Our preteen years can be some of the most challenging and confusing years of our lives. As ministry leaders—youth leaders in particular—we have a unique opportunity to be there for preteens in their most needed hour. Flashy lights and loud music are fun and have their place. But no production value will ever equate to the value of God’s Word and personal relationship. What preteens need today are mentorship, discipleship and engagement.

For me, my preteen years were dark days. Like many of my peers, I was unsure of my identity and looking to fit in somewhere. I also wrestled with anger and a sexual addiction, and I felt utterly lost.

I didn’t know Jesus then. I rarely heard anything about God and certainly didn’t go to church. I had no truth in my life, and it showed. I was a broken young girl, living in a broken world, with no direction or hope on the horizon. By the time I was going into high school, suicide was a thought I had every now and then.

But praise God that at the age of 16, He called me into a relationship and my life forever changed!

It’s no secret that having the Word in my life and access to wisdom in that season could have done so much to save me from heartache and pressure. It’s why I’ve written a devotional for preteen girls—there’s so much more beyond the discouragement and trials we see right in front of us.

Take it from someone who met Jesus as a youth. They’re hungry and searching. Youth leaders around the world are desperately needed in this hour. Will you step up to the plate and hold the mantle with conviction?

Mentor

When I first gave my heart to God, I knew nothing about Him or His Word. I knew nothing about what it meant or looked like to be a Christian. Thankfully, God provided for me just what I needed—Godly mentors. Two youth pastor wives took me under their wings, inviting me into their lives and homes. From them I learned how to study the Word, developed a love for the local church and saw that a home could indeed be filled with peace rather than strife.

The youth of today need more than fun events. They need godly adults who are willing to really see them and show up for them. It may not always be convenient to sit down with a young person and read the Bible together or pick up the phone when they call. And it’s easier to put on an event for hundreds rather than sit with the one. But Jesus always saw the one (John 4:1-38 , Luke 19:1-10), and we are called to do the same.

Check in with the young people in your life. Ask them meaningful questions, and make room to mentor those God puts in your path.

Disciple

We have been given a great commandment in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples. But this verse isn’t merely a conversion, and we’re off. Rather, it’s a process of, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This doesn’t happen overnight but rather involves time and influence.

As ministry leaders, we must move from any mindset we might have about momentary ministry and into enduring discipleship. God’s desire for us is to walk with people and help them build a strong foundation that is in Him and His Word.

A danger I see in the Church today is watered down teaching and motivational pep talks. I once went to a church for three years and didn’t learn a single thing. But I see it everywhere, unfortunately.

We are called to teach people, young ones included, to observe all that God has commanded. How do we do that when we neglect the fullness of God’s Word?

I’ve heard church leaders express that young people need the basic stuff, and while that’s true, we don’t give teenagers credit. We think they can’t handle more, but they can.

When I first became a Christian, I attended a church that taught verse by verse through the Bible. The teaching was intellectual, but I ate it up. It’s not up to us to make the Bible digestible, but to teach it in its fullness and watch God use His Word to transform lives.

Don’t be afraid to teach deep biblical truths to young people. They can handle it. And daresay, they need it.

Engage

Another great way to reach young people is to include them.

Preteens want to feel useful, like they are contributing to something much bigger than themselves. They desire to be part of something significant. When we make a place for them at the table, we give them space to serve and grow.

Besides, practically speaking, opportunities give young people something to do with their hands that keeps them occupied and out of trouble.

Take the time to intentionally pour into the preteens and teenagers in your life. Give them more than the typical and conventional. In Christ Jesus, show them love and your belief in who they can be.

Brittany Rust recently released a book through Penguin Random House called Preteen Devotional for Girls. Pick up a copy, or several, for the young girls in your life. Brittany is also available to speak to youth groups and would be honored the opportunity to share God’s truth with the teenagers at your church. Learn more at brittanyrust.com.               

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