The Tween Years; An age of opportunity before teen-age
Our 10 – 12 year olds go through a period of ambiguity, reflected perhaps in the term ‘Preteens’. This term has no literal character of its own; it takes reference to ‘Teens’. The alternative ‘Tweens’ is more reflective of their awkward position – somewhere in between or more candidly, “neither here nor there”. In most churches, there are distinctive ministries for tots, pre-schoolers, children and youths but none for preteens.
This transition from children to teens has its unique challenges, especially that of being accepted. Usually by the tween years, they find some activities childish. Making them sing action songs with the younger ones in Sunday school is difficult. On the other hand, there are things they have yet to grow out of so youths may deem them “childish”. By the time they join the youth ministry, they suddenly find themselves the youngest and are treated so. Even adults cannot make up their minds how to relate with them.
Our Preteens Ministry workers need to know when to be instructive with our tweens, when to allow their opinions to be heard and challenged, how to engage them creatively. These need to be done appropriately, without bordering on being condescending. When sharing the gospel, we need to be mindful that their thinking is more sophisticated than young children. However, because they do not have much life experiences, it makes the abstract more difficult to grasp. Tweens can process difficult bible concepts and deeper truth but in simple concrete terms and without jargons; now, that is difficult! Our workers need to understand God’s Word so well that when it is explained to tweens, truth is not watered down. We need to push past the image of an innocent child and present the stark reality of the darkness of sin, need for repentance and glorious hope of salvation in Christ alone.
It helps that we know them better individually, as we can build on what they already know to deepen their understanding and appreciation of God’s salvation message. We make every effort whenever possible, to extend our time and connection with a tween after sharing the gospel. But keeping the channel open to tweens has seemingly been made difficult by the civil law which does not allow a minor to be contacted without his parents’ permission. But children need to be kept safe. Moreover, it is good for our team to be more conscious of the custodianship of parents over their children, to learn to work alongside parents to reach tweens and to understand the child grows in the context of a family. Our younger staff and volunteers, many not married or have children yet, need to learn to relate with parents and shape their understanding of God’s concept of a family.
Pray along with us as we grow in the ministry of reaching preteens. Pray as many as God wills, the preteens can go through this ambiguous transitive period with the clarity of their identity in Christ, with their strength of mind and purity of heart guarded in Christ.
It is our prayer that when a preteen becomes a teen, he or she is resolved to serve Christ.