The preteen years are so different from the childhood years that many parents find themselves in a quandary about handling their child, let alone their Bible study habits.
Physically, the child is going through all kinds of changes that affect their attitude toward everything, including their parents. Because their bodies are changing, they suddenly want privacy, which frequently confuses parents, because they interpret it to mean the child is hiding something.
To confuse the issue even more, preteens see the Bible stories they have been raised on in a different light. Preteen girls will no longer touch a Nancy Drew book, considering it uncool or babyish, and if we’re not careful in how we present the Bible, the stories of childhood Sunday school can meet the same fate: they’re considered babyish and untouchable.
This can be inflamed by peer pressure. This age group has opinions, and they may start to hear, for the first time in their lives, strong statements adverse to the faith they’ve always believed in. They suddenly want to follow the example set by their peers more than the example of their parents.
All of this makes the preteen years difficult, but teachers have great opportunities.
“It was so easy when they were little,” one Sunday school teacher said. “They never questioned the parting of the Red Sea, anymore than they questioned manna from heaven, or Daniel in the lions den. Preteens, however, not only question everything, they want to know how it happened.”
On this subject, another teacher said, “My brother is an anthropologist, and when he planned a visit, I asked him to come to my preteen Sunday school class and tell the children his thoughts on the subject of the Red Sea parting. I now wish every adult and child could have heard and seen his presentation. He brought an extra suitcase full of globes, pictures and paraphernalia, and he explained how the combination of winds, tides and tsunamis, according to history at that time, proved scientifically how it could have happened.
Another Sunday school teacher told of an experience that happened to her when she was a preteen and taught her how imperative it is to give preteens the right answer and to be certain of the meaning. “Every preteen,” she insisted, “should know how to find the truth, or the correct meaning in Biblical statements for themselves.”
She was a very young girl when a youth director from the church told her class that it was “…much harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God than it was for a camel to go through the eye of the needle.’ (Matthew 19: 24). She pictured herself threading a needle, and knew that for a camel to go through it was not only impossible it was ridiculous.
“For years that troubled me,” she said. “I asked myself such questions as, Why should I work if having money will keep me from heaven? Isn’t it better to be poor?”
Twenty years later, she bought a Bible concordance and looked it up. To her relief, she discovered it wasn’t impossible at all. Strong’s, concordance explains it like this: The eye of the needle “was a kind of narrow gate into certain walled cities of Biblical times. To get the camel through the gate, one had to first unload it, walk the camel through, then bring the goods through the gate to get into the city.” The scripture verse means to get one’s priorities in order.
“Not only did this come as a relief, but it taught me one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned about teaching Sunday school to preteens, and that is: Get the facts straight or don’t teach at all. I use my concordance constantly when teaching preteens, and I believe that to keep preteens growing in their faith, they should have a concordance of their own to help them move from childhood Bible stories, to more advanced Bible study.”
A Bible concordance in this day and age can be an expensive item. However, one of the best is Strong’s Exhaustive Bible Concordance on Line, and online — it’s free!
The best preteen Bible study tips include bringing in an authority whenever possible to explain the scientific aspects of Biblical events and to encourage them to understand what the scriptures mean. To do this, they should not only have a Biblical concordance at their fingertips, but they should be well versed in how to use it.
To keep a child’s religious beliefs intact, Bible study habits should change in a way that encourages their faith to grow rather than falter. Having preteens join together in a Christian youth groups to focus on community service projects can be a wonderful outlet. Here they can be around like-minded kids who are going through similar experiences and are being raised in strong Christian families.
Mary-Kate Warner is a best-selling author and blogger who helps Sunday School teachers create fun, meaningful lessons for your Sunday School program.
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