I have the utmost respect and admiration for Gordon and Becki West. They are pioneers in preteen ministry (Gordon, I did not say “Grandparents”). Gordon and Becki began working with preteens when I was just a toddler, and they continue to lead the charge for communicating the Gospel to this unique group.
In true pioneering fashion, Gordon West opened the 2012 Preteen Leaders Conference. There were so many great things that Gordon said, but here are the highlights from his session that I was able to capture in my notes.
“When children’s leaders and junior high leaders don’t get along, everyone loses. Not just the kids, EVERYONE.”
Gordon really nailed the need for collaboration between children’s and student ministries. For preteen ministry to succeed, it must be a joint effort. There needs to be a strategy for how we transition preteens from ministry to ministry.
“You can pick up any curriculum or any teaching guide and make it work if you understand your preteens.”
So true! My guess is that the majority of the room was struggling with what curriculum to teach preteens. Do we use a children’s curriculum? Do we use a student ministry curriculum? Do we write our own? Those are all questions we in preteen ministry have dealt with. Gordon reminded leaders that you can’t copy a model. You have to understand the idea and how it could work in the context of your church and with your unique group of preteens. If we will spend time getting to know them, building relationships with them, and listening to their needs—the teachings will flow from that.
“Even on the worst day of your ministry, Jesus is madly in love with you and He is delighted with what you’re doing in the life of preteens.”
Hearing those words from an experienced leader and veteran in preteen ministry was just what I needed. We all make plans that we believe will be great, but plans fail. When I experience a failure, I tend to be overwhelmed with the weight of that failure. It is so refreshing and uplifting to be reminded that Jesus loves me and is delighted in my service no matter what.
Gordon West is not a fan of the term “tweens!” I know many people use the term interchangeably with preteens and think nothing of it. I too had a slight aversion to the word “tween,” but I couldn’t really give a reason. I may be biased, but Gordon’s reason was compelling. Gordon argued that preteens are not “tween” anything. We don’t call High School students “tweens” just because they are between Jr. High and College, Gordon pointed out that preteen is a cross-culturally identifiable developmental stage. Therefore, they deserve a distinct title that fits this stage of life.
Where you there? What did you gain from the session with Gordon West?