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It’s Day 2 of the Preteen Leaders Conference, and I already have a bag full of ideas and notes from some great preteen leaders. Stay tuned to the blog next week, I will do a recap of the conference with detailed notes from the main sessions.

Today, I get to lead another breakout with preteen leaders on the topic of cultivating leaders. The main idea of the session will be the premise that

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

This fact may encourage some and scare the living daylight out of others! Parents, preteens, and other potential leaders will judge the ministry based upon those they see the most, which is likely the volunteer leadership you have placed in charged.

With this in mind, it is important that we create an environment that sets our leaders up to be successful in their service to God. Like a farmer provides the necessities to cultivate a good crop, we need to have a strategy for cultivating great leaders.

Here are the 8 Ways to Create a Culture that Cultivates Leaders that I will share in today’s breakout session:

    1) Set Standards and Expectations for Your Team
    2) Cast an Inspiring Vision for Your Team
    3) Build a Sense of “Family” Amongst Your Team
    4) Train Your Team Well and Often
    5) Celebrate “God-Stories” with Your Team
    6) Form a Friendship with Every Member of Your Team
    7) Provide Opportunities for Your Team to Give Input and Feedback
    7) Make Sure Every Team Member (Including Yourself) is Growing

If you would like more info on any of these, leave a comment and I’ll send you the notes from the breakout.

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A team of leaders and myself have been dreaming and planning for the future of preteen ministry (5th & 6th Grade) at our church. Many of them have felt God leading us to make some changes, and He has paved the way for some exciting ministry in the near future.

We are currently in the planning and writing stages of the process. We have put together a service schedule and a 2 year curriculum track that will become the future of our 5th and 6th Grade ministry. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” In addition to the team of leaders around me, I want to gather the input from others who are ministering to preteens.

Here is a link to the draft of our preteen service schedule and 2 year curriculum. We’d love to have your input and hear about your experiences in working with preteens:

Download the Service Schedule & 2 Year Curriculum

You can also help by leaving a comment to answer these questions:
1) What are the cores lessons every preteen needs to learn?
2) What do your preteen small groups look like? Number of students? Leaders? How much time?
3) How do you partner with the parents of your preteens? (family services, email, text, newsletter)
4) What is the most effective special event you’ve done with preteens?

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.

One of the most difficult parts of preteen ministry is keeping your leaders fresh and equipped for the task at hand. We kick-off the year with a huge training event, and we host periodic training events throughout the year. But I always wish we could do more.

When I read a great article or blog on preteen ministry, I want to pass that on to volunteers to encourage them.  When I read a great book that deals directly with the series we’re doing, I want to pass that book to the leaders to equip them.

But how?

This year, we launched The Library. It is basically just a bookshelf in our preteen area, but on it are books, articles, and other pieces that are designed to encourage and equip our preteen leadership team. We look for resources that will help leaders to grow spiritually, help leaders understand preteens, or help leaders develop skills as a leaders/teacher. We don’t require them to use these resources, but we strongly encourage them to check out at least one resource during the year. The resources are there for their use…at their convenience. They can take any resource and keep it for as long as they need to When they’re done with it, they return it and take another resource. They can also add resources to share with other leaders. . If they read a good book or see an interesting article, they know that putting it in The Library is the best way to share it with others.

The Library has been a great help for our ministry. Our goal is not just to fill the volunteer spots that we have in ministry. We want to build up leaders and equip them to serve at church and at home. That’s a really hard task when people are so busy and can’t make it to tons of meetings. These resources in The Library are helping us meet the challenge.