I remember the first time I allowed preteens to serve in children’s church at my church. At the time, we were meeting in the gym. We had a stage set up in the corner where the automated projector screen was hanging. We would lower the screen right above the stage and project the words to the worship songs on it. That first Sunday, I was anticipating great things from the preteens. As the service kicked off, everything was going well. Then, I saw two of my preteen leaders in training running back and forth behind the stage. You know the rest of the story…the kids sitting in the service were focused on the girls going back and forth, like watching a basketball game. The children in attendance saw nothing except these two young ladies running back and forth. Out of frustration, I finally caught up with the girls and questioned, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” They told me, “We are helping.” I got a little angry at them for being a distraction from the service like they were. Then it hit me—it was MY fault. I never told them what I expected of them or gave them any form of on-the-job training. From that point on, I would sit the whole group down and explain my expectations. We would go through step-by-step what I expected of them. The amazing thing is that I saw them step up to the task like I had never seen before. Here are four steps to successfully train and equip children and preteens for ministry:
Have you ever wondered when a child can serve in the church? At what age do we start out developing them into leaders and fellow ministers in the body of Christ? If you look at our current situation in the local church, there is something missing. Like most children’s pastors, you probably have hard time getting volunteers to serve. Adults, and especially parents, just don’t seem to have any desire to serve in the church. But it may not be their fault. Could it be that we have taught them that service is not what being a part of the body of Christ is about?
Why is it so hard to get people to serve? Let’s do the math.
Birth to 18 years of age + sitting, listening, and having someone minister to me = Adults who just sit and listen as someone ministers to them
I remember going to a Children’s Pastors Conference years ago, and there were a couple of people there who I thought were strange. They were using the words “disciple” and “discipleship” when talking about teaching children. When I heard or saw that, it was as if a red flag went up concerning the person or group. You see, I have three seminary degrees. What does that mean? Nothing. I am very grateful for my training, but I don’t consider myself an expert in childhood education or in theology. What I do remember throughout my education was that I rarely heard the words “discipleship” or “making disciples” when referring to children. I would say that I never heard it at all in seminary. So, it was normal for me to have a red flag when someone used those words. The problem is not with the word “discipleship,” though. The problem is that in many Christian schools and seminaries, we have replaced it with the words “Christian education.” Somewhere in the grand history of the Christian church, we have gotten off track. We have jumped ship. I believe that education is very important for every child to be successful in life. However, there is a difference between education and discipleship.
This question may challenge you, but the research shows this to be true. According to Nelson, the moral foundation of a child typically peaks between 10 and 13 years of age, which he calls the 10/13 window. Barna says, “By age 13, your spiritual identity is largely set in place.” When I first saw these stats, it was concerning to me. But as I began to think about it more, the reality of preteen ministry and its importance hit home. So, we have to take preteen ministry seriously! What’s exciting about preteen ministry is their heart for the Lord, and if you have ever worked with them, you have seen that. Preteens have an openness and a hunger to know the things of God. They desire to serve and are willing to do so. They are willing to take risks for the Gospel. They are also still very trusting of adults and our influence on their lives.