Of course, what every preteen needs is their own faith in Jesus, but what do we do in order to help them to own their faith?
Preteen ministry is about letting go…and running beside.
The question, however, is always, “How much do I let go…and how much do I run beside? What does every preteen in my ministry need so that they own their own faith in Jesus Christ?”
Seeing the Difference
This was a great three-day weekend for our family. The highlight for me was that all three of my kids can now ride bicycles sans training wheels.
Serene, our oldest, took her first solo bike ride around the neighborhood. I was a little nervous when she rounded the corner out of sight, but a few minutes later (a small eternity in my mind), she came riding back with the biggest smile on her face.
She did it, and it felt really good for her.
Later in the day, Serene asked, “When can I ride by myself to the store?” Yup – there’s always a next step of freedom for her. She is a preteen, after all.
Savannah, our youngest daughter, was frightened at even the prospect of riding without training wheels. She didn’t even want to do it.
But as I ran up and down the cul-de-sac holding on to the back of her bike, I said something to her about what the first step of bike riding would look like for her, and I saw her shoulders relax when she heard my words:
“I’m going to let you go, but I’m not going to let you fall.”
And I let go. I ran alongside. And as soon as there was a wobble that I knew would end in a crash, I grabbed back on.
As I thought about the difference between Serene and Savannah, I thought about the beauty of what happens in preteen ministry.
It’s What We Do
At first, our job as preteen ministry leaders and as parents is to let go, but also to run alongside. To let go, but not to let fall.
That’s why “The Bike” metaphor that FourFiveSix created years ago has been such a widely used way of explaining the essence of preteen ministry.
As the day went on, Savannah was riding up and down the cul-de-sac without me running alongside. She was doing it on her own. And now, falling or not falling was completely in her hands. But I still watched carefully, ready to offer suggestions and encouragement, or even a Band-Aid or two.
With some preteens in our ministries, we “let go”, but we “don’t let fall” as they are taking their first steps into owning their faith.
With other preteens, though, we start to let go and allow for the possibility of falling. Again, we are watching these preteens carefully, ready with suggestions and encouragement, or even a spiritual Band-Aid or two.
And then there’s Serene. She’s at another level altogether. Now she rides around the corner where I can’t even see if she’s falling or not. She’s owning her bike riding, and she’s owning the possibility of falling, even more. This is what we need to do (spiritually) with still other preteens who we ministry to.
What’s the right amount of hand-holding? How much do we let go of the bike?
For some kids, we are right there, reassuring and letting go of the bike of faith just a little, watching for wobbling, and correcting.
For others, we say, “Hmmm…you want to ride solo to the corner market? OK…I think you’re ready. Call me when you get there.”
Every preteen is different. Every neighborhood is different. Every faith journey requires a different amount of letting go and running beside.
Think about a preteen in your ministry for a moment. Pray that God helps you to see his or her spiritual journey as clearly as a kid learning to ride a bike. Pray that God helps you to know how much to let go, and how much to run beside. It will make all the difference for your preteens!
Learn 6 ways “How to Let Go” with our free online training course.