Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pre-teen Culture

We have just finished our fall tour at SuperStart! This was my first experience not only with SuperStart! but with pre-teen ministry. It was absolutely fantastic. I would find myself sitting at my desk anxious to leave for our next trip. I am looking forward to a short break but am excited about our spring tour!

I just want to comment on the culture of pre-teens. I will have to say that I really underestimated pre-teens, and was a little out of touch with them until we started the tour. The thing I noticed every week was their passion to learn, take part, and become the young teens God wants them to be. I love walking around during our zone time and just seeing these kids being themselves and not worrying about what everyone else is thinking of them. This age group is just so awesome on so many different levels. I could go on and on about what I have learned about pre-teens but instead will just encourage you to read the book “Leading Preteens” by Patrick Snow.

I want to assure you that I am not just pitching this book to increase book sales. Honestly, this book sat at my desk for about a month and half or longer after I started with SuperStart!. It was when I was doing some travels in Illinois and Indiana that I started to read it. I am glad I waited to do that to. We were about halfway through our fall tour and as I read I was able to say, “yes that is exactly right, I have seen that!” The book really helped open my eyes to even more of what I was experiencing week to week. It helped me with how pre-teens think, how they learn, what is important to them, and why they act the way they do. One of my favorite excerpts from the book was an observation from one of our conferences. It talked about how at this age the little girls will start to notice some of the boys, but the boys don’t care because they are so busy being boys and doing what boys do. So what you may see at a SuperStart! conference is a line of girls in a dodge ball game admiring that pre-teen stud who will inevitably run up with a ball and nail them at full force because his interest isn’t in them yet as much as it is in winning a game of dodge ball! I started watching this at SuperStart! and it is completely true and a bit humorous at the same time.

I would encourage you to check this book out or other pre-teen material to learn more about their world. It really is fascinating. This year on tour I have been doing a survey in which I ask the kids ten questions to learn more about their culture. I currently have results for over 500 surveys in a database that has given me even more insight into their world. I hope to post this information at some point to help you in anyway to better understand pre-teens as well. Please feel free to contact SuperStart! if you would like some help in understanding the pre-teen culture a little more. We are here to be a resource for YOU. Thanks for reading, God Bless.

Aaron ><>

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Story of Sam at SuperStart!

Well we've just launched our fourth SuperStart! tour and everything's going great. I always underestimate how excited, energetic, and loud the preteen students can get at these events. If you've never heard 700 preteens worshiping Jesus at the top of their lungs then you're missing out on one of the most amazing sounds I've ever heard. Kyle Fleet, one of the preteen pastors that brought his students to SuperStart! in Wichita, shared with us something that happened with one of his preteens at the event. This story sums up exactly why we do what we do. Enjoy!

Patrick Snow

"When I broke my kids into small groups I put Sam, one of our "Extra Grace Required" kids with myself so that I wouldn't scare any of my volunteers away. Sam is a boy that is always pushing the limits and can cause trouoble without lifting a finger. I figured if I was going to have any issues with any of the kids it would be with him.

We had an ice cream bar for our late evening snack so I brought the group together, gave them some house rules, and released them by their small groups. When Sam's group was dismissed I noticed that he did not get up. I continued releasing other groups until they were all dismissed. While all the other kids were in the room getting their icecream and I noticed Sam was still sitting in his chair looking kind of sad. I waived him over to me and asked him if anything was wrong.

Sam looked me in the eyes and said, "nothing's wrong, I'm just waiting. Isn't that what we talked about tonight? Putting others first? All these people are my friends and friends put each other first".

I was overwhelemed! Sam wouldn't even get ice cream until I first got mine. At an age where kids are learning that the Bible should guide decisions and have practical implications for their lives, Sam hit it right on the head!

Kyle Fleet
Upper Elementary Director
Central Christian Church

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Bold Beliefs of Preteens

This past week while we were filming a video for the upcoming tour, I was reminded of why I love preteens so much. The video we were shooting was of Johnny Scott (the director of our Jr. High Believe event) asking questions and getting responses from five preteen students. It was important to us that we get the student's actual answers, so we made a point not to script out or coach them on what to say. This meant that the preteens had the opportunity to say whatever they wanted.

Did you catch that? PRETEENS...ON CAMERA...ANSWERING HOWEVER THEY WANTED! Obviously I was a wee bit nervous. I'm even nervous now writing about it. My fears, however, were for nothing.

When the cameras began rolling and the questions were asked, all five of the students gave amazingly honest answers straight from their hearts. Were all of the answers correct? No. Were all of the answers perfectly articulated? Not really. But every answer was an honest response to what they truly believed. That's one of the things I love so much about this age. Whether they are right or wrong, articulate or inarticulate, they have no problem sharing what they truly believe.

Imagine if we could all be as bold as a fifth grader when it came to sharing the gospel of Christ with others. Imagine what the world could be like.

Patrick Snow

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wow, what a busy time of year this can be! The SuperStart! team has been very busy as we are trying to pull all the little details and last minute planning together for this years tour. As of tomorrow we are exactly 3 weeks out until our first event. While this is such a fun time, it can be a bit stressful once in a while trying to make sure everything is coming together just right.

I'm sure it is a busy time in churches as well... kicking off new fall programing, graduating students into new ministries, beginning new curriculum, trying to implement different elements. As we are journeying this busy season together, lets make it a point to not let all the details and frustrations that will inevitably come make us lose our focus on whats most important... leading students to Jesus.

While our ministries help direct students towards Jesus our desire should be to see them walk daily with Him. One way we can help students with this is providing tools that will encourage them to spend time in prayer and in the word. As I have been searching for preteen resources to have available at SuperStart! this year, it has become evident that they are few and far between.
However, I have found several that really speak to preteens and deal with the issues they are facing today.

-- The NLT Kids Bible: geared for students ages 8-13; "I believe" statements that identify important christian values and how they are weaved throughout the whole bible; key verses pinpointed for memorization; and very graphically focused for preteens

-- Manga Series: targeted for students 12 and up; using the popular Japanese cartoon style, these books share the Bible in a new way; currently two books in the series with three more to follow soon

--Through the Bible Devotions: 365 devotions written just for preteens; daily lesson but paint over all picture of God's plan; targeted for students 8-12

-- Whats a Girl to do: 90 devotionals written for preteen girls; fictional stories followed by scripture to show that todays problems can be answered by the Bible;

I encourage you to take a look at these resources and continue searching for tools that will encourage your students to grow and seek after our Lord daily.

- Teri Foreman

Friday, August 22, 2008

Obtuse Angles

It has been about twelve and half years since I was a pre-teen. I was a little worried that I am way out of the loop. I am new to SuperStart! this year. I came on staff about a month and a half ago. What a month and half it has been! Not only am I new to SuperStart!, but I am new to pre-teen ministry.

In recent years I have spent tons of time working with high school and college students. I was able to relate to them pretty well. God started preparing me for pre-teens about six months before I accepted my position with SuperStart!. Little did I know at the time that he was doing so. I was finishing up my final semesters in school and started Substitute teaching on the side. I signed up to teach high school, then middle school. Well somehow God orchestrated it for me to teach sixth grade everytime I got called. Not only did I do sixth grade, but it was at the same school with the same kids every week. Here were some things I learned about pre-teens through those days of teaching.

1. Don’t mess with pre-teen girls guys, they will eat you alive.

2. Shoes with skates in the bottom of them are really cool.

3. I need to start listening to Hannah Montana.

4. Pre-teens didn’t like books on tape.

5. Football, baseball, and skating are now the cool sports. (I still can’t stand on a skateboard without falling on my face).

6. Pre-teen guys are genuinely looking for a strong male mentor who they can talk (or make things up) about sports with.

7. Pre-teens are at a weird stage in life where they can change personalities at the flip of a switch. One moment they are quiet and shy (flip the switch) the next moment they are the class clown.

8. Pre-teens have more pent up energy than I have ever seen!

9. Pre-teens know more about some technology than I do! Yikes!!!

10. Pre-teens are easily amused by the simple things, like me getting chalk all over my shirt or something.

11. Pre-teens love to be involved. I never had to worry about having a volunteer to read during class because there was always a kid at the edge of his seat screaming at me that he wanted to read.

12. I struggle with 6th grade geometry (oh ok and English). Give me a break it has been twelve years!

As I reflected on my pre-teen days, I started to realize that I am not that out of the loop. Things are still a lot like they were twelve years ago. I am excited to get on tour and start learning even more about Pre-teens but accept the fact that I to can still relate to where they are having been there just a shade over a decade myself.

Let me leave you with a quick story of a pre-teen named Aaron. In sixth grade Aaron was in a co-taught class that had about 56 students. It was during a Geometry lesson when Aaron and his classmates were studying angles. They seemed so simple. It came to the time when the teacher said, “I am going to call on somebody to give me an obtuse triangle off of the page.” All 56 students were on the edge of their seats hoping they could be the one chosen. All of a sudden like a ray of light shinning right on him, Aaron’s name was called out and he had a grin ear to ear! “Well Aaron” the teacher said. Aaron perked up and said, “Angle x,y,b!” Ohhh no, he blew it. In a brief moment of stage freight he gave a right angle instead of an obtuse angle.

That’s right it was me, and I was all shades of red in front of my 55 classmates. Ya know what though, I tell you this to let you know that I have been there and I can relate to how you feel. Being a pre-teen is a hard time. You want to make good impressions, want your friends to think you are cool, and want to be the one who can tell the whole class that an obtuse angle is a straight line. Let me just encourage you by saying you WILL do silly things, say the wrong thing, and often times look really foolish and all shades of red. It is ok though because so will everybody else. So belt out the wrong answer once in a while, but be proud of it because you are pre-teen and that is what you do! These times will pass so make the most of them so in twelve years you have something funny to look back on and laugh at J.

-Aaron Smith
SuperStart! Program Administrator

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ah to be a preteen again!

I have been traveling with SuperStart now for three years and there is one constant thing about preteens that amaze me every weekend we hold a SuperStart event. I've also been working with our High School Move Conference for the last five years and I'm not surprised to see high schooler's doing this, or even the Jr. highers at Believe. I think I am totally guilty of assuming that because preteens are young they are not capable or even able to understand what they are doing and the meaning of their actions. Shame on me! I'm not talking about anything bad, in fact it's so incredibly good and pure. I'm talking about a preteens ability to worship. If you think a preteen doesn't know what they are doing when they are worshiping I would have to strongly disagree. I see it every weekend and it gives me chills every time. It's that feeling when you are watching "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and everyone yells "MOVE THAT BUS" and the family goes crazy with excitement to see their new home which is better then anything they could have ever dreamed. In that moment you have to take a deep breath to either keep from losing it or to let the flood gate open wide. And you've been holding it back the whole time because you don't want to show that a TV show is making you emotional. That's the feeling I get when I see these preteens worship. I am usually in the back of the audience so I can't hear them as well as up front, so I went to the front one time and was blown away. It's amazing to hear a room of 700 preteens worship louder then a room of 700 adults on a Sunday morning. Preteens are at a special place where they have some bad B.O. because they haven't discovered deodorant yet, but they don't care, and they don't care that they might not be the best singer in the world so they are going to sing the loudest they can because they want to make sure God can hear their praise to Him. I'm not exactly sure where we lose that as we grow up, but I wish we all could be in that special place like preteens, minus the lack of deodorant.

Matt Foreman

Friday, August 8, 2008

Never Turn Out The Lights!

This summer I learned a very valuable lesson in teaching preteens that I would like to pass on. NEVER TURN OUT THE LIGHTS! I know it might sound like a good idea in the planning stage but trust me, it doesn't work during the teaching. Here's what happened:

I was speaking at preteen camp and I was teaching about the importance of being prepared for God to use you. My idea was to tell the parable of the ten virgins (I called them "bridesmaids") and then talk about how scary it would be to not be ready when God opened up an opportunity to use us. To do this I decided to teach the parable of the ten virgins like it was a scary story. I set it up by asking the students if they ever knew that Jesus had told a scary story. Of course they said no and that's when I preceded to share with them the story of the ten virgins. When I was done I asked them if they were scared and (just like I had planned) they told me no because it wasn't a scary story. So I read the story again, only this time I read in a creepy voice over candle light with the sound of a storm playing in the background. My plan was to ask them again if they were scared, and when they still said no I was going to talk about being prepared for God to use us and how scary it would be if we weren't.

I never got that far!

As soon as I lit the candles and turned out the lights the students went crazy! They were screaming, yelling, and some were howling at the moon. After five or six minutes (literally) of trying shush the room, I ended up abandoning the idea and quickly had the lights turned back on. I then tried to make my point, prayed, and walked off the stage in defeat. It was awful. So please let my silly mistake become a lesson to all who are reading this and NEVER TURN OUT THE LIGHTS.

Patrick Snow