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The second main session of the 2012 Preteen Leaders Conference featured Nick Diliberto, creator of Preteenministry.net. Nick is a naturally gifted leader. I’ve been working for Nick over the past year as a content writer for PreteenMinistry.net, and over that period I’ve learned a lot from his experience in ministry. I was really looking forward to hearing Nick speak, and he did not disappoint.

Nick began the session with this quote from Uncertain by Jonathan Fields:

“Uncertainty is what goes on in your head, your heart, and your gut when you strive to create anything truly extraordinary.”

Nick reminded us that when we follow Jesus, we enter into a life of uncertainty and risks. Abraham, Noah, the disciples—they were all called out of their comfort zone to be used by God in extraordinary ways. In the same way, God calls us to take risks for His Kingdom.

“Risk is filled with uncertainty, fear, and doubt. But it is necessary to do the extraordinary.” –Nick Diliberto

Nick shared a very personal and powerful testimony about how God has called him out of his comfort zone and led him to take risks. He encouraged everyone to also follow God into the unknown and take risks to expand His Kingdom.

Nick wrapped the session with three ways to get better at taking risks. Here are the notes from what Nick shared:

    3 Ways to Get Better at Taking Risks:

    1) Get in the Habit of Expanding Your Comfort Zone
    Do things in your personal life and ministry to expand your comfort zone. Whether it’s jumping out of an airplane or sharing your testimony with a total group of strangers, find new experiences that challenge you and expand your potential to be used by God.

    2) Be Persistent
    “Failure is the stepping-stone to success. When you take risks, you will encounter uncertainty, adversity, and possibly failure. In those moments, you must trust in God’s power to help you break through those walls and press on towards to goal.

    3) Don’t Pause, Just Go
    When we take risks, we tend to over-analyze things. We think and think and think to the point that we talk ourselves out of it. This doesn’t mean that we are reckless in our risk-taking. The idea is that we do not hesitate when God calls us. When He says move, we move by faith.

What risk is God leading you to take personally or in ministry? To do anything extraordinary for God, it is going to involve risk. Have faith and follow Him!

Thanks, Nick, for the great session and inspiring testimony!

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.

BONUS

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?


Monday mornings are always full of evaluations and questions for me. It’s a time to review the previous weekend’s services and plan for the next. This week is packed full of busyness and just happens to be filled with more questions than normal. So, I’m asking for help.

Here is the list of my Monday morning questions. Please send me a tweet or leave a comment with your answer.

    If you could take preteens & parents away for 1 weekend and have their complete attention, what would you tell them?

    What are the top communication blockers for preteens and parents?

    What are 3 things most parents may not understand about their preteen?

    If you’re the parent of a preteen or teen, what do you wish the church would do to help you?

    What is a creative way to get families talking and interacting around faith-based topics?

If you’ve led a parent retreat, I’d love to talk with you. We are launching our Preteen & Parent Retreat in 2 weeks and I’d love to run our ideas by you. Exciting things are ahead and I can’t wait to see what God will do!


It’s Day 2 of the Preteen Leaders Conference, and I already have a bag full of ideas and notes from some great preteen leaders. Stay tuned to the blog next week, I will do a recap of the conference with detailed notes from the main sessions.

Today, I get to lead another breakout with preteen leaders on the topic of cultivating leaders. The main idea of the session will be the premise that

    The people in and around your ministry will define your ministry.

This fact may encourage some and scare the living daylight out of others! Parents, preteens, and other potential leaders will judge the ministry based upon those they see the most, which is likely the volunteer leadership you have placed in charged.

With this in mind, it is important that we create an environment that sets our leaders up to be successful in their service to God. Like a farmer provides the necessities to cultivate a good crop, we need to have a strategy for cultivating great leaders.

Here are the 8 Ways to Create a Culture that Cultivates Leaders that I will share in today’s breakout session:

    1) Set Standards and Expectations for Your Team
    2) Cast an Inspiring Vision for Your Team
    3) Build a Sense of “Family” Amongst Your Team
    4) Train Your Team Well and Often
    5) Celebrate “God-Stories” with Your Team
    6) Form a Friendship with Every Member of Your Team
    7) Provide Opportunities for Your Team to Give Input and Feedback
    7) Make Sure Every Team Member (Including Yourself) is Growing

If you would like more info on any of these, leave a comment and I’ll send you the notes from the breakout.