Preteens are at a crossroads of growing up and growing in the Lord, with the world pushing in on them from all sides- temptation at every turn and seeping in through the cracks through peer pressure, social media, and more. The world they are facing is scary, and we want to FIGHT FOR THEM and teach them to fight for purity.
We want them to chase after Christ, and let Him fill every area of their lives with purity. To pursue holiness and become molded and shaped in to His image. To strive for purity in their minds, bodies, friendships, and social media- in ALL areas of their lives; to live without even a hint of impurity or immorality. That is the goal.
The path to get there takes intentionality and dedication. It takes prayer and investment, long term relationships and pouring into kids. It takes parents who are empowered to fight for their kids and lead them, and a church who equips kids and parents and challenges them.
Teaching kids to live in purity isn't a one time thing. It's not just a lesson or a weekend trip. It's a journey.
We recently started a ministry just for 4th and 5th graders at our church. Our first event was a purity retreat at a lake house. We had over 20 kids participate, and it was amazing! God worked in some great ways. After the retreat, we asked kids to share testimonies of what God did in and through them that weekend, and one 5th grade boy shared a vision that God gave him of how God fills our lives with light and gets rid of our sin. After he stood on stage in a crowded room and shared his testimony and vision from the Lord, his parents came up to me in tears and told me that was the first time he shared a word in front of people, and that before he was even born, they were given a prophecy that he would be a preacher of God's word. This was the first seed from that prophecy.
Another 5th grade girl shared a testimony of God speaking to her and giving her a vision and word straight from HIM. During her time alone with God, she and a friend were praying and reading the Word, and suddenly they both felt the presence of the Lord, and felt Him speak to them, saying "Fearfully and wonderfully made...." and another girl got a vision of angels surrounding the room singing, 'Holy, holy , holy." What a powerful testimony!
Another 5th grade boy shared that God had told him was going to be a missionary when he grows up. When he was asked where he felt God leading him to serve, he simply replied, "I will be a missionary to the most dangerous places on earth. Places where people are persecuted and killed for being a Christian."
It was such a powerful weekend. We shared stories and played games, built relationships, prayed together, read the Word together, and had a blast. We made so many memories. We couldn't have done it without an amazing team of volunteers who are dedicated and passionate.
One key for success is including parents in the process. Parents were given information about what their kids would be studying. Parents attended the retreat and helped lead sessions. And we ended the retreat with parents meeting together with kids and gave parents a Scripture Guide and Prayer Guide and asked them to pray with their kids. They were given a purity pledge to sign together (optional). The next night, we had a special event JUST for parents, where we brought in speakers to equip and empower them. One speaker was from the Sheriff's Department, and he shared about keeping kids safe online, and the other was a licensed Christian relationship/sex therapist, who shared about how to talk to your kids about sex, and we had a panel for questions and shared resources. It was a wonderful and informative session!
The purity weekend was a powerful weekend, but it is only the start in helping kids build a foundation of living for Christ and purity. We will continue to mentor them, teach them, pray with them, and come alongside them in their journey. We have an opportunity to invest in the lives of kids and help draw them to the Lord, so HE can transform their lives and their hearts.
FREE PURITY RETREAT RESOURCES
I am attaching some resources for you, if you want to host your own preteen purity retreat.
Click HERE to download the sample pack from our purity retreat, which includes (in Word, so you can tweak):
And the Purity Pledge and Parent Guide
What other ideas can you share to help preteens live in purity?
We have an awesome preteen ministry. I don't take credit for it, though. It's all God. God, with a team of amazing volunteers who are servants and leaders, poured out to the Lord, and dedicated to serving Him and our preteens.
It all started about 4 years ago, when I sat down with some leaders around the pool at my apartment complex, talking, dreaming and praying about the vision for our children's ministry. One lady said, "I'll start a pre-teen ministry." Now, she says she has no idea where that statement came from, except from God; it wasn't something she had planned on saying or doing. God planned this ministry. That is where Club 56 was birthed, and since that moment, God's hands have been ALL OVER it, and He has anointed just the leaders He wanted, and brought us the greatest groups of pr-teens to be a part of this ministry.
I don't claim to be an expert on preteens; but I do love them. And I know God loves them deeply too. This is an age (10-12 years) where MANY kids get lost somewhere between children's ministry and youth ministry, and, if we're not intentional with targeting them and engaging them, many of them slip through the cracks. This is a time that is hugely important in shaping their faith foundation. They are different from kids in children's ministry, and they are different from teens in youth ministry.
That's why we started a ministry JUST for them. Here is what we did:
1) Cool Space
We first focused on giving them a space that is THEIRS. When they take ownership of their space and feel comfortable there, then they have a place where they can open up, invite their friends, and have fun. We were incredibly blessed by God in this area. We prayed, and God provided some awesome stuff, almost all through donations. A snack/drink bar was built and donated, a big flatscreen TV donated, a Wii and Xbox, cool chairs and furniture, and more. The kids LOVE their room!
More about the room....
For pre-teens, relationships are one of the most important things in their lives. We facilitate relationships with adult mentors who love these kids, who are there every week to pray with them, teach them, and have fun with them. These mentors are people the kids can look up to and trust, who can speak truth into their lives.
We also work hard to build relationships among the preteens, so they have a group of friends who are seeking God along with them, who they connect with and have fun with, and can walk their faith with. We try to give them lots of opportunities to develop these relationships.
One thing, in particular, that helps grow deeper relationships within the group is adventure and mystery. We used to do something we called "Destination Unknown." We had a mystery trip every month, where kids would sign up (I would tell their parents where we were going), and we would blindfold the kids, and take them someplace fun and cool! Sometimes it was something simple, like lunch and games in the park; other things we did are: bowling, pool party, ice skating, movies, scavenger hunt, pumpkin patch, horse farm, etc. The kids had SO MUCH fun on these adventures. And something about being blindfolded and "kidnapped" for an adventure will bond students together in a unique way that strengthens relationships and friendships.
Our most recent event was a mystery-themed lock-in, with a whole night full of clues and mysteries and blindfolds and challenges and adventure! The kids had an absolute blast! It was so fun to see them laughing and engaging with each other. I will share more about the mystery lock-in in a later post.
3) Deeper Faith
Preteens want to have a deeper faith; they want to ask questions. They want to grow. They have endless curiosity and thirst for truth and knowledge. We want to use that curiosity and thirst to strategically draw them to Jesus, without forcing them to Him; letting them ask questions and come up with answers.
At our recent lock-in, I planned on having a discussion time with the kids, and a short message to talk about the mysteries of our faith, and the clues that lead us to the truth about Jesus. One activity was for the kids to write down some questions they had. I only planned on this part lasting a few minutes; what I didn't count on was that the Holy Spirit would move in the room, and the kids would ask question after question of heartfelt, raw, questions and discussion that would last for about 40 minutes! They had great questions, and they didn't want to stop, even when I told them we had "hot and fresh donuts" waiting for them (this was at 11:30PM!).
Here are some of the questions they wrote down and asked....
These are the things that preteens are thinking about! Their minds are sponges, soaking up information, and full of questions. I was blown away by the conversation and discussion that took place at the lock-in. Their faith is real and raw, and pure. And this faith will be the foundation that shapes what they believe for the rest of their lives. This is an opportunity to build a solid foundation, and fan the flames of passion and knowledge that burns inside of them!
Not only do they have a need to grow in their faith, but they also have a desire to serve and lead. We try to develop servant leadership in our preteens. We do leadership training with them, and we give them opportunities to serve through community mission projects (like delivering food and supplies to hospice and nursing homes) and serve within the church (they run our media during kids' church, they also help in our nursery/toddler rooms, and they help as greeters for kids' church). They absolutely love their leadership jobs, and it gives them an opportunity to be a part of the church body, to use their gifts, and see their strengths and skills as they serve others and develop servants' hearts.
We have a bi-annual purity retreat, that focuses on kids' purity in all areas of life, from media and internet, to friendships, to (we touch very lightly on this; we encourage parents to talk with their kids) sexual and relationship purity- we invite parents to be a part of it, and give parents resources and opportunities to talk with their kids about these issues.
At the very age when many 5th and 6th graders are dragging their feet to church, kids that are a part of a dynamic, strategic preteen ministry will be begging their parents to take them to church, because they feel valued and loved, and they have deep friendships and tons of fun! Investing in preteens is one of the most important things we can do, because not only are they the future of the church, but they can be leaders and servants and an integral part of the church body now, and if we don't keep them in it, they could very easily phase out! This is an all-important ministry, and I am so thankful for our group of leaders and preteens!
What ideas do you have to engage and connect with preteens?
Our preteen room... BEFORE, and NOW
Last Wednesday night, during our Midweek children's ministry program, we made our own version of the popular "Harlem Shake." The kids did a great job, and it was a fun chance for them to just act crazy, let loose, and have a good time! We also had Pajama/Movie night, and the kids had a blast! I have already had one parent tell me that it was their kids' favorite night at church!
We love to have a good time, and I love serving with the awesome team and kids at my church!
Check out our video and let us know what you think!
About 5 years ago, our church staff was talking and praying about how we can serve our community, and a God-given vision was born. In one staff meeting, the Lord led us to create an event that would fill a void in our community-- a community with no city-wide Easter event. This was one huge way that we could impact our community and show them that we love them, and more importantly, that God loves them. God gave us a vision, and EasterFest was born.
This is our 5th year to do EasterFest, and it is one my favorite things that we do! It is the one thing that we ALL do together as a church, with one common goal: to give the people in our community a fun and free day together, and to let them know who we are and how much we love them.
We have EasterFest at a big park right off of our main road in the city. We give away a free lunch to everyone, we have a live band, carnival games and prizes, a petting zoo, face painting, pictures with the Easter bunny, a GIANT egg hunt with 20,000 eggs, a ton of awesome inflateable slides and obstacle courses, a rock climbing wall, and a special toddler area just for babies. And it's all free for people in our community! We have tweaked it over the years, and each year it has gotten bigger and better (except it rained one year, and we were there anyway!).
We have an amazing team of volunteers who work so hard to put this event together. It is a great way for us to serve the families in our city, and for us to connect with them and engage in relationships with them. Our people are rock stars at initiating conversations and loving people.
Promo: before the event
Our media guy does a great job of putting our event out in our community through a variety of venues (throughout the years, we have done posters, radio ads, newspaper ads, Facebook ads, TV, and more!). We give all our people EasterFest T-shirts to wear around town before the event, and it is so cool to hear stories of people wearing their shirts at the gym or the grocery store, or anywhere, and having people walk up to them and say they have been to or heard of EasterFest, and they can't wait to come this year! In addition to shirts this year, we are giving away bracelets.
Out of all the ways to promote this event, we have found that by far the #1 way people hear about EasterFest is by word of mouth. We equip all of our people to invite their friends through social networking and through invite cards. We have done door hangers in the past, and have canvased neighborhoods, which was awesome. When all of our people take ownership of the event, their passion and excitement bubbles over and they eagerly invite people.
Followup: after the event
Two of the most important parts of a great event take place after the event is over. Follow up and evaluation. Since we have done this 4 times, we have tweaked these two things and come up with a great way to do them.
We bring a bunch of "Connection Cards" to the event and get as many people as possible to fill them out and turn them in, to be entered into a prize drawing to win one of 4 Family Night Out cards ($50 Visa Gift cards). Once we get their information, we send everyone a letter thanking them for coming, and letting them know we would LOVE to have them at our church. We make sure to include information about our children's ministry.
One of the reasons we intentionally have the event the day before Easter is to give people an opportunity to attend our Easter Sunday service. Easter Sunday is a common day for people to visit a church. We give them invite cards at EasterFest, letting them know what our Sunday service will be about the next day, and our greeters and hosts are intentionally looking for people to personally invite and make one-on-one connections with, so they know we have a spot for them, and will be looking for them the next day.
A key to a great event is to continually evaluate and look for ways to improve. We also look for things that were a huge hit, so we can keep doing them and keep getting better! We have a staff debriefing session, and we get great input from our volunteers and leaders. We are always looking for ways to make the event better. Our egg hunt has changed and improved a little every year, and the current egg hunt looks nothing like the egg hunt our first year! Something we ask ourselves every year is "What is the goal of this event?" and "Did we accomplish it?" If we ever answer "no" to that question, then we will know that it's time to make changes, or it that it may be time to stop doing the event. But until then, as long as the Lord is leading, we will continue to prayerfully step out in faith and work together to put on an awesome Easter outreach event for our community.
We have a fantastic kids' service on Easter Sunday, and make sure to have plenty of hosts and greeters to welcome any new guests who visit that day.
What does your church do for Easter? What great outreach ideas can you share?
Children are a Gift
kidmin leader, mother, and servant of the Lord.
These are the views of Lynne Howard, and are not necessarily the views and opinions of any church.