Entitlement. From adults, it sounds like “I have my rights!” and from preteens, “That’s not fair!” But our culture also says perfection through performance is everything. We push younger and younger kids to “succeed.” These mentalities create confused preteens. While demanding that they deserve everything, in the back of their minds preteens might feel they’re really not enough. But Jesus’ love is free, despite performance. And we don’t actually deserve it; it’s a gift because we’re God’s children. Here are strategies to free preteens from the pressures they face through grace.
1. Focus on biblical examples.
God’s grace is an eternal truth, unlike our sense of entitlement or our need to perform. The Bible is packed with relevant examples, such as Genesis 37, 39-45; Matthew 9; or Acts 9.
Try pointing preteens to the parable of the lost son (Luke 15). Discuss how preteens relate to the older brother, what the brother’s attitude says about his view of love, what the father’s love says about his love for others, and how the lost son’s actions are like preteens’.
2. Show that grace applies today.
Create experiences that make grace concrete to help preteens tie the biblical principles to their daily lives.
For instance, give preteens medium-sized cardboard pieces and black markers, along with random “injustice scenarios,” such as a bully says something behind your back, you get caught cheating, or a parent gets pulled over for speeding. For each scenario, have preteens write what the person deserves on one side of the cardboard and how showing grace would change the situation on the other side.
3. Share your experiences.
In a YouTube series called Booty, God, Booty, blogger and host Jon Acuff says grace tells us, “Be sick. Be loved.” When you vulnerably share ways you’ve personally received grace, it helps preteens make more connections for understanding grace, and it helps create a relationship of trust and closeness. Let your preteens share their examples, too.
With guidance, your preteens can step forward, free of the confusing cultural lies of entitlement and perfectionism.
Patrick Snow is senior director of Christ In Youth’s SuperStart! program, a weekend event designed specifically for preteens.
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