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
• 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
Ask preteens if they know why their parents chose their names and
let them share their stories. Ask kids to discuss the following
• Has anyone ever called you by the wrong name? How did that
• Is it easy or difficult to imagine yourself with another name?
• 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
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
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
Close by reading Philippians 4:13 and Hebrews 13:9. Remind boys
their ultimate strength comes from God.
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
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.