When the Next Generation Invests in Itself

This past week was VBS at our church.  Hundreds of kids poured through our doors every day.  The kids experienced an amazing time of worship, lessons, games, crafts, snacks and more.  None of this would have been possible without the help of more than a hundred leaders.  Each of them served in unique and important ways.  With their help we were able to see scores of kids respond to the Gospel! A large portion of these volunteers that served day after day for hours at a time were teenagers.  It was awesome to watch them interact with the kids and take on leadership roles.  

What happens when the next generation invests in itself?  We see teens engage with the mission of God and kids saved. Teens serving is good for the teen and good for the kids they serve. I tell you, the future looks bright in the hands of these young leaders! So, what were these teens doing all week that made such a big impact? Some were engaging kids through games at rec time. Others were helping kids complete their crafts. Many were serving as small group guides, escorting groups of kindergarteners through fifth graders around campus to each activity.

They were engaging kids through worship and dance, getting them excited to be at VBS. They were giving innumerable amounts of high fives and fist bumps. They were bringing a youthful energy to our serving team.  Great things happen when teens are serving in our children’s ministries. 

So how do we lead teens to serve in our ministries well?  Here are a couple of Do’s and Don’ts to consider when employing teenagers in kidmin.

DO give them guidance and direction.

Teens are at varying degrees of maturity and not all are capable of every task that you may be inclined to give them.  Knowing your serving teens (just as knowing all of your volunteers) is important because it clues you in on where they can best serve. 

Teens also need extra directions because they don’t have the serving experience many adults do. Set clear expectations like staying off cell phones while serving or staying engaged with the kids rather than just their peers.  These expectations ahead of time will save you the headache of course-correcting throughout the day. 

DO give them opportunities to lead.

Most of these teenagers that are serving are still trying to figure out their gifts and talents, as well as their passions and pursuits. Giving them a nudge out of their comfort zone will help them gain life experience and help figure out what they are good at and what they enjoy.  

Give them opportunities to lead in various ways.  I had a teen serve this past week who is usually very quiet and reserved but mature beyond her years.  I had her serve as a small group guide and she had those Kindergarteners in a perfect line everywhere they went. They listened to her and followed her instructions. She even thought to fill out incident reports for me when a child got a small cut or scrape.  I could have used her in a different capacity where she would have been more comfortable but instead I pushed her to engage with a group of kindergartners who quickly looked up to her.  She grew as a leader and my ministry was better for it.

DON’T let them get distracted.

As fun as serving at Vacation Bible School or other kidmin activities can be, teens lose their focus easily and need to be reminded to stay on task.  I encourage a no cell phone policy while serving. This eliminates a major distraction for teenagers and forces them to engage with the kids.  

I also try to limit the number of teens serving in a given area. This will help them stay on task and not be pulled into side conversations.  The goal of allowing teens to serve is to get them to focus on something or someone other than themselves and push them to engage with God’s mission.  Teens naturally form social circles that feel exclusive to others so simply pairing them with their friends does not push them to be more than they already are. 

Be forthright with them and encourage them to get out of their comfort zones.  Their attention will be placed on the task you’ve given them rather than catching up on the latest social news. 

DON’T leave them unattended.

This last tip is pretty self explanatory but it needs to be covered. Adult supervision is ALWAYS necessary.  Having a teen serving with your kids does not replace a reputable, mature, background checked adult.  Employing this policy protects you, your kids, and your volunteers. Teens bring energy to our ministry. They can bring engagement and fun. But our kids need extra protection while under their supervision.  

Teens themselves need supervision while serving. Recruit the help of your youth director or pastor who knows these teens well.  They will be helpful in leading this part of the next generation and serving their needs. Next Generation Ministry should be a partnership between children’s and youth ministries, not a competition for dominance within the church walls.

How have you seen teens serve in your children’s ministry or beyond the walls of the church?  What other tips would you employ when leading the next generation to invest in itself?  

Leave a comment to start the conversation.

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