Let Go … and Run Beside

ministry sean sweet youth Jan 06, 2021

Do you have a separate children’s and youth ministry at your church? Awesome!

With this model, however, many churches experience a problem. Some kids don’t seem to successfully transition to youth. They may stop coming or even rebel against the church and Jesus.

This is a common problem, but there is a solution. Let me explain by means of a bicycle analogy.

Step 1. When you first teach somebody to ride a bike, you start by explaining how the bike parts work.

Step 2. As they get older, you may sense that the rider is almost ready to ride the bike without your help. You run up and down the street with one hand on the handlebars and the other placed firmly on the seat. You’re still determining direction and speed. The rider is in the process of learning what riding a bike feels like, but it’s still your bike.

Step 3. The day arrives! As you run up the road, you let go of the bike and the rider wobbles on their own as they search to find their bearings. You don’t just let go and wave goodbye, though. As much as this child is developmentally ready for a solo bike ride, she’s never done it before. So, you run beside.

You let go and run beside.

You grab back on when you see her heading toward a pothole, or when she is about to fall. Then, you let go again. You and the rider are a team, but now it’s her bike.

Step 4. Eventually, after a few hundred runs up and down the street, this child is ready to ride the bike without you running beside. She is ready to determine which direction to ride on her own. You can even hop on your bike and ride with her.

Step 5. After many years, the rider becomes the teacher, helping somebody else learn how to ride a bike.

In this analogy, the bike represents a faith in Christ.

Children’s ministry is typically focused on Steps 1 and 2.

Youth ministry is typically focused on Steps 4 and 5.

Through the lens of this analogy, it’s easy to see why many kids fall through the cracks, or why they don’t internalize a personal relationship with Christ. Step 3 is critical, but at many churches, it’s missing!

Think of all the kids at your church who would benefit from a few years in a step 3 ministry. Imagine a ministry for 10- to 12-year-old kids that’s dedicated to “letting go… and running beside.” Imagine a ministry where kids take their first steps of faith ownership while leaders walk beside them.

When you introduce an intentional preteen ministry to your church, you’re not just adding yet another ministry to the mix. You’re introducing a critical step in the process of faith development that may prove to help countless kids transition from faith dependency to faith ownership.

An intentional preteen ministry may be the solution that will revolutionize your church’s ministry to young people.


This article was extracted from Issue 4 (Winter 2021) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.

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