One of the common characteristics of many children’s ministries is children growing in their faith by being “spoon-fed” from a teacher. This continues from early grade school all the way until they are ready to make the transition into middle school. The problem with this approach is that children assume church is all about them getting something from it, rather than about them serving and leading others as well. They become pew-sitters rather than learning to become active, working members of the church.
In order to tackle this problem, try creating opportunities for your preteens to lead in some capacity in your children’s ministry. This will cause these 3 outcomes:
1. Preteens will learn to lead.
One of the goals of your children’s ministry should be to produce spiritually well-rounded children. If we are teaching them the Word of God but not teaching them to serve, our teaching is lopsided. We should teach them to serve so they will be ready to serve as soon as they step foot into student ministry. Some ideas for serving opportunities in your children’s ministry could include taking up offering, giving testimonies, helping lead music, cleaning up, greeting, and running audio/visual equipment. Some children may be more outgoing than others. Allow children to sign up for serving where their interests and gifts lie.
2. Younger children will be eager to reach your preteen ministry.
Another downside to children’s ministry is that children tend to be very excited about leaving the children’s ministry department and getting to the student ministry. As a children’s pastor, I personally am bothered when children are so excited about leaving they don’t even seem like they are going to miss it at all. If you set preteens apart from the younger children by giving them special privileges, it makes them feel more appreciated and responsible. Rather than older children being excited about leaving, your younger children will be excited about receiving these privileges that come with getting older. They will be excited about serving!
3. Younger children will aspire to become leaders.
When younger children begin to look up to the preteen leaders in your children’s ministry, they will dream about one day being able to serve and lead just like they are. As they get older they receive more and more responsibilities which cause them to feel more grown up and become leaders. Younger children will want to be leaders and not just pew-sitters.
Preteen leadership should be practiced in all children’s ministries. The outcome will not only be older children leading younger children in the church, but hopefully they will lead in their homes and schools too. Depending upon your children’s ministry model, the leadership opportunities you give them may look different from what I have described above. No matter which approach to ministry you use, you can never go wrong when teaching children to lead.