So in your tween ministry, it’s important for you to know the kinds of students that you are ministering to… so I’ve decided to pull some stats and insights from my year of preteen ministry and compile my overall picture of what a tween actually is. Hope this is helpful and will spur on some good conversations about what you are using to attract tweens and also what you are doing to minister to them.
First we will go with the definition from Dictionary.com about who or what is a tween
a youngster between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager.
I would add that because of differing maturation rates and physical development that the ages should be widened from about 9-13. The width of this group is so much more than age. Some tweens are completely ready to jump into teenagery with it’s identity crises and relationship drama, while others are completely content with pets, toys, and paintball. The group that is known as tweens or preteens are incredibly diverse.
Marketing to Tweens
The word tween, started being used by Disney in the early 90s to advertise to this particular age group. In fact according to Children and Advertising by William M. O’Barr “Marketers no longer target kids aged 2–11 as one segment. Instead, they target four specific demographics: toddlers (0–3), preschoolers (2–5), children (6–8), and tweens (9–12).” This means that this group is incredibly separate when it comes to media and marketing attention and branding practices.
Tweens have buying power too: “spending, statistics show—8- to 12-year-olds spend $30 billion of their own money each year and influence another $150 billion of their parents’ spending.” according to the same study.
Tweens as Consumers
I think one thing that is understated when it comes to today’s tweens and teens is how incredibly savvy they are as consumers. Marketers understand that this is the most incredibly skeptical generation that has ever existed and when it comes to advertisements, tweens don’t like to be sold. In fact most of their consumer decisions and preferences come from their peer group. Their friends are making more and more of the decisions as a group.
How do you Minister to these Tweens’ Consumer Preferences?
Our 90s production driven version of student ministry isn’t a draw to students anymore. Here is what our Associate and Missions Pastor, Fenton Moorhead, relayed to our Student Ministry staff:
What you will need to figure out is this: How do we attract a crowd, without trying to impress them?
Fenton has decades of experience not just in ministry, but in youth ministry. And that is the question when it comes to tweens, if we want them to come to our services, events, classes, ministries, or to serve, give, live out their faith. How can we convince them without trying to impress them.
How to get Tweens to Buy-in
- Find and develop peer influencers. (who are the students that are influencing your group? Just like you want to recruit volunteers that naturally influence others, you also want to develop those students who are natural influencers)
- Place emphasis on relational ministry. The best thing that happened at Switch this year was C-Groups (our student ministry small groups outside of programming). I didn’t even want to communicate them because most tweens that are here, attend because their parent’s are involved. This past week (week before last week of groups) we had over 50 students here on a Wed. Night in addition to 3 other groups of girls that meet in homes. Our retention of first time guests for C-groups completely blows away that of our Sunday Morning Large Group Experience. Relationships for all ages are sticky.
- Provide what I call “free time”. I know this might sound elementary to some, but when I started in ministry, I wanted to program absolutely everything. Every minute, every transition, and every phrase was programmed. I realize more and more that these tweens need time to connect in ways that are native to them and not the leader.
- Teach in a relational way that emphasizes the love that your leader has for the Bible. If you don’t love the Bible, your tweens won’t either.
- Make change a part of your culture. As much as your tweens with ADHD are changing their focus. Change the look, feel, and delivery, but keep the main things the main things.
- The Great Tween Buying Machine: Capturing Your Share of the Multi-Billion-Dollar Tween Market (Amazon affiliate link)
- Children and Adversiting
- Marketing to Kids
- ‘Alpha’ Girls Rule (if you have 6 minutes you have to watch this!)
Parents: Understand your Influence
Your tweens influence your buying decisions. Don’t get me wrong, my classwork is in marketing I understand the power of influence and peer power, however, don’t underestimate the amount of influence that you have on your child. Everything that your tween can touch is under your watch. Make sure that you are involved in the decisions, relationships, and values that your tweens are making on a day to day basis. Parents you make a difference.
Two keys to Ministering to Tweens
- Relationships are king.
- If you can figure out a way to teach tweens how to make decisions and work in relationships completely built on a foundation of Christ then you have a revolution on your hands. It’s why at Switch we want tweens to make wise choices and develop positive relationships, but we want students to know that when their identity is found in Christ and His life and death for them, then their choices and relationships and identity all change to look like that of Jesus.
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