8 Reasons Pre-Teens Disengage from Children's Ministry (and How to Prevent It)

I have noticed a trend over the years.  When kids move into their pre-teen years, a notable percentage of them disengage from Children’s Ministry. 

Why?  Here’s eight reasons.

1. Placing them with younger children.
Pre-teens are very conscious they are “growing up.”  Their eyes are on their approaching middle school years.  The last place they want to be is with “little kids.”

  • Provide them with their own environment (class).  Give it a name that is unique to them.  We call our pre-teen environment “Nitro.”  It has a very different feel and look from our other environments.  It looks more like a youth ministry environment than it does a children’s ministry environment.  That is on purpose.
  • In situations where you can’t give them a separate environment, place them in the front of the room.  At some of our campuses, we have all of elementary together due to lack of room availability.  When this is the case, we are intentional about placing the pre-teens in the front.  This gives them a sense of leadership instead of sitting in the back of the room looking at the “little kids” in front of them.  
  • Provide events and activities just for them.  An example would be a summer outreach trip which is just for pre-teens.    

2. Programming for younger children.
One of the biggest factors in keeping pre-teens engaged in your ministry is to program for them.  If pre-teens sense the lesson, music, or activities are “babyish,” they will check out.

  • When you have multiple ages in the same room, always target the pre-teen boy.  If you hit him, you will catch everyone.  Cool rolls down hill.  Gene Del Vecchio talks about this in his book “Creating Ever Cool.”  It’s a must read for children’s ministry leaders.

3. Personal connection with a leader is missing.
A personal connection with a caring leader is essential.  When pre-teens are known and loved, they will stay engaged. 

  • Make sure your pre-teens spend a good percentage of their time at church in a small group environment where they are known by name, prayed for, and are contacted when absent.  Cool buildings and programming alone doesn’t keep pre-teens.  Relationships is the glue.

4. Preparing them for middle school is not a priority.
As kids move into their pre-teen years, our focus should begin to shift toward preparing them for their middle school years.   

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Dale Hudson
Dale Hudson has been serving in children's ministry for over 28 years. He is an author, speaker and ministry leader.  He is the founder and director of Building Children's Ministry. BCM helps churches build strong leaders, teams and children's ministries.  (www.buildingchildrensministry.com)

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