Dan Scott: Make the Tween Years a Bigger Deal


Dan Scott: Make the Tween Years a Bigger Deal.

The role of music in Dan’s life and how he got there.

We get to work with kids and this will change the directory of their lives.

Something will happen during these years that will set them on a course.

What are we doing to make the moments huge to assist in the transition?

There is something happening in the life of a fifth grader that makes them think they are might be done with church.

What is a preteen?

No one agrees on this definition? Early onset of puberty. Not just physical but mental changes.

Today we are looking at the 10-12 years old. Just a Phase. A phase is a timeframe in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence a kid’s future.

In-between Phase – Physical changes – Growth spurts, puberty.

Mental changes:

Elementary kids think like a scientist. What if questions.

Concrete and literal thinkers.

“There is an Icecream store around the corner.” Thinking literal corner.

“Inviting Jesus into your heart.” Thinking, Ewwww.

Middle Schoolers think like engineers.

More abstract.

Paul saying always be joyful. Think about Paul being in prison. Think about the state of mind. Connecting ideas and concepts.

Magic age is 11. 5th grade spring semester. Don’t talk to them like kids. They are perceiving it like we talk down to them. Preteens think like scientists and engineers at the same time.

Changing Emotionally and Spiritually

Not always linear and sometimes the steps forward and one step back.

Elementary Students Provoke discovery: So they will…trust God’s character and experience God’s family. Like the proverbs. It doesn’t always work out like we thought. Principle vs dynamic truth.

Middle Schoolers: Provoke discovery. So they will…own their own faith and value a faith community.

Changing Culturally and Relationally:

Crisis in this 4-5 grade phase: Friendship- Do I have friends? Help them learn how to develop friendships. Emotionally hurt and made a concrete evaluation of that hurt. Because we are not getting along anymore we are not friends anymore. When parents argue, they are getting a divorce. When they miss a field goal they don’t think they can play anymore. They go to the concrete. Starting to realize they don’t like everyone and are not liked by everyone. Teach them how to be friendly even when they are not friends.

Crisis in 6th-grade phase: Puberty. Girls average age 10 and 11.5 boys. Who do I like? Who likes me? Gain stability. Hormones and emotions. Wrapped into their identity. The church should be a place where no matter what a child or middle schooler walks in and knows that someone likes them.

What should we do:

Engage: Their Interests

Affirm: Their Personal Journey

Engage the 4th/5th grades to let them know that what they like is cool. Not a time to be pessimistic. Engage them on their level.

Affirm the 6th grader in their personal journey. Let them know that we are in this together.


The Preteen World
Pop Culture – They are now their own taste makers. I’m going to listen to my own music because I’m done with adult contemporary. They are getting into popular culture and popular culture is getting into them. They know more youtube stars than they know movie stars. Youtube, Spotify. We have to be careful about what they are being exposed to. Be careful and open. Just because we don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Start with Rhett and Link and follow the rabbit trail to dude perfect. What social media are they looking into? Digital Natives growing up in a smart world. Speak to Siri and Alexa to find out anything they want to find out. They might not ask a parent about sex but they might ask Alexa.

Education –

Group projects. What people bring to the table can be frustrating. They are doing way higher level thinking than we were doing as kids.


From bottom to the top of the spectrum.

From what and when, to how, and then to why.

Help students wrestle with the content we are teaching them.

Evaluation: Take one thing and put it into the context of another. Move from Sunday to Monday.

Motivation and Currency

Fun Matters. They want to laugh and enjoy themselves.

Autonomy: Not absolute freedom but giving them three good choices and allow them to pick. They will own the learning process and it becomes their learning.

Friendship: Relationships are important. Consistent small groups matter. Programming will fade. They return week after week because of the friendship that the small groups cultivated in their circle. Relationships over time matters.

A Preteen Strategy
#1 Environments: When a child walks into this space for the first time their brain lights up. Week two they think it’s cool, week three they don’t notice. Nothing has changed but the brain recognizes it and they think they will hear and learn the same thing so they turn it off. Sometimes when kids don’t pay attention it’s their fault other times it’s our fault. Cue the brain that something is new so that it cues the brain. Help them personalize the space. Chalk wall. Plywood tables with markers. Help them create the environment. Continually changing the environment and they create it. Soft lighting, stage lighting. Focused attention on a certain spot. Get them by themselves as soon as possible. Ikea furniture, Ikea lamps, Xbox in the hallway. It doesn’t matter because it’s their space.

#2 Content: “I want them to go deep.” The definition isn’t more information but putting that information into a different context. Allow kids to wrestle. Ask the question. Let them wrestle with the answers to help them figure out what they need to do to make this week better and to make their faith grow. Wrestle, personalize, and do it in order to learn it.

#3 Large Group: Host and Storyteller. Entertainment and sermon. With preteen, there is a communicator. They look at the content through the lens of himself and it becomes a more personal and authentic talk. Storyteller is more like an actor where a Communicator is more of the pastor.
#4 Small Group: Attacking the question heads on. There are activities because discussion does not work for every preteen. Many preteens are not full abstract thinkers so they must start concrete before abstract. A hook the abstract thought.

#5 Home: Life with a preteen can be exhausting. Don’t want to talk on the drive in the car. Mom and dad need help because no one is prepared. We gloss over all the awkward in our own minds. Specific devotionals that they can do throughout the week. Take Sunday to a new place. Wrestle with faith skills. Prayer activity. Faith Talk. Bible Navigation. Worship with your life.

Transitions Matter!

Help parents with the transitions from elementary to adolescence.

Transition activities. Wanted in the next instead of kicked out of the current.

Students are literally stolen. Here’s a t-shirt, we are going to middle school.

We want those kids to feel wanted. Building anticipation is okay. Letting kids wait is okay. Don’t rush them to the next phase. 5th graders should not be with 8th graders, they are completely different beings. It’s dangerous and they can’t handle it. They will do anything to fit in.


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