Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Things that Matter: Pre-teen Ministry

Last weekend marked the end of a season in my life as I completed my last event as a member of the SuperStart team. We determined last fall that this year would be my last with SuperStart, which would allow me to focus 100% of my time to MOVE and high school ministry. The decision was a hard one but one that I knew was one I needed to make.

One of the reasons this right decision was also a difficult one dealt with my relationship with the people I worked with. Though it might be difficult to swallow, at times I spent more time with these wonderful people than with my own wife. I guess relationships form quickly when you spend nearly every other weekend with a group of people. I will truly miss traveling with them when they hit the road next fall.

Sharing the stage with Patrick and Samantha has been one of the greatest joys in my young professional life. Often times we felt like we were performing without a net but I have never worked with people who I felt trusted what was going to come out of my mouth as much as they did. I also know that we had the ability to read each other’s thoughts in a way that I can’t explain. During the past three years I have flipped a go-kart, been slimed by some kid from Indiana, fallen through a roof, danced, and wrestled Patrick in ways not fit for basic cable.

Beyond the Snows, I have also loved working with Matt, Teri, Carter, Scott, Kevin, Tabitha, Cassidy, DJ Tony, Nathan, another guy named Scott, Donny, Isaiah, Stephanie, Will, Tim, and my new BFF Yancy. As great as they are most of them are obsessed with crappy restaurants (TGI Friday’s and Panera for example). Call it their one downfall. Even still, they are some of the most talented, creative, and high-strung people I know. I consider it an honor to have kissed seven of them on the mouth.

The difficulty stretches beyond just the people involved. It is that all of these people I have mentioned have worked with me to create something I truly believe in. SuperStart is the premiere preteen program in the country. I can’t just say that because I worked with them. I can say that because I have spent the last three years digging up everything I can on preteen ministry. Nothing compares to what takes place at SuperStart. The worship is the best. The teaching is the most intentional. The curriculum is right on track with the cognitive characteristics of a 4th-6th grader. Maybe I shouldn’t say this but it is true.

Beyond just an event, I love SuperStart because I know it exists to ensure that pre-teens across the country are active participants in the church. We believe that pre-teens are not too young to make a difference in your community. We have heard story after story from youth leaders telling us of how energized and fearless their kids can be. They know what they believe and desire to live it out.

I write all this because I believe that you need to do something with your pre-teens. I have been given the opportunity for three years to encourage people from a Chili's in Jacksonville to a hot tub in San Diego (it's kind of a long story) to give pre-teens their own place. Stop watering down the gospel and teaching them the same lessons their little brother is hearing. Give them more. They deserve it and are ready for it.

If George Barna is right and our religious framework is set by the time we reach 12, then pre-teen ministry is one of the most important aspects of church life. I would be foolish to say that a person can’t change later in life, but am reminded of this concept every time I hear someone defend wrong actions with, “that’s just the way I was raised”. There is work to be done in pre-teen ministry. You need to get involved in the life of a pre-teen. Let them lead. Let them serve. Let them have their own place.


Tymm Cote said...

i cherish you eric epperson...
overall, you are one of the more decent fellows i have met in my short lifetime. I can not say that about many people.

Tony Anderson said...

Eric Epperson, my only wish is that I could be one of your tears...because then I could be born in your eye, live my life in your cheek and die on your lips.

This made me miss the team a lot. I had nearly forgotten that you fell through the roof of the garage (of which I was the DJ). I had also forgotten that we somehow pulled off the fact that a Dj would actually hang out on top of a roof. Additionally, I have some video footage from the first year of the tour that you need to see.

I cherish you as well. I look forward to our moments of insanity and bewilderment at two ("2") CIY MOVE events this summer.

Caralee said...

Good post.