The Main Event

How to connect with preteens through special gatherings
Did you know young people make more life-changing decisions during special ministry events than at any other time on a church’s annual calendar? These types of gatherings allow you more one-on-one time with your preteens than you’ll ever get during the typical Sunday youth meeting. Here are a few tested ideas for “main events” that you can try as a way to help you connect with your church’s preteens.

Incredible Love. It’s important for students to realize the world doesn’t revolve around them. Serving others will help them learn this. As a way to start this learning process, we serve brunch to the seniors of our church and involve our students.

They spend a Friday night preparing it all, decorating, making favors, setting tables and more. The goal is to bring a little preteen life into seniors’ lives and vice versa. We call this event Incredible Love. It’s very important to prepare and set expectations beforehand for your preteens. Brainstorm conversation ideas and talk about how your preteens should act.

Missions projects. These can be done locally with preteens, but make sure the project is easy enough to be accomplished. It’s important that the young people see the effort completed.

A few project ideas include painting, yardwork, cleaning and leading younger kids in a mini-Vacation Bible School. We take our city preteens to a church in the country, partner with their members on a project and have the preteens lead their children services on Sunday.

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SuperStart. If you need an amazing preteen conference, look no further than SuperStart, held by Christ In Youth. It is biblically sound and keeps your young people engaged for hours. For more information, visit online at

Blast. This is an extreme, weeklong VBS for preteens. It typically runs Sunday-Thursday nights and is divided into three sections. Section 1, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:40 p.m., is a special event such as a scavenger hunt—or whatever creative idea you come up with. Section 2, from 7:40 p.m. to 8 p.m., includes food and fellowship. Section Three, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., includes worship and a message from your guest speaker.

The Crossing. This is the most important event we do. It’s an annual overnight weekend during which we partner with our junior high leaders and say goodbye to our sixth-graders. When it’s over, our sixth-graders are officially in junior high.

The weekend is divided equally among the preteen and junior high leaders. The preteen leader is in charge of Friday night’s event, and the junior high leader Saturday night’s.

We give the students a chance to share their favorite preteen memories and we show pictures or videos of the last two years. We also have the students write encouraging notes to one another.

We end Friday night with the main event, The Crossing. I begin the ceremony by reading a special letter and then tell them they are about to cross over into junior high.

I stand in the middle of a bridge or path. One at a time they are sent to me. I say a personal goodbye to each of them, put a cross necklace on them, and say, “Welcome to junior high.” When they get to the end of the walkway they are then welcomed by the junior high leaders and students.

According to Christian researcher George Barna, by age 12 most Americans have made a lasting, personal determination about the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. With that in mind, what better time than now to connect with your preteens?



Katie Gerber is the preteen ministry associate at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis.

Surrounded by “nice,” overprotective parents? Paul Coughlin’s No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps can help you empower those well-meaning adults to stop producing weak, underdeveloped kids and instead raise ones who will stand up for their beliefs.


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