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A few weeks back, I raised the idea of having a “summer reading” with our small group leaders.  It’s been a busy month of wrapping up the school year, but we are finally at a point that we’re ready to launch that idea.

Today, our leaders will receive an email invitation to take part in reading D.A. Carson’s book, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story.  The book does a great job of explaining Scripture and the foundations of Christian faith. My hope is that it will make our leaders hunger even more for the Word of God as they discover how God has called them to play a part in the story. We have an amazing team of leaders, and I’m really looking forward to this time with them.

As we prepare week to week to minister to preteens, we want our leaders to know why they believe what they believe and why they teach what we’ve asked them to teach.  This knowledge of how we fit into God’s story is what makes their teaching and the Scriptures come alive to the students.  My hope is that walking through this book with them will allow us all to grow in our faith as well as help us to encourage the faith of our students.

Here are some of the things that I want our leaders to contemplate and discuss:

How do we encourage preteens to discover who God is?

How do we lead preteens to discover who God has made them to be?

How does knowing our role in God’s “Big Story” help us to BE the church?

How do we empower preteens to share God’s “Big Story” with the world around them?

I can’t wait to see what God teaches me from this book and the discussions with our leaders.  I’ll definitely be sharing more in the weeks to come.


I was at the bookstore yesterday looking through several books that have been on my “Must Read” list for a long time, and I ran into one of my female small group leaders also checking out books from her “must read” list.  As we talked about the various books on the “Summer Reading” table, I had some thoughts…

What would it look like for all my small group leaders to be reading the same book I was reading?
What if that book stressed the importance of community and relationships?
What if that book could help to communicate our vision for Preteen Ministry over the coming year?

I don’t know how it will work, but we’re going to give it a shot. AND I NEED YOUR HELP??

I need books that will motivate and encourage, as well as equip them to lead a group of 9-12 year olds.  The goal is to pick 2 or 3 books to read through and discuss over the summer. It could be a how-to ministry book, a great book on a particular spiritual discipline, or something practical like a guide to successful business.  They don’t have to be ministry related as long as the principles can be transferred to ministry.  In other words, we’re not reading the Twilight series!

If you have done something like this or were going to do something like this…what book(s) would you recommend?

Leave your book suggestion as comments below or tweet me @Pastor_MattMo

Let me start by saying that I am no expert.  I fail more times than I succeed, in ministry and in life.  The only thing I can say for certain is that God has laid a great passion for preteens on my heart, and I’m doing my best to find ways to connect with them and share God’s Big Story with them.

I have learned from much wiser people that if you want to connect with preteens, you need to… 

1.  Be Authentic
Increases in technology and social networking means that preteens are “always on”.  They share everything that goes on in their lives—good and bad.  They value this sort of transparency in others.  In ministry, it’s important that we not try to hide our failures from this generation.  Rather, we should be teaching through those experiences and sharing how Scripture is leading us.  Sharing about experiences—good and bad—from a Biblical perspective is a great way to connect with preteens.
How do you share with preteens what God is doing in your personal life?

2.  Be Engaging
Let’s face it; if we try as the church to entertain preteens then we will fail miserably.  Technology is advancing at such a rate that even the top Fortune companies can’t stay relevant.  So if we can’t be entertaining, then what do we do?  We become engaging. Preteens want to be heard.  They want to share their thoughts and ask their questions.  To be engaging means that we will commit time to listen to them and relate to them.   This commitment furnishes us the credibility and opportunity to share what Scriptures says on the subject.  If we want to connect with preteens, we have to go to a deeper level and engage them in these types of conversations.
How do you engage preteens in Scripture-centered conversations?

3.  Be Productive
The scarcest of resources for everyone is TIME.  Preteens are no different.  They are as over-committed and over-involved as any generation in history.  The question for the church is: how do we package the message of the Gospel to be as important as we know it actually is?  I’m admittedly a “fly-by” kind of guy.  This has been a challenge for me.  The reality is that we need to have a strategy for every second we spend with preteens so that we can communicate the truth of Scripture.  If you’re planning an event for preteens or your weekly service for preteens—ask what makes it worth attending and be sure to communicate that to preteens.  The Gospel is powerful and effective, and the message doesn’t need to change.  However, our methods must always be changing to assure that the time we are asking preteens to give us is filled with life-changing dialogue.
What is your strategy to keep your ministry time as productive for preteens as possible?

4.  Be Available
But don’t smother.  One of the reasons that I sensed God pulling my heart towards this season of life is because of their awkward position of wanting space and needing guidance.  Up to this point, faith has been based mostly upon parental influence.  As a preschooler and even early elementary years, kids model and follow the faith of their parents.  For some reason and at some point, kids begin to question everything—including faith.  It is imperative that we establish lines of communication with preteens so that they can feel safe to ask these questions. It is also imperative that we provide opportunities for them to wonder and discover faith for themselves.  A great method is through service.  By serving, preteens develop an understanding of what it means to BE the church and not just go to church.  Will they make mistakes?  Will they think they have answers and be totally wrong?  Yes, probably.  That is why we need to be available to step in and provide guidance.  One of the greatest things we can do for preteens is to provide them with space to take ownership of their faith.
How are you encouraging preteens to take ownership of their faith?

5.  Be an Example
This just goes without saying.  Other than the early years of a child’s life (0-3 years), the preteen years are the most foundational years for personality and faith.  All of the other four points really boil down to this one.  Preteens need to see how Jesus Christ can change their lives.  The best way to communicate this is not with our words, but with our actions.  We need to model spiritual disciplines such as prayer, worship, Scripture study, and service.  Mark Matlock (@markmatlock) spoke at Orange ‘11 on this same subject and he shared a great line.  He said, “We summarize Scripture more than we read Scripture. And when kids tell us about an issue in their life, we tell them that we will pray for them instead of stopping right then and actually praying with them.”
In what ways are you providing opportunities for examples in your ministry environments?
I’d love to hear your feedback and experiences.  Leave comments or questions on the blog. You can also follow the RSS feed for this blog and/or follow me on twitter @Pastor_MattMo