Think back to when you were a kid. You were always reaching for the next goal and never looked back. With mixed emotions, you anticipated kindergarten, you couldn’t wait until Christmas, and your next birthday was always just around the corner.
When you started riding a tricycle, you anticipated the day you could move to a big boy bike. And then when you got the hang of things, you couldn’t wait for those training wheels to come off.
Kids move through different stages, handling different issues, and always wanting to be a little more grown up. Children don’t want to be treated like a child. And certainly the same is true for preteens.
When I was a preteen, I remember sitting in those little chairs, hearing the same Bible stories that I had heard before. A gap had formed. While I was struggling with some tough sins, I was sitting in a room hearing about Adam and Eve sinning and had no idea how it applied to my own life.
I already knew that sin was disobeying God. I already knew that Adam and Eve were the first sinners. And in fact, thinking about their story and them being naked was going to cause me to sin. I didn’t need to be taught the facts again with puppets and felt boards like I was a child.
What I needed was someone to be my friend and walk me through my personal disobedience. What I needed was to be treated as a preteen.
When I visualize a kindergartner’s faith journey, I picture a child standing three and a half feet tall beside a Huffy bike completely protected with helmet, mouth guard, and even knee pads. The kid looks at his new bike with nervous anticipation and prays that those training wheels will keep him from falling.
On the contrary, a preteen has started to develop their own personal authentic faith. The training wheels have been removed, but (hopefully) they continue to wear their helmet.
Their parent is running beside them, but the preteen is beginning to go faster and is beginning to pull away from their spotter. (Read more about this concept: Letting Go of the Bike)
If it were not for the loving adults in my life, personally challenging me to step up and grow, then I would have disengaged and been bored in my preteen years.
I was not fortunate enough to grow up in a time with ministries designed to reach preteens, but there were leaders in my church who treated me like a preteen and not a child.
These adults challenged me to live out 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”
Today we have the opportunity to make the difference in a preteen student’s life. We can give preteens a reason to stay engaged in church when many are choosing to opt out. Choose today to be the person who you needed when you were younger.
Corey Jones is the lead children’s pastor of Southern Hills Christian Church (http://www.sohillscc.com) in Carrollton GA. In his spare time, you can find him at a local coffee shop or fighting crime in Gotham. Corey wants to encourage and equip those around him and can be found on social media at @coreyrayjones