I am so excited to have my friend, Andrea Hopgood, share about her recent experience at the Children’s Pastors’ Conference. Andrea and I connected through another national conference a few years ago and I count her as one of my trusted kidmin sisters. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Andrea!
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Children’s Pastors’ Conference (CPC15). The four days of sitting and learning from experts in their field started with a long, daily look into, “What Matters Most in Ministry to Tweens”. Kids are considered a “tween” when they are between 9-12 years old. I will share with you highlights and AHA moments that were both confirming and convicting to me.
According to Daniel Nott with Tween Gospel Alliance, the average:
- family time is 36 minutes per day
- church time is 3 hours per week
- media/digital time is 8-10 hours per day
These statistics show that media is forming and shaping the minds of our tweens. Our teens are buying into these thoughts:
There isn’t any absolute truth. They believe it’s ok to believe what you want.
They’re asking the question, “Is church relevant for me?”
Partying is good and being skinny is the key to happiness. Anorexia is starting between ages 9-11.
Divorce and living together is okay.
They are being mentored by media.
Having sex is normal because it’s on TV regularly. According to Dannah Gresch, founder of Secret Keeper Girl, kids as young as 11 have been exposed to pornography.
As parents and Christian leaders, it is our responsibility to nurture the tweens in our lives so they will not build their moral compass on a shaky (worldly) foundation. Instead, we need to guide them in creating a Biblical perspective that will be a firm foundation for their lives.
Moral Development Phases
3 to 6 year olds – This is the “copycat” phase. They want to be like mom or dad. At this age, they have the play kitchen sets and pretend tool boxes and they mimic what they see mom and dad do.
7 to 12 year olds – This is referred to as the “counseling” phase because they are forming their spiritual beliefs. No longer can we say “Because I said so”, they want to know “why”. This is always a spiritual question. This gives us the opportunity to give an answer from a Biblical perspective. If we aren’t ready to answer their questions, the world is definitely ready.
The battle for the mind and hearts of people are largely won or lost by age 13. According to studies conducted by Barna, 80% of tweens say the Bible, Qur’an and Book of Mormon teach the same truth.
1% of tweens have a Biblical world view.
Tweens tend to detach from face to face communication and prefer to engage in social media. This detachment causes a decrease in empathy. To grab their attention in the church setting, we must provide experiences that will grasp their attention and apply the lesson directly to their lives, followed by time for them to verbally process how the lesson (for example) applies to their life. Many tweens are the 4th-5th graders in our ministries. They are bored being with the 1st-3rd graders, but they aren’t ready to be with the older kids. This is a golden opportunity for us to create a transitional ministry.
When they were asked, “Who is the biggest influencer in your life?”, the #1 answer was their parents. This is confirmation that we must provide opportunities for parents to be in the driver’s seat for spiritual encounters and spiritual formation. How can we do that?
- Provide a parent/child baptism and/or communion class. This class will allow families to attend together as a ministry leader facilitates conversation. Parents will have an opportunity to share their faith story with their child or begin a conversation letting the child know that they are beginning this journey together. This will start heart conversations that can continue even after the class is complete.
- Host date nights for fathers and daughters or mothers and sons.
- Organize a parent/child purity retreat to guide conversations so parents are teaching their kids the Biblical perspective of modesty and truth about sexuality.
As you ponder what God would like your next steps to be, I pray that you receive the clarity and courage you need in order to walk out the next steps He has for you.
Six Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl by Dannah Gresch
Six Ways to Keep the “Good” in Your Boy by Dannah Gresch
Keep the conversation going! Are you the parent or leader of a tween? Do you feel equipped to navigate these years? What resources have you found helpful? Share a comment here or on our Facebook page!
Andrea has a passion for equipping ministry leaders with tools needed to lead children and families to have a relationship with our Savior. During her 17 year career, she has served as a Children’s Pastor, a consultant, and a Presenter at various conferences. Currently, she is the Director of Elementary Ministry at Elmbrook Church.