Parents can often be heard clamoring around the church about their preteen child's disdain for church. They say that their kid doesn't like the teacher, doesn't have friends, or maybe he doesn't feel welcome. Parents want their kids to want to come to church. You, as a ministry leader, want their kids in church. Not only their kids, though, you want all preteens to feel welcome and loved in your church.
Picture this, Jaylin comes to church with his friend for the first time. He walks into his classroom and finds sterile walls, small wooden chairs, and broken equipment in the room. Kids are milling around quietly waiting for class to start. Sure, he doesn't vocalize his assessment of the room, but believe me he notices.
Jaylin visits a different church with his friend for the first time. He walks into his classroom and finds bright blue walls with a lime green accent wall. Wooden chairs have been painted black and small round chrome tables are thoughtfully placed around the room. A television is playing music videos and kids are gathered talking. Again, he doesn't vocalize his assessment of the room, but he notices.
Which room do you think Jaylin wanted to come back to? The one that was sterile and unexciting or the one that welcomed him with color and activity? Of course, we all know he chose the one that met him where he was. Today's preteens are used to bright, beautiful flat-screened televisions and high-def video games. The traditional, neutral Sunday School palette of yesteryear will not appeal to preteens who can choose to cover their fingernails in zebra-print if they so choose.
If you are serious about reaching preteens, you need to be serious about providing them a space where they feel comfortable. I've seen preteen ministries set up in large rooms, small rooms, and even whole houses. Relationships are key in a preteen's ability to connect at church, but don't underestimate the power of décor.
Set aside a portion of your budget to create a new, exciting, and inviting spot of preteens. Don't give them the Sunday School class you attended as a fifth grader, give them the one you dreamed of!
If your budget is tight, try some of these tips for creating a new and exciting space:
- Locate the largest room that is not being totally utilized in your church and ask leadership for it. It's best to have a large space for preteens so you can have an "active" area and a "quiet" area.
- Buy "OOPS" paint from your local paint store. You can often find bold and bright colors. Use this paint to redo the walls in your preteen area.
- Paint your ceiling tiles or cover them with old camp and VBS T-shirts.
- Find inexpensive furniture at secondhand stores and recover with "hip" fabrics. You can do this with an electric stapler.
- Add unique lighting techniques with spotlights and industrial lights.
- Ask for old computers and laptops. Set up a technology center where preteens can play games.
- Never underestimate the power of Mod-podge® and scrapbook paper. Framed scrapbook paper becomes unique art to decorate your room.
- Design and paint a logo for the preteen ministry.
- Use creative spaces. Does your church own a property with a traditional home that is adjacent to the church? Use this as your "preteen building."
- Collect board games and Christian music CDs for preteens to use while they "hang out."
- Purchase a flat-screen television and show music videos and life application videos from curriculum resources like FLYTE: faith. life. together.