based)

Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality: A Biblical Approach to Preparing Them for Life

Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle: Creative Conversations About Sexual and Emotional Integrity

Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle: Honest Conversations About Sexual Integrity

This homeschool product specifically reflects a Christian worldview. How to Talk Confidently with Your Child About Sex: Fifth Edition (Also comes as a series for boys or girls)