The awkward age that fifth- and sixth-graders share is known as “tweenagers.” As young people cross the bridge from childhood to teen, sometimes the transition can be confusing and stressful.

By RIMSIE McCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com

Photos by Jay Carey


The awkward age that fifth- and sixth-graders share is known as “tweenagers.” As young people cross the bridge from childhood to teen, sometimes the transition can be confusing and stressful.


The Faith Evangelistic Center in Leavenworth decided to bridge the gap and ensure the “tween” years would be smoother and more enjoyable to navigate.
The church organized Living in Truth Tweens Ministry as an outlet for young people in the Leavenworth area.


“Living in Truth Tweens Ministry seeks to show them that, during this time of transition in their lives, there is a way to live completely transparent that is fun, safe and full of joy just like our God,” says Tomika Coffey. “Christ is emphasized here as the center of who we are and what we do. He is the reason we are LIT (Living in Truth).”
Tomika has been involved with the ministry for the past two years. When the need arose for a new leader due to restructuring in the youth program, she enthusiastically stepped in and volunteered.


“Without a leader this ministry was in danger of being dissolved,” says Tomika. “The Lord began speaking to me about this ministry being vital to the identity and development of this age group and I believe in my heart that it would have been dangerous to allow such a tragedy to happen to them so I did what God had spoken to my heart and stepped into the leadership position and allowed God to lead me and transition me from leader to pastor.”
The fifth- and sixth-graders meet every Thursday from 6:30-8 p.m. except the first Thursday of each month, which is a staff meeting day. The ministry has buses that pick up kids from as far away as Lansing.

 
Tomika believes the most important goal for those working in the ministry is to cultivate an atmosphere of unity and truth among the children.
“This is an important goal because of the day and age in which they already live and function,” she said. “Most of what they receive and perceive today are lies and half-truths, so because they live in a world where lies and doubt are prevalent, we have to make sure that we are giving the most accurate picture possible. Transparency, because it isn’t the norm, is a craving that we must fulfill, and doing it in the spirit of love and unity makes it easier as they digest it. If we live what we are preaching or teaching to them as kids, then they are not only more apt to receive what we are saying, but model what we are doing which is why we do what we do.”


The ministry believes that hosting a lot of activities and events for young people in the community will give them a plethora of positive choices from which to choose.  
“We have to focus on creating an environment where teenagers can thrive and if we don’t see it here then we need to create it,” says Tomika. “That is exactly what LIT intends to do – create as many positive experiences as we can through various activities, events, fundraisers, etc. throughout the entire community.”
When the kids arrive at the events each Thursday, they enjoy good food and fellowship. Tomika says they can come inside and talk to their friends and if they arrive before the bus gets there or before start time at 6:30 p.m., they can stay outside and chat before dinner, which is provided by the ministry.


The events that follow include Offering Time when Tomika says, “the kids are allowed to sow or give into their own ministry.”
Praise and Worship follows. Then the kids divide into small and large groups for lesson time. Finally, after a spirited game time, they head back home.
Tomika says the kids’ favorite activity is Praise and Worship because they can express themselves however they see fit with the music.

 
“There are some crazy good dancers in this group,” she says.
“These meetings are a good way for the kids to learn how important their community is, that helping each other is the best way of dealing with life challenges and problems and that they are an important part of their community,” says Tomika.
The ministry stresses that the group is for all races and backgrounds regardless of past or present lifestyles. Pastor Eboni Parris also helps lead the kids and small group leaders include Pastor Julia Banks, Elder Richard Wilcox and Shari Rodgers.
For Tomika, leading the LIT Tweens Ministry provides her with as much joy as it provides the kids. 

   
“The thing that I enjoy best about leading the group is when we are learning a concept, it's just like the light bulb came on for me, watching for those light bulb moments for them,” she said. “It is just something about watching them internalize the concepts of what we learn when we are together so that they can apply them to their lives that gives me a smile in my heart. I want for the kids to understand that God loves them and that nothing can separate them from his love. It is his love that we are giving them and it is his love that we want them to take with them when they leave and give it to others. That is the only love that lasts.”


One of the challenges for the ministry leaders is getting the kids to be open about who they really are without being ashamed.  
“Many of these tweens have been holding back for so long about who they really are that many of them have no clue as to who that person is,” says Tomika. “So getting them to discover who they really are and reveal that person is sometimes very difficult.”


Tomika says the best part of helping them is watching them develop all of the gifts that God has placed inside them. She is happiest when she sees all of the kids together and how much they treasure their time together.


“They are like a little family of their own and they enjoy being together,” she said. “Even though we welcome new kids in each year and kids have started recycling in and out, it is so refreshing to see how the older ones take the younger ones under their wings and show them the ropes. That’s  LIT.”


Transportation can be coordinated by calling the church office Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 913-682-4492 to coordinate a ride for the Thursday meetings or to ask for more information regarding the ministry.