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There are many keys that can lead to an amazing kids ministry … if you’re looking for an easy, quick fix… this probably isn’t the solution for you. However, over the time I have been a Children’s Pastor I have begun to appreciate and become enamored with this particular approach. The key is Teen Volunteers or as we call them, Student Leaders.

Each Sunday morning between 6:25am and 7:15am, residents of Champaign Urbana in Illinois hear my car driving around town as I pick up 3 teenage boys; who each week give their Sunday mornings to serve for our 3 children’s ministry services. These young guys are committed, willing to serve and help make our elementary ministry a great ministry!

Why use teenagers?

I’m sure lots of people reading this aren’t quite convinced, and understandably so. Often teenagers struggle to dress themselves in the morning, how could they make a great children’s ministry team? Well here are some reasons why they are a great fit:-

1. They are willing to do anything!

Most teenagers are willing to do anything! They live life on the edge and don’t really focus on the consequences too much! Think of all the great possibilities this opens up for your upfront stage ministry! Adults are often pretty reserved and aren’t always willing to get their hands dirty!

2. They have more free time!

Outside of school lots of teenagers live pretty free lives! As long as they aren’t in 3 sports and learning to play 10 instruments, they are usually free on Sunday mornings and another night in the week! This means they are able to attend a practice if you need one and serve on a Sunday morning!

3. Kids look up to Teenagers

Kids look up to teenagers because they are in the next stage of life that they themselves will soon be in. I really believe that a teenager can generally have a much greater influence on a child than an adult can. Teenagers also hold kids’ attention when they are on the stage!

4. They can relate to kids better

Teenagers actually can remember what it was like to be a kid! They know what is cool and what isn’t! Most of them still watch cartoons or have younger siblings! Adults are long past this!

How should I go about utilizing teens?

Obviously, teenagers can’t be the only members of your team! Kids will always need adult supervision, but I really believe that teenagers can play a vital/majority role in your ministry. Of course though, it takes work on the front end to make sure you avoid a nightmare on the back end.

When I first moved to my current church, teenagers ran the services but they hadn’t been supervised. The kid’s ministry was more like the hang out spot for the youth ministry. Teenagers would come and go as they pleased, they would talk at the back during service and they were a huge distraction. I learnt a lot over the past few years and had to work hard to remove the notion from my head that teenagers just caused a headache. In fact if you approach it right, they lead to very effective ministry.

Here are a few practices that will help you utilize teenagers in your ministry:-

Tip 1. Be Picky

Don’t just do a free sign up! Ask certain teenagers to be involved! Not every teenager is going to be a good fit! Find those with the best potential…but don’t expect a perfect person!

Tip 2. Set High Expectations – Sign a covenant

Young people will rise or stoop according to the level of expectation. Start out with a high expectation! If you are struggling with poorly committed teens, then kick them all out, start over and make them all re-apply. Teenagers need to sign a leader’s commitment with clear expectations that you can hold them too!

Tip 3. Include Parents in the Process

You need buy in from the parents to make this a reality! Teenagers can’t always get themselves to places by themselves and they rely on their parents for a number of other things! Explain to parents that this isn’t about using their teens, it’s about developing their teens.

Tip 4. Be Willing to Have Grace

Teenagers won’t always get it right. They may end up accidentally cussing, being lazy or forgetting their lines in a drama. You can’t utilize teenagers if you are unable to have grace for them! They will grow and develop…but they are still young people who will make mistakes every now and then! Be tough but always be willing to provide people with a path to redemption, even if it’s a rocky one!

Tip 5. On the job training

Teenagers need to be coached through things…but they are quick learners and they are teachable! Talk them through tasks ahead of time and always be sure to follow up with them with praise, critique and advice. They are eager to grow, develop and take hold of opportunities in front of them!

Tip 6. Invest in them!

Don’t use teenagers because of what you can get from them…rewire your thinking…Use teenagers because of how much you can invest in them and invest into the World of Children’s ministry.

Each of the 3 young guys I pick up for children’s ministry is now on a different path than they were previously on! They are all plugged into Church and they all love to do ministry! One has already decided which Bible College he will be attending in the future! Another, during a week at camp, was encouraged by his adult counselor to think and pray about possibly going into the full time ministry because he recognized a gift and passion in him.

Bible colleges are full of quality, sharp freshmen who are excited about youth ministry, but I don’t see too many people in those Colleges lining up to do children’s ministry. I’m often concerned that children’s ministries aren’t raising enough quality young people who are passionate about children’s ministry! We have an urgent need to raise more young guys and girls with a passion to see kids saved and discipled…but it all starts by allowing teenagers to serve but more importantly LEAD! I was one of those teenagers who someone took a chance on, and so many years later I am in full time children’s ministry! If we give teenagers a chance, I really believe that God will work on their heart!

Here’s a Free Student Leader Covenant to get you started:

student leader covenant featured image

Click here for page 1

Click here for page 2

John Hailes grew up in Manchester, England where he studied at Mattersey AG College. Following his studies he has been the Children’s Pastor at Stone Creek Church in Illinois, Urbana. John also regularly blogs at JohnHailes.com

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