Have you ever had a series of moments where every time you turned around you heard the same message? For me, it was something like this . . .
On Sunday, the fifth-grade class had a new teacher. When I asked how it went, the teacher commented something like, “It was great! They have so much energy! But sometimes they seem like they just zone out.”
My third-grade daughter plays on an “under 10” soccer team. At supper after practice she talked about how the older girls on the team are having to deal with bullying during recess.
My family decided to spend an evening binge-watching a family show on TV. I noticed how the ads were not targeted to adults. Instead they were targeted at my kids. How was I going to deal with that?
It felt like the preteen world was all around me, everywhere I went.
Preteens Are Facing Hard Things
I’ve been in Children’s Ministry for years, but preteens are facing different needs and issues than they used to. They aren’t exactly kids anymore, but they also aren’t ready for youth ministry. Statistics over the years show that 40-50% of people who are believers decide by the age of 12 to follow Jesus .
So, how can our congregation minister to these kids and their families?
Our church’s children’s ministry group delved into how we wanted to minster to our preteens in a way that fit their unique time in life. We needed to understand who preteens are in order to help them become their best.
Preteens are in the process of transformation and change in every part of their lives.
Cognitively, preteens can think for themselves. Furthermore, they can decipher information and are questioning what they have always accepted as truth.
But, it doesn’t mean that they are rejecting what they have learned—they are trying to decide for themselves what they think is true and doing it by questioning and looking at all sides of an issue. They are able to do a repetitive skill without paying close attention to what they are doing.
That ability frees up their minds to do other things at the same time while the repetitive skill is going on.
Preteens Are Facing Big Changes
Preteens are undergoing massive changes and growth in their organs, muscles, and bone. All these changes build up a lot of energy that has to be released. And there are some awkward and clumsy moments as a preteen’s brain tries to adjust to the growth happening in the body.
On the emotional side, a preteen is in need of identity—what is unique about a person as well as how he or she fits in. But all these changes can cause a preteen to be uncomfortable about appearance, expectations, responsibilities, and relationships.
Families are still important to preteens in building a strong sense of who they are, but at the same time preteens are becoming more independent. Friends are becoming a high priority.
And we find that preteens can pray, worship, read the Bible independently, pay attention, and discern what God is doing in their lives. So, they are able to own their relationship with Jesus.
Armed with all this information, we knew that we had to change how we minister to our 9 to 13-year-olds.
We found a dedicated space that preteens could call their own, and we had a team committed to being there every Sunday to build strong relationships with this group of kids.
Looking for a Curriculum Solution
We also knew that we wanted a curriculum created specifically for preteens.
It needed to be one that:
We decided to use The Action Bible Curriculum. It was written just for preteens.
Each year of this curriculum takes preteens from Genesis through Revelation and each lesson is God-centered.
This means that the lessons show preteens who God is and what they mean to Him. Each lesson has a short Bible study where kids encounter God’s redemptive story. And in God’s Word, they discover an active faith they are able to claim as their own.
Each lesson is divided into three sections.
Section 1: Join In
The beginning of each lesson is designed to build community and help preteens feel welcome. Preteens and leaders get to know each other through a game or activity that leads into a discussion time.
The discussion connects the game or activity to the theme of the day.
We like how this part of the lesson may have an energy-filled game or activity, but through the discussion preteens can talk and question while still discovering who God is. They are introduced to the God in Action, in other words, what the lesson tells about God.
Section 2: Explore
This is the main part of the lesson.
Every lesson includes an exclusive 2D-video from The Action Bible. Ranging from three to ten minutes in length, each video includes sound effects and animated art from The Action Bible to set the scene for the Bible study. You can see an example here.
After watching the video, preteens explore God’s Word and discover who God is and what they mean to Him. Students use their Bibles and the Into My Bible study sheets as they make connections.
Using what they’ve discovered in the Bible study, preteens take time— through an activity—to see how the God in Action and the Bible study fit into everyday life. And they learn the Remember It verse.
The verse connects directly to the God in Action. And, because the curriculum doesn’t use a specific version of the Bible, we are able to match the Bible version to what our church uses.
At the end of the Explore time, preteens begin to put everything together as they realize who God is and what they mean to Him. This is a time to let them talk openly about God and their lives.
This isn’t a time for the leader to evaluate if preteens learned anything. It’s a time for them to ask questions and express themselves.
We’ve seen our preteens open up a lot during this question time. At first it was awkward for the leaders. They wanted to be able to answer all the questions our preteens brought up. But as they relaxed and just let the kids talk, they discovered that the entire group could share and help each other with issues that the lesson pointed to.
Section 3: Go with God
At the end of each lesson, preteens are sent home with a blessing that reminds them that God loves them no matter what. Preteens need the reminder that they are special and precious!
This is also the time for leaders to send home the In My Life take-home and/or the Scripture Memory Cards.
In My Life has two sides. One side features preteen devotions that help our kids spend time during the week in God’s Word discovering more about who God is. One parent shared with me how she has noticed her son reading these devotions on his own more and more.
The other side of In My Life helps parents know what the lesson was about. It includes a summary of the lesson as well some discussion questions parents can use to talk with their preteens about who God is and what that means for their lives.
What We Love
While our church loves the digital version of The Action Bible Curriculum, we also send home the trading-card style Scripture Memory Cards.
Each week’s card features the lesson’s Bible story reference on the front of the card and the memory verse on the back in NIV. Art from The Action Bible give a visual review of the story.
Our leaders love the teacher prep article Know This Before You Teach! It gives them a time to have a devotional thought about the God in Action as well as delve a little deeper into the section of God’s Word that is being studied.
Leaders also enjoy the variety of activity options—they help each group customize the lesson to fit the needs and energy levels of their preteens.
Since we started using this curriculum, families and leaders are seeing a difference in their kids. They love how the preteens are getting into the Bible study. They are using the question time to talk about issues that they are facing.
One boy, whose family was getting ready to relocate to another state because of a job change, was able to hang on to the God in Action “God Keeps His Promises” to feel a lot more settled about leaving his friends and going to a new state.
Meeting preteens where they’re at so they can discover God in action in their lives—that’s what our ministry is all about!