Guest Post by Stephen Hibdon
I never realized how engaged a tween could be.
Obviously, academically and socially my 10 year old is not even supposed to relate with a teenager. But what about spiritually? Could his spirit override his maturity level?
A better question might be – can Jesus take a 9, 10, or even 12 year old places he’s never been? Absolutely! They have the same Spirit that raised a certain someone from the dead, right?
It’s a matter of waking them up that seems to be the crux in many churches.
I saw this firsthand as I dove into the mysterious world of preteen ministry 5 years ago. That was the day I began a J12 at my church. (J12 is a ministry founded by Gregg Johnson that provides resources, training, and events to leaders, parents, and their tweens.)
I watched as God would speak things through 9, 10, and 11 year olds that were more profound than I had heard in years. As I presented to them the greatest tween role model the world has ever known, Jesus at 12, the bar was raised and there was no going back.
Somehow, in the midst of devotions and sermons, I never saw the story in Luke 2 as an applicable model for kids to follow. But as my own children were becoming preteens, I saw the template of Jesus at 12 in a new light. Then it was only a matter of time before I asked my senior pastor for a promotion from high school ministry so I could reach them younger.
In the first 3 years of our J12 ministry to this demographic, I began to see more spiritual fruit in their lives than I had seen in the 15 previous years working with teenagers.
So I ask you, can an 11 year old’s Spirit awake before his social graces find their right fit?
How important is it that we reach them at this decisive age? George Barna says that most people make their most critical resolutions about life before they are 13 years old.
I get tired of hearing churches explain how they just can’t seem to engage the older kids (i.e.4-6th grade) in children’s church. Shouldn’t they instead be the crowning achievement of children’s ministry? If we have trouble reaching them now, will we be rescuing them later?
Not on our watch.
Stephen Hibdon is the Creative Director of J12, a global ministry that provides preteen resources and launches ministry to 8-12 year olds in the local church.