If you’re not used to sharing your own stories with kids, it may seem counter-intuitive, like you’re doing too much talking. But we strategically encourage you to share your real stories, and here’s why.
You’re Setting the Tone
By sharing your own stories first, you’re modeling the behavior you want kids to exhibit. You’re setting the tone for how vulnerable kids can be.
I saw this in action one day with my fifth-graders when we were drawing things we need God to provide for us. As the kids drew, I also drew my own picture. There were two squirrelly boys who were goofing off, drawing pictures of sharks and alien robots. Although I tried to steer them in the right direction, they insisted they needed sharks and alien robots from God.
Then it was time to share. I held up my picture and said, “I need God to provide me with a family. I’d like to get married and have kids.”
The boy who’d drawn the shark looked up. “Oh yeah. I need that, too. I need a dad.”
Some kids who know him started to question him. “You already have a dad!” But Shark Boy was ready to share now. He talked about how when his dad has custody, he just drops him off at other places. His dad doesn’t seem to want to spend time with him.
Wow. We went from goofing off about sharks to a real, painful situation at the core of this boy’s heart. And it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t modeled the vulnerability of wanting a family of my own.
You’re Becoming More Relatable
Ministry is all about relationship, and that’s true more than ever when you’re working with preteens. If all you are to kids is a teacher with all the answers, who has everything figured out, you’re not as relatable. But when you share your real struggles and how God has worked in your life, you show preteens you’re a real person. They begin to connect with you in new ways. You’re no longer just an authority figure—you’re on the journey with them.
I saw this happen in a lesson about giving. I talked about how I was raised to always give 10 percent of my money to God. But when my rent increased dramatically, I was wondering how I would pay it, and a part of me started to think, “Well, if I didn’t give so much of my money as offering…”
But I stopped myself and was determined to keep tithing 10 percent. The next day, God provided financially in two ways that ended up giving me the exact amount of money I would need to cover the increase in rent for the next year.
One boy got wide-eyed and stared at me. “That really happened to you?”
What a cool faith-builder for him to see that I have real struggles (I was tempted to not give to God), but when I stuck it out, God did amazing things. He learned how God can provide!
You Give Preteens Time to Think
At the very least, sharing your own stories first gives kids time to think about what they might share. So even if they’re not listening to you, that can still be a good thing. You’ve given them the time they need to share authentically. Plus your story may remind them of a similar experience if they were stumped on how to answer.
So, be bold and share your faith with preteens. It’ll make a huge difference in your ministry!