The viral and cultural pandemic that our world is facing right now is causing many of our preteens to be anxious and overwhelmed. As ministry leaders, it’s more important than ever that we work to help them find peace in these times.
So, how do we point our next generation of preteens to the God who wants to guide them forever in these uncertain times?
Psalm 48:13-14 instructs us to walk in the presence of God. He is our eternal guide, and that is a message we need to share with preteens so they can face their fears and worries. With Him on our side, there is peace—even when we worry or fear.
How do we most effectively serve our preteens throughout this unprecedented season of ministry? How can we help them trade panic for peace in the midst of the chaos?
Meet Them Where They Are
Let’s take a look at some of the questions that preteens have right now.
- Does this pandemic mean that the world is coming to an end?
- What if I or my loved ones die from COVID-19?
- Why would God allow racism to exist?
- When will I see my friends, play sports, and be able to go back to school?
- Does God even care that all this madness is going on?
These aren’t simple questions, and we don’t have to have all the answers. But we do have to give our kids a safe place to express their doubts and ask their questions. It’s imperative that we point them to Scripture and reassure them with the truth of God’s sovereignty.
Ask yourself if your ministry environment is safe for questions of faith. Are our volunteers prepared? How are we coming alongside parents to reinforce God’s faithfulness?
Helping these preteens get to the point where they know what they believe, why they believe it, and how they can apply their faith to their everyday lives is a huge part of our role in this time.
One way we can do this is to carve out time to discuss what is going on in their lives and how they honestly feel about current events. Aim for small groups so you can have more dialogue than monologue and share prayer requests. Pray for the hard, real issues together and be sure to follow up on those prayer requests.
Reinforce Positive Screen Time
Research shows that these digital natives spend nearly 9 hours a day consuming new media. They multitask between screens up to 21 times an hour. It’s no wonder why the average attention span is less than 8 seconds—and now with eLearning and digital church, their screen time has skyrocketed even more.
Leaders, we’ve pivoted in a massive way during this COVID-19 pandemic season. In just a matter of days, we were forced to digitize our ministries. For these reasons, we need to continue providing “good” screen time for preteens.
Keep producing online biblical content that will engage and point your preteens to Jesus.
Your families need to be able to access your ministry content at least once a week and view it on their own timetable. And let’s work to think outside the box!
- Pay attention to see where you can improve your online presence.
- Get constructive feedback from the families.
- Offer an online worship experience that is similar to when you meet in person.
- Think personal value over productional value.
- Have an arsenal of parent discipleship tips and resources.
- Do Zoom meetings where you play games and pray for one another.
- Go through Bible reading plans together.
- FaceTime your students with encouragement. Send a video message wishing your preteen a happy birthday. Have Facebook Live DJ Dance parties or create fun weekly Instagram challenges.
Parents need to be aware of all the “good” screen time resources you have available to digitally disciple their preteen. Whether your church has opened up or not, it is vital to keep your online ministry a priority.
And don’t forget to remind parents of the dangers online. Kids are becoming more depressed, dealing with cyberbullies, and are easily exposed to pornography.
If you engage kids online in this time, when they are ready to return, you are more likely to see them at church.
Moving Past the Pandemic
Preteens can find peace in the midst of the pandemic and move past it if we constantly encourage them to do the following:
Live to serve others (Mark 10:45).
Show your preteens the joy of serving others by actually giving them opportunities to serve. Let your students know that they aren’t the church of the future, they are the church now.
- Create a leadership team. Set expectations, give them responsibilities, hold them accountable, and put them to work.
- Incorporate service projects—you can include their families and friends—and take them on mission trips. COVID-19 has definitely put a stick of dynamite in many of your ministry plans, but don’t let that keep you from being on mission for Jesus.
Take risks and be courageous (Joshua 1:9).
God wants to get our students out of their comfort zones and get them to stop playing it too safe in their relationships with Him. Preteens need to hear Godly truth from us.
- They need to know that life is hard and not everyone will agree with them.
- People are dying from disease, but God is still in control.
- People of color are being treated unjustly, but they still matter to God and us as His image bearers.
The unpleasant harsh realities of our day shouldn’t cause preteens to shrink back in fear. Rather, they can take courage and replace their fear with faith.
With God’s help, they can display the justice and righteousness of God to those who are discriminated against, hurting, and oppressed. We desperately need to paint that reality for our preteens.
Adopt what is good and throw out what is bad (Romans 12:9).
Every time we gather, we need to help our preteens develop a biblical worldview, so they will be able to discern what is evil from what is good. Here are some top-level real issues our kids experience daily and are already thinking about:
Our world is in the midst of a viral pandemic, but also a cultural one. Don’t skirt around these uncomfortable topics. Teach them what the Bible says about these issues. If we don’t teach them and we fail to provide parent resources, then they’ll find answers elsewhere.
Jesus Is in Control
Ministry leaders, do not be discouraged or lose heart. In our cancel culture, we serve a God who will never cancel on us or on the preteens we serve.
Some of us may still be quarantined, but the gospel that we faithfully share never is. This pandemic may have temporarily closed our church doors, but not even the evils of this world will prevail against the church.
God is using all of the mess and chaos to help us direct our preteens to a God who wants to guide them forever. Let’s be sure to meet these 9-12-year-olds right where they are.