Preteens are often overlooked in churches. Churches have youth groups for teens, which they aren't quite old enough for, and special programs for younger kids, which bore them to tears. Preteens are at a transitional age, making them one of the more challenging groups to work with. With a little know-how, though, leading a preteen youth group can be rewarding and fun. More importantly, it can have a significant impact on the preteens' lives.
Plan at least a month of youth group meetings and activities -- and preferably three to six months -- before you even announce that you will be starting a preteen youth group. Ministering to preteens will keep you very busy, so make sure you stay ahead of the game when it comes to planning your events and meetings. Ideally, youth group meetings should include a fun activity and a lesson.
Announce the upcoming preteen youth group wherever your preteens normally are during services, whether in the worship service, Sunday School or children's church, at least two weeks before you actually start. Send flyers promoting it home with them. If possible, announce the formation of the preteen youth group during the regular service as well, to make sure parents are informed.
Schedule an exciting event or activity to kick things off, as your first preteen youth group meeting is your most important one. Examples of suitable activities include water balloon wars, sledding or flying disc golf -- anything that will get your kids excited to come. Take every opportunity to talk to your preteens, either as a group or individually about the upcoming event.
Decorate your meeting area with vibrant colors and decor that says "fun." If you're not sure what your preteens see as fun, recruit them to help you decorate.
Play upbeat music as the kids arrive. Most preteens identify with the kinds of things teens like. Music like that produced by TobyMac, Hawk Nelson and other contemporary groups gives your room a "teen" vibe and helps acknowledge to your group that you don't look at them as little kids.
Start with the activity when you can. Preteens are usually easier to teach after you've worn them out a little. Additionally, most activities provide teaching moments. Preteens are experiential learners. They will remember the things you teach much better if you relate them to their activities and experiences.
Involve the preteens at every level of the youth group experience. If you're having an activity, let the kids take the lead when practical. If you're teaching, keep things interactive and ask lots of open-ended questions.
Teach the preteens age-appropriate lessons. Keep in mind that today's preteens are exposed to a lot more information than previous generations. Be prepared for unexpected answers and questions you don't know the answer to. Above all, make sure the kids feel safe to speak their minds during a lesson without being ridiculed or belittled. If you plan on teaching about a sensitive subject like sex, let the kids' parents know ahead of time.
Stay relational at all times. It's more important that preteens build relationships with you and other leaders than it is for them to learn everything you're trying to teach them.
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