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Age Level Insights: 10-12

Rick Chromey

Mean Girls
Preteen girls can be mean-really mean. Girls between ages 9 and 11 are breaking away from parental influences and are more influenced by their peers. Mean girl behavior-leaving someone out, gossiping, and bullying-can be subtle and cruel, even for preteens. Help girls in your ministry navigate through peer relationships and be a positive influence in others' lives with these tips.
• Start early. Teach young preteens the value of being empathetic toward others. Have girls practice empathy through service to others and by valuing each person in your group.
• Form groups. Establish all-girl small groups in your ministry where preteens can practice honesty and discuss peer issues in an environment that's non-judgmental and offers biblical guidance.
• Confront behaviors. When you observe girls behaving maliciously, call them on it. Tell girls that although you don't appreciate or allow this kind of behavior in your classroom, you care about them and want them to love each other as Jesus loves them. Offer compassion for girls who are victims of mean girls and remind them how loved they are by you and God.

What's In a Name?
Use this experience with preteens to help them discover the meaning of their names and to remember that God knows them by name.
You'll need 11x14-inch white paper, markers, books or Web sites containing name meanings, and a Bible. For name resources, go to www.childrens ministry.com/names.
Ask preteens if they know why their parents chose their names and let them share their stories. Ask kids to discuss the following questions.
• Has anyone ever called you by the wrong name? How did that feel?
• Is it easy or difficult to imagine yourself with another name? Explain.
• Why do you think names mean so much to us?
Have kids use books or Web sites to look up the meaning of their names and then make posters for their rooms that say, "God knows me by name!" Have kids each include their name and its meaning on their posters.
Afterward, read aloud John 10:1-5 to remind preteens that God knows us and calls us by name.

Isle of Swords
Preteens will enjoy this high-seas pirate adventure, filled with battles, storms, and sea creatures. Author Wayne Batson uses Christian allegory and inspiration to challenge readers to be courageous and look for the hero within. $16.99; Thomas Nelson; www.thomasnelson.com

Strength Training
Host an event for preteen boys to provide information on proper strength training and healthy food.
Invite community or church members certified in martial arts, boxing, or weight training to provide demonstrations and information. Ask a nurse, medical doctor, or nutritionist to discuss healthy weight gain, workout regimens, and dangers of steroids.
Close by reading Philippians 4:13 and Hebrews 13:9. Remind boys their ultimate strength comes from God.
Lisa Stadler
San Diego, California


Am I Fat?
80% of 10-year-old girls surveyed say they're worried they'll become fat. In a similar survey, 70% of sixth-grade girls said they became concerned about their shape, size, and diet between ages 9 and 11.
Source: www.annecollins.com

Kid Nation
Imagine an entire town populated only by 40 kids ages 8 to 15. Initially, the town council is comprised of four children-a spelling champ, a Boy Scout, a beauty queen, and a student leader. These peewee politicians decide kids' fates, instill order, and handle disputes. Each week one child is chosen as the best citizen of Bonanza City and is awarded a $20,000 gold star. Imagine-parents actually signed off on this social experiment.

It's called Kid Nation (CBS) and it's not imagination-it's the real deal. This reality show has been blanketed with criticism since it aired last fall. Entertainment critics say it's boring; child advocates claim the show exploits children. Nevertheless, Kid Nation 2 is already seeking new citizens-and parents are signing up their kids in droves.

Preteen leaders can glean powerful insights about today's kid culture from the show. Educators have used Kid Nation clips to spark discussion on social, cultural, psychological, and spiritual issues. For example, one episode shows children vigorously debating the ethics of killing the town's chickens for much-needed protein. Ten-year-old Savannah ponders the chickens' fate with an insightful question: "Are they gonna hang them like they did Saddam Hussein?" Preteens are aware of what's happening in the world around them, and they've got an opinion on things that matter to them.

Or dig deep into the decision-making process the town council went through when choosing between providing outhouses or a single a TV set for the community. While the toilets triumphed, the fact that some children actually preferred TV to sanitary waste provisions reveals how ingrained media is in preteen culture.

Explore their social interactions in the premiere episode. Citizens of Bonanza City, with the exception of the Town Council, were unaware of the $20,000 gold star prize. Consequently, kids played, worked, argued, competed, and lived as kids. Most were compliant and congenial. But the moment the gold star was introduced, the game changed.  Suddenly kids were playing for a prize (money) and not for a higher purpose (to create a kid community). Arguments escalated and altruism evaporated, suspicion loomed and ulterior motives surfaced.

Preteen leaders: Give Kid Nation a look. It's a great window into the thoughts, values, and actions of today's preteens. It's compelling, engaging, and insightful for adults trying to reach this age group for Jesus.

Rick Chromey, D.Min., is a contributing author to Children's Ministry in the 21st Century (Group) and director of the George Fox University Center in Boise, Idaho.

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