Teen volunteers can be a fantastic solution when you’re short on children’s ministry helpers. Wondering where to find people who can connect with younger kids? You may have an entire group of these wonderful folks right in front of you: teenagers!
Teen Volunteers Contribute to Ministry
For 13 years, Sue Lennartson provided an intensive all-summer-long daily children’s program at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. She did so with the help of 50 or 60 teenagers.
“We couldn’t have done the program without them,” says Lennartson, now a consultant. “We hired many as part-time staff while they were still in high school, and they returned later as college interns.”
According to Lennartson, training is a key component for a successful ministry with teenagers. Over the years, she developed a training program dubbed “20/20 Vision.” The program, designed to help teenagers see clearly into ministry, helps teenagers develop a repertoire of 20 activities they can pull out at a moment’s notice. In the 20/20 Vision program, each teenager prepares to lead five songs, games, crafts, and devotions.
Bob Shaw, a church school director at the First Congregational Church in Greeley, Colorado, trains the 25 teenagers who volunteer in his children’s ministry. “If the teens are doing any teaching, they participate in ongoing teacher training alongside adult teachers,” he explains. Shaw conducts a couple of two-hour training sessions each August. In addition, teenagers attend monthly teacher-enrichment meetings that focus on theme-related topics. One year’s topic was “Recognizing and Helping Hurting Children.”
Teen Volunteers Exceed Expectations
Requiring accountability is another key factor for success. Carolyn Reed, a children’s pastor at First Baptist Church in Oxnard, California, requires her teen workers to provide references and to complete an application with standard volunteer screening questions. They also provide a statement describing their Christian faith, including important faith lessons they’ve learned recently. Reed consults with her church’s youth ministry staff before accepting applications.
If accepted, these teenagers commit to a one-year rotation of one month on, two months off. During their months off, they’re expected to participate in church services or youth activities.
“We have a regular list of what’s expected,” says Reed. “Teens are required to call if they’ll be gone. They have to help clean up and check with the teacher before leaving for the day.”
Some adult teachers enlist teenagers to help with weekly lesson preparation. These teachers become mentors who positively impact teens’ faith development.
Mary Ann Bethea, a children’s ministries coordinator at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, has seen teenagers rise beyond her expectations. “It’s given me a new perspective on teenagers,” she says. “Before, teenagers really weren’t my thing.”
Bethea used her church’s youth group to staff a vacation Bible school outreach to inner city kids one summer. It went so well that she plans to invite teenagers from their urban community to join her church’s teenagers for training.
Teen Volunteers Connect With Younger Kids
Beyond their ability to be playful with younger kids, a familiar teenage face can ease separation anxiety for young children. Teenagers can also aid in classroom management by providing important one-on-one attention for easily distracted children. And since teenagers can still remember what it was like to be little, they may be able to relate better to what kids are going through.