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

5. Passive discipleship.
Pre-teens are ready to serve and make a difference.  When they are confined to passive discipleship where they just “sit and soak”, they will disengage.  A huge part of discipleship is serving.  Active faith leads to spiritual growth.

  • Let them own their ministry.  Give them opportunities to serve in their ministry.  Praise team, running sound and tech, greeting, distributing handouts, etc.  Ownership = engagement.
  • Take them on more “outreach” trips than “play” trips.  A few years ago, we moved away from taking our pre-teens on “play” trips such as waterparks, skating, etc.  They can do this anytime.  We decided what they wanted more than this was the opportunity to make a difference.  We now take them on outreach and serving trips instead.  They love it. 

6. Parents are not involved.
In the pre-teen years, kids begin the early stages of becoming independent of their parents.  Parents become nervous as their “baby”  begins to grow up.  It is one of the key times when they will come looking for help.

  • Equip parents to be the spiritual leader of their pre-teen.  No one has more influence in a pre-teen’s life than his or her parents.
  • Provide parents with the tools and resources they need to parent their pre-teen.
  • Prepare parents for the middle school years. 
  • Have a retreat or event for pre-teens and their parents.  This fall we will be holding our first-ever pre-teen/parent retreat.  They will spend a day together being equipped and prepared for their upcoming middle school years as well as deepening their relationship with each other.

7. Priorities are misplaced.
As kids move into their pre-teen years, more opportunities to be involved in programs, sports, and other outside activities become available.  These can pull kids away from being consistently involved in church and discipleship opportunities. 

How many pre-teens miss church for weeks on end because of traveling sport’s teams or other activities? 

  • Teach pre-teens the importance of making worship and discipleship a priority.  This must be messaged to parents as well.  Many times it’s a parent’s misplaced priorities that cause their pre-teen’s priorities to become misplaced. 

8. Prayer and other spiritual disciplines are not in place.
By the pre-teen years, kids should be transitioning from being spiritually spoon feed to feeding themselves as well.  Can you imagine an 11-12 year old still sitting in a highchair and being fed by his or her parents? 

  • Teach pre-teens the spiritual disciplines. 
  • Give pre-teens the tools they need to feed themselves spiritually.
  • Equip them to know why they believe what they believe.  Their faith must be their own.

Okay.  The floor is yours.  Have you noticed pre-teens disengaging from children’s ministry?  If so, what are some things you have done to keep them engaged?  Share your ideas with us below.  

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Dale Hudson
Dale Hudson has been serving in children's ministry for over 30 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)