Controlled Chaos

“Controlled Chaos” is a great way to explain two sides of one coin in preteen ministry. Years ago, Kurt Johnston wrote a book on junior high ministry with the same title. Great book by the way! The concept applies to preteen ministry as well.

On one side of the coin you have chaos. If you’ve been in preteen ministry for any time, you’ve experienced a bit of this in your group. Just throw a dodgeball to a group of preteens and they’ll create some right away. Or mention the word Ninja fight while holding a swimming noodle swinging it at a few preteens! That will do the trick too. I’ve had my share fare of chaos over the years and I’m sure you have as well. We adults often struggle with chaos. Instead, get excited when chaos is all around your preteen ministry. Because preteens are experiencing so much internal and external changes, chaos is abundant. If chaos is present, preteens are engaging, interacting and learning. The trick is to control the chaos (or direct it properly).

Controlling the chaos is an art. It actually becomes fun when done properly. Here’s what I do:

Acknowledge chaos will exist, so be proactive. You create the chaos. Play an off the wall game that leaves preteens exhausted. Then use it an illustration for a teaching point (or just do it to burn off some energy). That’s just one example. The idea is to think through your programming and intentionally build chaotic elements into it. Next step…

Use transition elements. After the chaos is done, it is now time to transition preteens to the next element of the service. Think of things to help transition into a teaching moment (or whatever else you have planned). Some ideas: show a movie clip related to the day’s topic; play a medium or slow worship song related to the topic; tell an interesting/funny story that leads your message; have preteens discuss a question with a partner, etc. The list goes on. The basic idea is to experiment with different transition elements. Find out what works and mix it up.

What about discipline issues? Welcome to preteen ministry! The truth is that no matter how engaging your programming, you will run into discipline issues. You can’t avoid it. Just deal with it the best you can and train your leaders to handle discipline issues consistently. On the flip side, if your programming is boring and irrelevant, preteens will disengage and you will have a lot of discipline issues. So, if that’s a problem, take an honest look at your programming.

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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, Children's Director at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, workshop speaker and author of an ongoing preteen column in Children's Ministry Magazine.