Preteens hold unprecedented influence, more than any other time in history. Yet, anyone who has spent time in children’s or middle school ministry has stories of preteens that sit against the back wall, roll their eyes at what’s said on stage, and barely tolerate the hour. Or of some who just don’t show up at all.

Today’s preteens are getting lost in transition as they shift from childhood to adolescence, a unique and challenging time when they are not quite one thing and not quite the other. Today on the Think Orange Podcast, we sit down with Dan Scott, author of Caught In Between: Engage Your Preteens Before They Check Out, to talk about how church leaders can help preteens develop a faith of their own as they move from children’s to middle school ministry.

Welcome to Episode 52 of the Think Orange Podcast.

Where To Listen:  iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher  |  SoundCloud

Topic Timeline

The bridge into middle school ministry is just as important as the bridge out (2:10)

Part 1 of Dave’s interview with Dan Scott (5:53)

After five years of research on preteens, 252 has launched a new preteen experience/curriculum (7:17)

What Dan and his team have learned from their research that should change how churches do ministry for preteens (7:55)

Is preteen ministry a moving target? (8:33)

One thing researchers agree on: 11 is a magic age (10:55)

What the church can learn from the marketing industry (12:45)

The preteen years are the onramp for churches to create lifelong engagement (14:25)

Fifth graders are checking out of church mentally, physically, or both (15:50)

What parents and church leaders can do when they see preteens checking out (20:03)

If they’re not wrestling with it, they’re not learning it (21:35)

How the church can help preteens where they’re at by creating an experience that’s unique from children’s ministry (26:10)

Building anticipation for kids and students by filling in the blanks: “I get to _____ when I get to _____,” for each phase (28:40)

When we hyper-focus on transitions, we retain kids (29:39)

How 252 PRETEEN and Caught In Between can help church leaders catch preteens in this transition (34:11)

Generations are changing and some believe that by 2080, there will be at least 15 generations alive at the same time (37:32)

Part 2 of interview with Dan Scott (40:10)

Summary of Dan’s new book, Caught In Between: … (41:20)

Obstacles for preteens when it comes to faith (42:58)

You don’t want them to destroy their faith—you want them to renovate it (47:13)

Allowing space for questions, rather than always providing answers (51:03)

People are now sharing they left the church as adults because they couldn’t ask questions when they were young (56:34)

Dave and Ashley’s final thoughts (59:22)

People, Places & Helpful Resources

The Orange Conference

Caught In Between: Engage Your Preteens Before They Check Out (new book by Dan Scott)

252 PRETEEN (curriculum and strategy)

The Gen Z Effect (book by Tom Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen)

Book: Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide

Book: It’s Just a Phase – so Don’t Miss It: Why Every Life Stage of a Kid Matters and at Least 13 Things Your Church Should Do About It

Blog: Orange Leaders – a blog with strategies, tips and ideas from leaders influencing the faith and character of the next generation

Featured Guests

Greg Bradford


Dan Scott is the Large Group Director for 252 Basics at Orange. He spends most of his time leading a creative team of talented writers that innovate our large group environments. Prior to coming on board at Orange, Dan served as the Elementary Children’s Director at Ada Bible Church. He enjoys traveling around the world coaching children’s ministry leaders and speaking to kids and students. Dan and his wife Jenna live in Cumming, GA and have four amazing kids: Liam, Ellison, Addison, and Taye

Quotes from This Episode

Ideas to Influence the Next Generation

The following is an excerpt from Dan Scott’s new book, Caught In Between: Engage Your Preteens Before They Check Out. You can grab your copy at The Orange Conference 2018 or online beginning May 1.

“In general, the goal of family ministry in the church is simple: to influence parents and leaders to give kids the tools needed to make wiser choices, have stronger relationships, and have a deeper faith.

As church leaders, we make plans and scope out the 18 years of a child’s faith formation. We are often tempted to program as if spiritual development happens on a linear trajectory. And while some aspects of child development are linear from infancy to adulthood, much of what happens in life that impacts faith formation doesn’t happen in a straight line.

Faith development is more like a rollercoaster.

Ups and down.

Twists and turns.

Over and around again.

Rarely does the path even out and allow time for the car to coast along the tracks. And if it does slow down throughout the ride, the slower speeds only indicate that something big is about to happen and give you time to mentally prepare for it.

You’re riding along, and then you see it—the biggest, most thrilling, most frightening of all the loops on the track. The whole coaster was designed with this loop in mind. The engineers planned to get the riders in and out of that loop without derailing or skyrocketing into orbit […]

Until the preteen loop, parents or immediate caregivers tend to control how kids navigate through the loop. But during the preteen years, kids transition and start taking hold of the steering wheel. They have more control over the outcome of the loop than ever before, and how we guide them through this can make or break what happens on the other side in their next phase of faith formation […]

If we want kids to experience a growing, authentic faith, we need to consider how we help them do that. We tend to feel this pressure to pass on the sort of faith we experience as adults.

Since preteens fall somewhere on the continuum between concrete and abstract thinking, our words can either be a foundation or a confusion for how they’ll think about God as they mature in their faith. The best foundation we can offer gives them simple answers to complex questions while introducing ideas that won’t begin to crumble when they are able to understand complex answers.”

 Dan Scott, Caught In Between: Engage Your Preteens Before They Check Out

Conversation Starters For Your Church

What’s something you learned during your preteen years that’s still true about yourself?

Think through your entire family ministry. How does each environment build anticipation for the next?

What are some things you’ve observed about the fourth and fifth graders in your church? (Be sure to think about some of their strengths and positive attributes, in addition to some of the challenges you may see.)

What might it look like for our church to give preteens their own unique experience?

Your Hosts

Dave Adamson, The Think Orange Podcast Host


When he’s not working as a pastor at North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Dave is usually making his family cross their arms, roll their eyes, and tap their feet while he takes “just one more quick photo” on family outings. You’ll also often find him up to his neck in “Jewish stuff” as he researches the cultural context of Jesus for his daily Instagram devotions. Learn more about Dave at

Ashley Bohinc, The Think Orange Podcast Host


Ashley serves as the Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange and the USA Director of Carry 117. She has worked with students in public education, athletic and ministry settings for the last 12 years. She is most passionate about resourcing the local church, communicating on stage, developing leaders, working with students and world missions. In her downtime, you’ll find her watching Friends, cheering on the Cleveland Cavaliers, traveling, reading, or on one of her Fairytale Friday Adventures.

Join Us Next Week

Thank you for listening to the Think Orange Podcast.

We hope you’ll join us for next week’s episode. More importantly, we hope that when you think next generation, you think Orange.