Teens Take the Lead


Taking Responsibility

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Using teenage volunteers comes with built-in challenges (see
“Clearing the Hurdles” on page 64). But in some ways, teen
challenges aren’t much different from adult challenges.

“Teenagers go through cycles, like all of us,” Bullion says.
“They’re super-excited when they come out of the gate, and then
they get lackluster as they realize how much work is involved.” You
can address that by “reminding teenagers daily of their ministry to
the children they serve,” he says.

“Walk kids through the difficult times,” Harris says, but realize
that not every teenager is going to like children’s ministry. If
that happens, help kids find their niche in another part of the

Harris also warns children’s ministers against speeding things
along. “Don’t throw kids into a slot just because they’re good
kids,” he warns. “You have to prepare them, develop their social
and emotional skills, and give them responsibility

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Remember that “serving is a privilege, and eternity is at stake”
in children’s ministries, Wendt says. “So if teenagers don’t meet
the program’s expectations or hinder God’s work, take the
appropriate steps to make things right.”

Taking the Next Step

Our experts say that the benefits of using teenagers far outweigh
obstacles. With guidance, teenagers can do amazing things in your
ministry while being transformed into ministers themselves.

“We really underestimated what young people can do,” Johnson says.
“They aren’t just our future leaders; they’re making a huge impact
right now.”

Churches of all sizes should give teens a chance to serve, Rivas
says. “Disciple, encourage, and equip them. Kids derive their
passion, inspiration, and motivation for service from people they
serve with,” she says. “In turn, they’ll be the inspiration for the
next generation of servants.”

Stephanie Martin is the editor of The Parent Link (Theparentlink.com).

Clearing the Hurdles

Like adolescence itself, using teenage volunteers has its share of
hurdles. By being aware of potential pitfalls, you can work to
prevent or overcome them.

Hurdle: Teenagers can be unreliable.

Clear it: Craig Johnson requires parents and kids
to attend orientation together so everyone understands the
commitment involved. Marc Bullion says his program “doesn’t expect
perfect attendance, but we expect perfect communication.”

Hurdle: Teenagers can’t work together because all
they do is talk and flirt.

Clear it: Because most young people enjoy
“fellowshipping,” Michael Bulkley says you’ll have to set clear
expectations about on-the-job behavior.

Hurdle: Teenagers need too much

Clear it: You have to oversee all volunteers,
regardless of age. Most young people can handle responsibility, and
many even can become leaders themselves.

Hurdle: Teenagers aren’t spiritually mature
enough to teach children.

Clear it: With proper training, teenagers can be
champions of the faith-and may even be able to reach children
better than adults can.

Hurdle: Teenagers can’t distinguish between
appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

Clear it: Again, clear expectations help ensure
that young people effectively represent your ministry and Jesus.
Regularly remind teenagers that they’re role models-for better or

Hurdle: Adults may fail to empower young

Clear it: Let older volunteers know that
teenagers are more than just “juice pourers and scissor handlers,”
Bulkley says.

Hurdle: Parents are hesitant to leave their
little ones with teenagers.

Clear it: It may take awhile for parents to get
comfortable with the idea. “But they always return excited when
they see their kids wanting to come back to church and talking
about what they’ve learned in class,” Bulkley says.

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