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As children become preteens, they begin putting massive amounts of pressure upon themselves to live up to expectations. As parents and leaders, we must begin to help them understand their failures and face them with confidence.

The new series, Epic Fail, from Preteenministry.net is a great resource to help talk with preteens about expectations and failures. The series speaks to preteens on their level about how God can use our failures to shape us and the world around us.

Every series I’ve ever downloaded from Preteenministry.net has been worth the cost, but this series takes it to another level. How is that?

First, each lesson in the series comes with a devotional that preteens can use throughout the week. The devotionals could easily be given to parents to used as a family devotion with their preteen. I love anything that incorporates the family, so this is an awesome addition to the lesson pack.

Second, each lesson in this series includes awesome video elements to use for teaching your group.  I always love using video, but I hardly ever have time to create them. Epic Fail gives you great video content so all you have to do is press play! The videos integrate easily into your own teaching, and they provide a great change of pace for preteens.

Epic Fail has all the great stuff that you’ve come to expect from Preteenministry.net and even more! You can get this awesome series for only $89 at Preteenministry.net.

is so excited about this new series, they’re giving away a free copy here at Mattmo.org. Check out the details below for your chance to win a free download of this awesome series.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

design23Yesterday, I got the opportunity to have a meeting with a future volunteer for our preteen ministry. His name is Sujay. Sujay communicated an interest in serving through our church-wide recruitment, we talked a few times via email, and then we set up a meeting to chat on Sunday morning.

My goal for the conversation was to get a feel for Sujay’s skills and work experience because he had signed up to work in a tech support role. As we talked, we got onto the topic of why he wanted to serve. His answer was amazing.

He shared with me about how he was growing and maturing in his faith while attending our church. He was so excited about everything that he was learning and applying to his life. He decided to serve because he wanted to have another way to worship God. Let me repeat that. He wanted to serve as an act of worshiping God.

This guy has “IT.”  I was ready to sign him up for a lifetime commitment. And just when I thought the conversation couldn’t get any better, Sujay floored me.

He wrapped up our conversation by asking about our plan for training young leaders. He shared his desire to take what he has learned and pass it on to the next generation!

We’re less than a month away from the launch of a new ministry year. I’m so excited to see what God does through an amazing group of leaders just like Sujay.


Last week, I started this series on preteen small groups. If you missed the first few posts, you can catch up “Why Preteen Small Groups Matter” and “What’s the Right Size for a Small Group?”. I don’t intend for this series to include everything you need to know about small groups, but hopefully there will be some thought-provoking ideas that help you in your ministry.

Another feature that affects small groups is meeting space. Big church or small church, your preteen ministry probably doesn’t have a huge space. I know I often feel like I just have to work with what I’ve got. But does it have to be that way?

When it comes to small group space, there is no limit on where they can meet. Preteens need structure in their schedule and consistency from their leader, but they are flexible enough to meet in some of the oddest places! If you’re trying to plan a space for your preteens to meet, let your imagination run wild!

We all know the common places a small group can meet—classrooms, homes, circle of chairs in your large group room, etc. Here are a few unique meeting spaces for preteen small groups:

  • Outside (weather permitting)
  • Stairwell
  • Staff Offices
  • Hallways
  • Inside the Church Van (or the garage that holds the Church Van)
  • Local Park
  • McDonald’s (or In-and-Out for the rest of you)
  • Yo Momma’s House (ok, so that one was a joke. Unless, your mom really loves preteens and would let them come over?)

You get the picture, right?

The point here is that any space is better than no space at all.

Space will likely be a hard to find commodity, but it is worth it to try. I’ve found that parents and preteens will accept some pretty off-the-wall small group spaces. Why? Preteens need to connect with the Bible and with other preteens—even if it is in the boiler room!

Where do your small groups meet?  Leave a comment and share your small group space solutions with the rest of us.

One of the most basic, yet overlooked features of preteen small groups is size. Have you ever considered how the size of your small groups might be affecting the experience had by preteens or leaders?

Too many preteens in a group can lead to a burnout for the leader. Leaders will feel discouraged about their inability to control the group, even though not even the Avengers could tame a crowd that large. Larger groups also limit the interaction and discussion opportunities for preteens. Preteens need space to think and pose questions, which is difficult to do with 18 brains and mouths!

Too few preteens in a group can lead to boredom and awkwardness. I can remember showing up for Sunday School one day in Jr. High and I was the only one! Despite the attendance, the teacher proceeded with class like normal. I don’t remember the lesson but I definitely remember the awkward experience.

Still, if you read any books on small groups or community, you will not likely find a golden number for small group size. That’s because every church and every ministry are different and they demand a unique small group strategy. There just isn’t a one-size-fits-all small group!

This doesn’t mean you can just throw some preteens together to form any size group and hope it works. It means you need to think even harder about the size of your small groups and how they affect the growth of preteens.

Here are some things you need to consider about the size of your preteen small group:

Leaders have Limitations

In the book The Greenhouse Project, Ric Garland comments that discipleship is most effective when the leader is given 5-6 group members. Maybe your leaders can go a little larger than that, or maybe they need to go smaller. You must know your leaders well enough to know what they can handle.

We have some amazing leaders (I mean really amazing…like better at my job than I am…but don’t tell my boss!) Even still, we’ve found that our groups are too large. We have had Sundays where up to 15 kids show up for a small group! Even the best leader loses control at that point. We’ve found that our leaders are most successful and most satisfied when their group has an average of 7-8 preteens. So, for this coming year, we are recruiting enough small group leaders to match this number.

You Must Keep a Critical Mass

The temptation you might have with small groups is to continually reduce the size in hopes of making them more effective. The problem with this is the idea of critical mass.

This idea comes from the world of physics. In physics, a “critical mass” the amount of material that must be present before a chain reaction can sustain itself.

In this case, you must have enough preteens to keep the group healthy and alive! We have tracked our attendance for the last two years and found that around 73% attend Children’s Ministry services regularly (>3x month). Knowing that ¼ of our kids may be absent on a given Sunday; we plan to place 10 preteens per small group so that our average attendance will be 7-8.

If we were to create a small group of 3-4 preteens, it would likely end up in that same awkward Jr. High experienced I had!

Focus on Growth

The most important factor to remember when sizing your small groups is growth. Make sure that your group size allows for new preteens to join. When the group reaches a large enough point (2x your critical mass), then it’s time to birth a new group.

This split can be difficult, so plan for the original group to reconnect on certain events or plan a joint fellowship time for the two new groups. This makes sure that the preteens keep the relationships they had previously formed, while also creating the best small group environment for future relationships.

Share Your Thoughts
I’d love to hear from you about how you create you preteen small groups. Leave a comment to answer these questions:

What size are your small groups?
What made you choose that size?
What are the advantages/disadvantages of a group that size?