Be prepared.

For years I studied the motto of the Boy Scouts like my life depended on it. In fact, I embraced the motto so much that I earned my Eagle Scout. Little did I know, one day my life really would depend on being prepared. That day came when I said “yes” to leading 5th grade boys.

When I started leading 5th grade boys, I was initially concerned with learning all I could from our “playbook”. I studied the lesson, reviewed the activities and tried to be uber prepared when I entered the room. Our church even made videos on how to complete the projects for the week. I studied those tutorials like Payton Manning before a big game. Despite all the prep, the funny thing about our group is that we almost never use the activities prepared for us.

We don’t opt out of it due to a secret rebellion. We just always find other things to talk about that seem more important than a relay. I quickly discovered what I need to be prepared for is relationship, not crafts.

These boys do not want to do another craft or figure out the way the bible verse is correctly formed when cut into different pieces of paper, they want to talk. My group wants to share what they think, what they know (and 5th graders know everything), what they are scared of as well as what gets them fired up.

My boys long for a safe space to share their uncensored thoughts, in short they want a real relationship.

How do I encourage kids to dive deeper than what the lesson suggests? It’s pretty simple, really. I have three fundamentals to being prepared:

Prepare good questions. Not the “yes or no” kind – I’m talking about questions that require more than a single word response. Questions you wish people would ask you.
Never accept a single word response. If I ever receive a yes or no answer, I ask for them to explain it further. My group knows a single word answer will never suffice.
Prepare like no one will talk but never cut anyone off. That way, you are ready for anything.

Bottom line, working with tweens requires you to play on your toes. I still prepare for the topic of the day and am ready to stick to the script (if I have to). But mostly, I get really comfortable with allowing the group to drive the conversation. At the end of the day, our relationship allows us to have a safe place to dialogue and wrestle with God’s truth instead of box us into whatever might be “planned” for the day.

Share with us some moments you have experienced that left you thinking you had to be prepared for anything!

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