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urlBefore I jump into the how of preteen small groups, I want to make an argument for why I think small groups are important in preteen ministry. In our ministry, we’ve had some outstanding events and we’ve taught some awesome series, but nothing compares to the life-on-life impact we’ve seen through preteen small groups.

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

I understand that discipleship can occur in many different settings, but I personally believe small groups are the best method for preteens.
Here some reasons I feel so passionate about preteen small groups:

  • Small groups fulfill a specific social need found in preteens
  • A small group of peers and a loving leader is the perfect place for new preteens to plug-in to your ministry
  • Small Groups create a sense of intimacy and safety for preteens
  • Small groups give preteens an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and questions
  • Small groups create accountability in the lives of preteens
  • Life-change happens in the context of community
  • Small groups help preteens understand and apply Jesus’ command to “make disciples”

For even more reasons, check out “Why Do Preteen Small Groups?” by my friend Nick Diliberto.

Everyone, especially preteens, needs community to grow. John Ortberg wrote about the power of Christian community. He said:

“God uses people to form people. That is why what happens between you and another person is never merely a human-to-human interaction — the Spirit longs to be powerfully at work in every encounter. Referring to this dynamic, some writers of Scripture speak of “the fellowship of the Spirit.” Fellowship has become a church word that suggests basements and red punch and awkward conversation. But it is really a word for the flow of rivers of living water between one person and another, and we cannot live without it.” (The Me I Want To Be)

Hopefully, you feel just as passionate as I do about small groups for preteens. The next few posts will cover some of the keys to preteen small groups—size, space, leaders, and more.

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At the 2012 Preteen Leaders Conference, we were given some specific topics and asked to share some ideas from our ministry. The ideas were posted on the wall with notecards for everyone else to read and gain from. It really was a great idea and you can check out what was posted over at FourFiveSix.

One of the things that struck me from the notecards was the number of comments in certain areas. For instance, there were 28 ideas posted for Games in preteen ministry. There were 22 ideas posted about Teaching/Curriculum for preteen ministry. But there were only 4 ideas posted for small groups and 3 for volunteers.

    They were great ideas, but why so few?

I think it’s because both of these areas are tricky. I know everyone struggles with volunteers from time to time. Even if you can recruit enough help, you probably still struggle with training and retaining those volunteers.

Small groups are no walk in the park either. There are many dynamics that must be considered so that your preteen small groups can be successful. You have to think about group size, meeting space, purpose of the group, curriculum for the group, leaders for the group, and on and on and on.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be posting some ideas and strategies that you might be able to use in developing preteen small groups. I’ve done some research and pulled from personal experience, and I’ve already learned so much that will help our ministry. There are some great churches doing really cool things in preteen ministry, and I can’t wait to share that info with you!

If you haven’t done so, be sure you subscribe to the blog so that you can stay up to date with this series of posts.

Have you ever wondered what makes a great leader “great”? It’s the time of year when we are doing interviews and placing volunteers for the new ministry year. As we go through this process, I have been reminded of this quote:

The people in and around your ministry will define your ministry.

Preteens, parents, and other potential volunteers will make judgments about your ministry based on what they see, and what they predominately see are the volunteers that you place in ministry.

Does that make you nervous to think about? It makes me nervous! It also makes the process of enlisting leaders even more important. Here are some qualities that we look for in our recruitment and interview process:

1. Passionate faith
Our expectation is that a volunteer will encourage preteens to grow in their faith. To do so, it is imperative that a volunteer displays a passionate faith. A passionate faith is like a virus that spreads throughout the group and infects every member.

2. Value people and relationships
A volunteer called to build relationships with preteens needs to value relationships. Even more so, we want leaders that can develop relationships with other leaders and parents. These relationships are tremendously helpful to the entire ministry.

3. Teachable
Even the 20-year ministry veteran has room for growth, so leaders need to be teachable. In addition to being teachable, we look for leaders who are “teachers.” Every experience in ministry is an opportunity to learn and share with other leaders to help them grow. Leaders who are teachable and teachers are worth their weight in gold!

4. Balance
The commitment to ministry is not always convenient. Someone who is over-committed in many areas of life will never achieve their full potential in ministry. When enlisting leaders, look for individuals who show balance in their life. They will most likely be able to manage the commitment of ministry and be successful in it.

5. Experience
We would love for every volunteer to have 10-20 years of experience in preteen ministry, but that’s not likely and that’s not really what we mean by experience. Great leaders have experience that is life-based. They have spent time under a faithful mentor, or they have experienced God working in their life in a mighty way. This type of experience is a well to draw from when leading a group of preteens.

What qualities do you look for in potential volunteers?

I recently had the awesome opportunity to write a 4-week Easter series titled “King of Kings” for Preteenministry.net. Here is the promotional description of the series:

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most significant event in all of history. This Easter, help preteens learn much more about this supernatural event. King of Kings is a 4-week series that shows how Jesus was the Coming King, the Servant King, the Resurrected King, and the King of Kings. From the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy to His ascension into heaven, this series is designed to lead preteens to a deeper faith in Jesus as their King.

Each lesson in the series includes: opening games, PowerPoint slides, large group messages, small group activities, and small group discussion guide. The series is available as an instant download for only $25. I encourage you to go get it!

The series from PreteenMinistry.net is a great deal, but if you’re like me you love freebies! So, here it is. Below is a free download of one of the lessons from the series. This lesson focuses on the events that occurred days and even hours before Jesus’ death. It includes a small group activity to help students fully understand all that Jesus experienced.

FREE DOWNLOAD: King of Kings (The Servant King)

Remember to check out the rest of the series at PreteenMinistry.net