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A group of preteens sitting on the ground listening to a message on identity.
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4 Ways To Help Preteens See Who They Are With Their Identity in Christ

Here are four ways we can begin to help our preteens see and understand their identity in Christ through God’s Word.

My son was 11 years old when he needed to choose his first pair of glasses. I’d decided to order them from a company that encourages you to choose frames based on a social media vote. After being unsatisfied with any of our choices, we drove to their small pop-up store in Chicago.

At the store, the staff made my son feel like he was the coolest kid on earth. They gave input on what frames would be the best fit for his face; then they got the rest of the customers to take part in an impromptu live vote for the best frames. Once the public had spoken and the frames were chosen, they took his picture and sent us on our way, applauding his choice. The smile on my son’s face said it all to me—this group of people approved of him, and in one encounter they had shaped his identity and confidence.

This may seem like a story of one preteen choosing a pair of glasses, but it mirrors the experience of so many of our preteens as they seek to find their identity in our culture. This group has known nothing other than living life in the light of social media, the instant response of a smartphone at all times, and the multitasking of using multiple devices at once in order to fit an extra two hours of screen time into a day.

Seeking Validation From Others

Just like my son as he chose his glasses, this generation seeks validation from outside themselves—which is understandable, as they have watched their parents post their every move on Facebook and obsess over how many “likes” appear. Their widening circles of influence have come at the expense of a certain authenticity of relationships. While these kids rely on an “external brain” (via the internet that is literally carried in their pockets), they can find information from myriad sources, some familiar and some completely foreign. There is no changing the need to rely on their “internal heart” and the need to have God, their very source of life, be the loudest voice in their lives.

The good news—the REALLY good news—is that we can use God’s Word to shape the identity of our preteens. When we can help them shift their focus from what the many say about them to what the one—their heavenly Father—thinks about them, we shape their identity in truth and love.

4 Ways To Help Preteens See Who They Are With Their Identity in Christ

Here are four ways we can begin to help our preteens see and understand their identity in Christ through God’s Word.

1. Give them the reliable source.

Preteens are literal thinkers—which is one of the dangers of having the internet as an external brain; distinguishing between truth and fiction is more about the source of the information than the information itself. If a source has given reliable information in the past, a preteen is likely to see any information from that source as truth; and if a source gave information that was false, the source (in the preteen’s mind) is unreliable and false. This can work in our favor when we teach God’s Word. If we can teach the Bible in such a way that we leave no doubt as to its validity, our kids will return to it as a primary source of information and identity.

2. Help them see their world through God’s Word.

Once we have established God’s Word as a reliable source, then we have given preteens an entire book of truths about the Creator of the universe. At this age, preteens define themselves by the brands and social issues they identify with. If they have established truths about God, they can use them as a framework for how they see the world. While they may be individualistic in their thinking, they are living in a culturally diverse world.  Use God’s Word for the answers to social justice issues. Point out specific stories in which God intervened on behalf of the weak or established His promise to the humble and faithful. Because of their awareness of these issues and because of their multicultural classrooms, evoking passion about loving God and loving people—and really considering ways to put that faith into action—will turn these kids’ hearts toward God and His Word.

3. Let them wonder.

Don’t let them pull out their personal internet devices to find the answer to a question. The danger in instant gratification is that our kids are never given the opportunity to simply BE and WONDER. Giving kids a question and then letting them think creatively about it will stretch them. It’ll even rewire those connections in their brain that they may have lost through our “wiki society.” We see examples throughout Scripture. Psalmists wondering at creation, disciples in awe of Christ, and crowds struggling to comprehend God’s power in healing. Each time it would seem their faith was increased as they were stretched. Let’s allow space and time for kids to wonder about God. Then encourage them to use what they know of Him through His Word to draw conclusions. It’ll increase their confidence in God’s Word—and solidify what they know to be true about God.

4. Turn the mirror around.

Our culture encourages people to “show themselves” rather than “know themselves.” It’s critical that we use these truths from God’s Word to “turn the mirror around.” It shows preteens how their own identity is reflected in their relationship with Christ. For example, they see themselves in the story of God’s people being freed from slavery. Then they identify with situations in their own lives when they have felt bullied or enslaved. They can then find freedom because of their relationship with God. When they hear the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, they know the care Christ has for kids their age—and they can stand confidently in that. When they know that Jesus died for them in order to change their identity from one known by their sins to one known by God, they can’t help but see themselves as children of the Most High King.

I believe that as we teach our preteens through God’s Word, we establish it as truth. This gives them the confidence to understand it and see themselves in it. I believe we’ll see a generation with identities shaped not by what the world “likes,” but by Christ’s love.

Courtney Wilson is a ministry leader and writer.

Looking for more preteen ideas? Check out these posts!

2 thoughts on “4 Ways To Help Preteens See Who They Are With Their Identity in Christ

  1. Mary Nelson

    I would like a copy of the article from September/October 2017 titled
    “4 Ways To Help Preteens See Who They Are”. I had repeatedly tried connecting
    with the link but nothing comes up to read. Please email it to me, I would
    appreciate it!

    • Julia Johnson

      Hi Mary, Thank you for pointing this out! The link is now working properly. I’ll be happy to send you the article, as well.

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