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Secrets of Communicating to Preteens

I spoke to nearly 800 preteens and leaders at Springhill Camp over the weekend in Evart Michigan. It was an amazing experience! I had the chance to travel with my 10 year old son…lots of dad and son time!

Preteens had a blast on the zipline, paintball course, rifle range, swimming, climbing the high ropes course, skateboarding at the skate park and tons of other activities. Great place to bring a group to camp!

The weekend’s theme was living an Upside Down life, like Jesus. As followers of Christ, we’re called to live inverted, opposite, of the culture around us. We’re called to live with an attitude of humility with a servant’s heart. I felt the four messages really hit the nail on the head. Actually, probably the most well received I’ve ever experienced. The audience was super engaged and responsive.

By the way, KC and the Glow Worms led worship. They rocked!  If you’re looking for a band that is good at leading preteens in worship with an edgy flair, check them out.

Reflecting on the weekend, below are a few thoughts that might be helpful to you. Here are a few secrets to communicating preteens:

Preteens connect to funny messages.
The opening message was about building a building rapport with them and I used a lot of humor to do that. I used funny stories of my own kids (with their permission) and real life past experiences (like when I played a prank on the grocery clerk using fake snot) to make them laugh.  As a result, I established an instant connection. Preteens love to laugh. If you’re funny, you’ll connect with them. If you connect with them, they’ll listen to what you have to say and you will maximize your impact. Laughing breaks down the walls and opens up the heart. Think of funny stories to share with preteens. Use them to establish rapport or drive home a point. Avoid telling corny canned jokes. Instead, just be yourself. Get in touch with the your inner preteen!

Preteens respond to serious messages.
Preteens are mature enough to handle serious messages. In fact, it is necessary to be effective. There is a lot of serious stuff God has to say in the Bible. Having a relationship with Jesus is life-changing and requires us to live differently than others around us. That’s serious business. Topics like bullying, divorce and purity need to be addressed. Preteens love to be crazy and funny, but they also want to go deep. They want to respond to what God is speaking to them, so communicate serious messages when appropriate.

Preteens can handle a mixture of both.
I use to put together either a lighthearted message or a serious one. When communicating a serious message, I would avoid using humor for fear I would kill the mood. But this weekend, even during a serious message, I would help them stay focused by telling an appropriate funny story that grabbed back their attention. It worked like a charm. Don’t be afraid to use both in a single message. Mix it up.

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ndiliberto@churchleaders.com'
Over twelve years ago Nick Diliberto lauched a preteen ministry with a handful of volunteers and about 25 kids. Over the years it grew to over 100 kids and has impacted hundreds of young people's lives. Nick is the driving force behind PreteenMinistry.net, Children's Director at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, workshop speaker and author of an ongoing preteen column in Children's Ministry Magazine.