“Michael, would you be interested in starting a preteen ministry at our church?”
Without thinking, I laughed in my supervisor’s face. Start a preteen ministry? I didn’t work with kids. I had served with college students, young adults, middle and high school students, but never with kids. This decision was going to need some time and prayer, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to start a preteen ministry.
As I sought the Lord for direction, he took me to Deuteronomy 6:4-9, where the Israelites are commanded to pass along their faith to their children in everything they do. God’s original plan to impact an entire nation was through parents showing their children how to apply God’s word to their lives.
As I read that passage, I realized that I could play a small role in impacting our nation by equipping our preteens to live out their faith in their neighborhoods, schools, and sports teams.
As a result, the "4th+ 5th Grade Ministry" was born. (You might be thinking that’s an amazingly creative name for a ministry, and you would be right.)
Over the last six years, I have implemented three strategies to help our preteens own their faith:
Equip them to apply scripture
Preteens needs more than “Bible stories.” They need something deeper. They need to understand that these biblical accounts actually happened and that they impact their lives today.
Whether we’re learning about creation, King David, Jesus’ ministry, or Revelation, we show our preteens how God’s word should impact their actions.
Teach them to ask questions
The safest place to ask a question about God, Jesus, or the Bible should be at church. Preteens are beginning to ask themselves if they can believe everything they’ve been taught as children. They must know we welcome their questions.
It is important for us to have real answers to their questions. Answers such as, “You just have to trust God,” or “You just need to have more faith,” are no longer good enough for preteens. We point our preteens to the Bible for answers, but when we don’t know the answer, we actually say, “I don’t know.” (Then we work with them to find the answer.)
Create opportunities for fun
When parents stop me in the hallway and say, “I was too tired to come to church today, but my daughter said we HAD to come,” I know we’re creating fun and exciting ministry environments. When preteens have fun at church, they are much more likely to listen when it comes time for the important stuff.
Purposeful fun takes intentional planning. We spend significant time every week determining creative illustrations, exciting activities, and interactive lessons that speak directly to preteens.
I love watching a preteen “get it” - that moment when their faith and actions collide. Recently, one of our 5thgrade students discovered a way to apply God’s word to his life. His family received the Compassion Gift Catalog in the mail, and he saw children who needed help.
Instead of throwing the catalog away or asking his parents to give money, he decided to do something himself. He knew scripture called him to help other people, so on his own initiative, he baked cookies-n-cream cookies and began selling them. His goal is $430, and he hopes to provide goats, chickens, water wells, and playrooms for children who need them.
Through the life of this preteen, God will impact people all over the world.
That is why I lead a preteen ministry.
Michael Pritchard has served with students for the last nine years and is currently the 4th + 5th Grade Pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, TN. He loves to watch preteens own their faith and use their talents for God’s kingdom. Michael has been married to Christy for 10 years and is the daddy of two young boys.