Understanding Preteens by Nick Diliberto
I spoke to nearly 800 preteens and leaders at Springhill Camp in Evart, Michigan over the weekend. Can you imagine being in a room with nearly 800 preteens? The energy level was through the roof! God did some amazing things and I was honored to be a part of what God was doing.
Over the weekend, I was reminded of two truths that help us better understand preteens:
Preteens are open and eager to learn.
During the four messages over the weekend, I could sense that what I had to say sunk in. They were attentive to what God was saying though me. Just getting that many preteens to sit still and pay attention is commendable, much less having an impact. They were open to God and eager to learn about following Jesus. It was awesome!
Preteens, 4th-6th graders, aren’t yet teenagers. So, the walls aren’t yet up. They’re open to having a relationship with Jesus and eager to learn what it means to follow Jesus in everyday life. They won’t quite soak up everything you have to say as absolute truth, but will take time to process a message with an open heart and mind. Asking questions is necessary for them to own a message and put it into practice. Preteens are eager to learn what it means to live out their faith. They want to hear God speak to them through reading the Bible and excited to engage with God through prayer. When given an opportunity to respond what God is doing, they do.
Preteens Are Outspoken
I had a ton of comments from preteens throughout the weekend. I was told about 100 times that I look like Ian from Alvin and the Chipmunks. I’m blind without my contacts, which I usually wear, or my glasses. But this weekend, I wore my glasses. I was told over and over I look like Ian. Ha, gotta love preteens! On a positive note, I had one preteen approach me and introduced himself. He said I was the best pastor he’d ever experienced. Then a short awkward pause followed. He then offered me a piece of candy. Sort of his way of saying thanks. I think it was less about me and more about the impact God made in his life over the weekend. Us adults usually keep those kind of comments to ourselves.
Preteens are outspoken. Not having much of a filter, they speak what’s on their minds. When it’s negative, don’t get offended. Most of the time, their intentions aren’t bad. When it’s random, enjoy a good laugh. When it’s positive, affirm them for pointing out something good. Learn something from the fact that preteens are outspoken. Sometimes we adults keep things bottled up inside that need to be said.
We’re celebrating Thanksgiving in a few weeks. In the spirit of gratitude, be thankful that you lead preteens. Appreciate their open, eager hearts and outspoken mouths.
Nick Diliberto is the creator of preteenministry.net, which provides creative curriculum and resources for preteen ministry. He is also the preteen columnist for Children’s Ministry Magazine and Children’s/Family Pastor at Seven San Diego Church.