Below is a teen training outline that I wrote for a church where I had served as a Vacation Bible School lead teacher. This training was written for a children’s ministry that has a very high number of participating children and a relatively low number of adult teachers. For this church, the success and safety of the VBS week is largely dependent on the quality of service provided by teen helpers. This training can also be adapted for Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and special needs ministry service utilizing teens.
Teens can be an asset or a liability, depending on the culture promoted and the training provided by leadership. I encourage you to make the rules and the training fit the needs and approved policies of your church. To make for a shorter training session, provide some of the below pointers in writing and require prospective servants to sign a document acknowledging they agree to the following guidelines. Also, when you can, interject humor and funny role-playing into a teen training event. Teens love attention…recruit a couple of outgoing students to role play some of the scenarios suggested below. While the content is serious, you can lead a training with a light-hearted and fun approach so to generate a few laughs.
Note: Much of this can be adapted for a teen buddy training for special needs service.
Children’s Ministry Service is a Mission and a Calling
- Who is impacted by a church’s children’s ministry? Why is this environment (VBS, Sunday morning small groups, Wednesday night) important to help everyone involved experience Christ? Kids, parents, volunteers, bigger church. A teen helper can positively influence or negatively affect every person they touch in the course of service.
- Serving in kid environments isn’t for everyone (Romans 12: 4-8).
Role Play: Have fun with this, generate a laugh using a couple of silly students to act out these scenarios. Invite training participants to guess which scenario is a good reason to serve and which one is a bad reason to serve.
Example #1: place to hang out with boyfriend or gossip with best friend
Example #2: passionate about discipling children, way to use gifts of organization
Kidmin Service is a job
- The teachers you work with will be references for you as you apply for real jobs, college applications
- You will have a “boss” – your manager is your classroom lead teacher.
- You can be reassigned or as Donald Trumps says “You’re fired.” (have fun with this)
Role Play: Example #1: Classroom teacher makes a request of a teen. Teen actor demonstrates showing respect vs. disrespect. Example #2 flirting with boyfriend/girlfriend and not paying attention to children.
Tasks teens can be expected to help with:
- Giving one-on-one help to kids during crafts and other activities
- Keeping track of kids, transitioning children between activities & settings
- Setting up for the next activity
- Keeping the room clean
- Keeping the children’s take home bags prepared
- Leading in the gross motor play and outside coordinated activities
- Giving extra attention to children with special needs
- If you are unclear what to do, ask the teachers
- Alert your class teacher to your scheduling conflicts (arriving late, leaving early, etc)
- Perception is reality. We do things to be safe and to appear safe.
- Physical handling of children (no grabbing or jerking a child who is misbehaving, touch can be good and bad).
- No horseplay or piggy-back rides
- Only teens over age 15 can pick up children ages 3 and under. For example: 14 year old teen helper can’t pick up any child; no child age 4 or older should be picked up by anyone.
- Teens should never be alone with a child except when transitioning from one environment to another and in plain view (frequently traveled and public hallway).
- Generally speaking, don’t encourage children to sit in your lap – especially male helpers!
- Diapers should only be changed by approved/trained females age 15 and older
- No child should ever be alone with a single teen or adult, especially in bathroom settings
- Teens/teachers may stand at edge of door in bathroom as child uses restroom. Teens should not wipe a child or help undo/redo pants unless there is 2nd person (adult) adult present and watching.
- Always have at least 2 people (one person must be adult) nearby and in view of toileting situations.
Handling Misbehaving Children
The R’s of Behavior Management:
Request a child to stop disruptive or harmful behavior. Give children the freedom to fidget; pick battles.
Redirect misbehaving children. Ask the child a question on an unrelated subject to break the focus or the conflict. Provide the child an alternate toy, ask the child to help with a task in another part of the room.
Remove obstacles. Recognize the underlying cause. If the child is tired, suggest a chillout time on a bean bag. If the child is hungry, provide him a small snack. If a certain toy is causing constant conflict, tell the toy “bye-bye” and put it out of eyesight for everyone.
Responsibility for instilling consequences or hard conversations should always be with adults. Teens should not be the ones to create “time outs” for the child. Teens are NEVER to talk to parents about behavior challenges.
Role Play: Consider giving one or two examples of common types of misbehavior and having the teens role-play how to handle it.
Snacks from Refreshment Room
- Don’t bring snacks from breakroom inside children’s classrooms
Role Play: Teens bring plates of food and drinks in room, children whine to get the adult snacks; teachers and students trip over & spill snacks on crafts.
- Coordinate your breaktimes with your teacher. Going to the volunteer refreshment room is secondary to serving.
Conflict between Teens
- For significant conflict between teens, report this to the lead adult teacher. Allow the class leader to address issues between teens.
Do’s & Don’ts
- No cell phone use
- No Pictures – No texting pics of kids, no posting pics to Facebook, etc.
- No carrying children, no piggyback rides
- Do protect the privacy of child & family
- Don’t switch your class assignment without clearing it with ministry director, the lead teacher of the class you want to leave and the lead teacher of the class you want to enter. It is not appropriate to request a change on the day of service.
- Wear your assigned shirt and nametag each day so that teachers and parents know you are an approved kidmin worker.
- Don’t let parents leave a child with you without going through proper daily check-in.
- Always ask about allergies or special needs with every check-in.
- Teens should never release a child to anyone at checkout. Only authorized adult teachers may release participants to parents.
- Be mindful of the importance of the classroom director’s interaction with parents. Do not interfere with conversations between the adult teachers and parents picking up their children.
- Don’t solicit babysitting jobs at check-out
Role Play: Adult director is trying to establish a relationship with an unchurched mom at checkout while a teen is interrupting trying to hand out a babysitter flyer. Show how teens can get in the way of this important connecting conversation versus how they can help.
Allergies & Medical Issues
- Define Anaphylaxis and discuss importance of allergy notifications.
- Briefly discuss recognizing and responding to a seizure.
- Do not ever administer medications to a child.
- Provide onsite contact for a medical emergency.
Transitions and Taking Children outside of Classrooms
- Transitions need to be carefully orchestrated so that ample volunteers are visually tracking each child on the journey between settings.
- Make sure all children are identified with adhesive name tags in case they are lost during transition (esp important for preschoolers)
- Don’t allow parent visitors or other visitors in room without lead teacher’s approval and direct supervision.
- Don’t visit other classrooms.
- Don’t invite your friends to visit your classroom.
The following items should only be discussed with the classroom teacher and on a need-to-know basis.
- Medical issues or special needs diagnoses
- Problems in a child’s home
Abuse Prevention & Reporting
Brief mention may be required as church settings can be considered a
“mandatory reporting” entity in some cases.
- Signs of abuse
- What to do (legal requirements)
- Who to tell, who not to tell (the more people you tell, the more people that could be required to testify in court).