Understanding Preteens

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.

Qualities of an Exceptional Preteen Leader

Qualities of an Exception Preteen Leader

by Nick Diliberto

Preteen ministry is unique because preteens are unique. They’re no longer children and not yet teenagers. They listen to AC/DC on their iPhone’s while sleeping with a four foot stuffed dog, named Peanut. In order to maximize impact, you need exceptional leaders who meet the specific needs of preteens.

Here are four qualities of an exceptional preteen leader:


Preteens have a lot of energy, short attention spans and are fast approaching the teenager years. They’re going through major changes in every area of their lives: socially, physically, spiritually and mentally. When you put a group of them together, expect the unexpected. A good preteen leader is flexible and goes with the flow. If a preteen wants to go off topic and ask questions about creation, go with it. If the group is super hyper, play a quick game on the fly as an energy release. You’ll get frustrated if you have a rigid game plan when leading a preteen service. Effective leaders are flexible enough to adapt when unexpected things come up (and they often do).


Preteen leaders are consistent. Investing themselves in the lives of preteens, they know the struggles they face at home, school and with friends. Exception leaders recognize where preteens are in their relationship with God and walk alongside of them in the faith journey. All this takes time and effort. The key is consistency.


You can’t make people want to lead preteens to Jesus. You can force them to volunteer, but that isn’t effective. The motivation is either there, or it is not. Recruit based on opportunity, not need. If leaders aren’t there because they want to make a difference, preteens will pick up on it. They’re not easily fooled. So, if people aren’t interested in volunteering, don’t sweat it. If they have a desire to serve, then let them loose. Many start out with a small desire that grows into a burning passion. Recruit, train and lead those who are willing.


Preteens have lots of questions about life and faith. They need leaders who expand their view of God. How? Encourage preteens to think independently and challenge them to discover God on their own. Give them the opportunity to explore God and help them to own their relationship with Jesus.


Nick Diliberto is the creator or PreteenMinistry.net, which provides creative curriculum and resources for preteen ministry. He’s also the preteen columnist in Children’s Ministry Magazine and Children’s/Family Pastor at Seven Sean Diego Church.

Guest post from preteen guru Nick Diliberto

One of the people I met for the first time at Group’s Kidmin conference was Nick Diliberto he and Patrick Snow are the what I would consider the leading voices when it comes to preteen ministry. Nick is a great guy and much of what he writes applies to leaders of any age level but it especially hits him with those who are reaching out to the Pre-teen crowd.

The two places in our kids ministry where I have the most difficult time filling is the 2-year-old room and our preteen environment. Why? My theory is 2 year olds and preteens are the same. I’ll have to blog that theory for you someday. Needless to say we need more people speaking into this crucial age. It’s my honor to have Nick do a guest post for me I hope it will create some dialog and stir people to action.

Check out his blog over at preteenministry.net