Tips for Using Teens in Church Volunteer Positions

Tips for Using Teens in Church Volunteer Positions
Kevin Mahaffy Jr.

I was recently asked to speak to several of our church departmental leaders (specifically usher and security teams) about how to deal better with teenagers. Here are five tips that I shared with them that I feel you might could use also:

1. There’s No Place We’d Rather They Be!

The fact that students are in our church should bring us great joy. Period! No matter if they’re here of their own free choice or because Mom or Dad made them come, we should be excited for the opportunity we have to show them Jesus. Bottom Line: See the fact that students are here as a privilege not a pain.

2. What Lies Beneath…

It should come as no surprise that for everyone that comes into our church—particularly teenagers—there is a whole lot more going on in their lives than meets the eye. Remember that how kids act is often a reflection of much deeper issues in their lives below the surface. Bottom Line: Don’t judge the book by the cover. Don’t assume or generalize. Each student has a unique story behind the story.

3. For Teens It’s All About Relationships!

Be proactive. Introduce yourself. Initiate conversations. Use more questions than statements. Ask students their names. Remember their names and say hi to them each week at church. Nothing is more powerful to anyone than being called by their own name. It communicates value. Use appropriate physical touch—shake their hand, give them a high five, or a pat on the back. Make them look forward to seeing you each week as a friendly face and a caring adult who represents Jesus to them. Ask them how their week was. Ask them to tell you something interesting about themselves. Ask them what they like to do. Ask them how you can pray for them. Security is about making people feel safe, right? Let students know that church is a safe place for them not only physically, but a safe place where they are loved and cared for. Bottom Line: Don’t wait for students to do something wrong before you engage with them. Build a relationship with them. You will save yourselves a lot of conflict if students know you’re not an ogre waiting for them to screw up so you can pounce on them, but a godly adult who truly cares for them.

4. Think Conversation not Confrontation.

Tying in with the above statement, if you have relationship with students, when there comes a time when they need a little correction you will have some relational capital to spend without depleting the account. Let’s be realistic … kids will get rowdy sometimes. They will be immature and goofy. (None of us ever were, of course!) During those times, approach them gently and conversationally, not in a militaristic fashion. A conversational approach might sound like, “Hey guys! I’m so glad you’re here today, and that you’re having fun. Could you just do me a little favor? It’s getting a little loud in the narthex. Would you mind just keeping it down a little or moving out to the foyer? Thanks guys! You’re awesome!” Kids will respect and respond to that so much better than, “Hey you kids gotta be quiet or I’m going to tell your parents!” More important than what we say (no matter how right it is) is how we say it. Bottom Line: Talk WITH students not AT students.

5. You Have Influence!

Remember that teenagers are in the most formidable years of their life. They are making decisions about God and church largely based on their real-life experiences. As adults and people in ministry within the church we need to humbly recognize that how we respond to kids when they misbehave will have a big impact on their perceptions. Remember that there is a difference between behavior and personhood. In addressing what they do (behavior) it is vital that we not crush who they are (personhood). We can win the short-term battle of compliance to our rules but totally miss the long-term goal of helping students become life-long, committed followers of Jesus. Our job is to point to and guide them toward the love and grace of Christ. When he gets ahold of their hearts and they discover their identity in Him, the behavioral stuff will follow. Bottom Line: Treat students with kindness, gentleness, and respect (even if you don’t get it in return!).

The article “Tips for Using Teens in Church Volunteer Positions” written by Kevin Mahaffy Jr. was excerpted from web site, June 2010.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”