Discipling teenagers takes more than lessons and lectures; there comes a time when they need to start putting their faith to action by actively serving God and others. However, it can be tempting to focus youth service efforts on the community before they have an accurate grasp of their role as a Christian servant, so it’s important for them to have the opportunity to serve within the protection and guidance of their church first. Here are some ways the youth can start serving within the congregation.
- Assisting other teachers. Recruit church teachers who are willing to mentor the youth by letting them be occasional assistants. This opportunity will help youth meet other people in the church and inform them of the effort and preparation it takes to be a spiritual teacher. Guide the teens on how to be a reliable and helpful assistant, and speak routinely with the teachers to evaluate the youths’ contributions. A less mature teen may not thrive as well as his more mature counterparts in this suggestion, but allowing them to experience what it’s like to teach will at the very least give them an appreciation for how hard the teachers work to prepare and implement each lesson.
- Helping younger children. The youth may not know it but the younger kids look up to them. Providing chances for teens to mentor younger kids gives them a stronger sense of responsibility. For example, something the Lord has recently revealed to me is the younger kids need more help learning to navigate their bibles. It’s easy to say, “Read your bible,” but it’s another to show them how the bible’s organization of books, chapters, and verses work together to enhance understanding. Also, giving suggestions of books and verses for kids to read on their own will help them know where to start. This is a wonderful service opportunity when limited to church time because the older kids would simply visit the younger class.
- Picking from a list of volunteer opportunities. Whether it be helping in the nursery, collecting the offering, or mowing the church property, the youth need suggestions on where to serve and who to contact for each task. This is a great way for them to learn commitment and personal ownership of the church. Just don’t give up on them too soon – many times their initial reaction to service will be, “No” if they perceive there to be too much work involved (just like adults). Repeating the needs every now and then, and offering to help them get started, will remind them of their importance in the church.
- Becoming pen pals with widows and widowers in the church. Becoming aware of other members’ needs is crucial to selflessness. Also, there is great potential in finding mentors for youth when they interact more routinely with older believers. Help the teens find pen pals and friends with whom they can form meaningful relationships. They will soon discover that investing in others’ lives is rewarding and beneficial to their own growth in Christ.
- Leading church worship. Do you have a group with musical and technological abilities along with the heart for worship? Consider letting them plan and execute a time of worship for the church. Ask the worship leader to work with the group and give them some feedback on which songs and/or music would be most appropriate. This opportunity would take a little more time and planning (because you don’t want to “wing” worship), but it is an excellent way to use the youths’ specific gifts for the glory of God.
- Creating a technology class. This sounds silly at first, but there really is a need for the younger generation to help adults understand how to utilize technology. And it’s not really just an “older” adult issue because even thirty-somethings (ahem, like me) can find themselves trying to hang on for dear life when it comes to new advances in technology. So, reflect on setting up a “How to Use Technology” class where kids can volunteer their time for adults to bring their computers and ask questions.
- Hosting a “Birthday Card” party. This is a great idea for the “crafty” teens in the church. Obtain a list of birthdays for the church members and allow the youth to create unique birthday cards for each individual with heartfelt messages of encouragement. This service could certainly go beyond birthday cards and include get well and sympathy cards as well. Also, a less time-consuming option would be to purchase bulk cards and simply have the students sign each card. Whether the cards are handmade or bought at a store the youth will make significant connections with other people in the church.
The statistics are clear: If we don’t disciple, utilize, and teach our youth how to serve then they are more likely to fall away in the faith. We have the privileged responsibility of guiding and mentoring the present generation of young people into thriving relationships with the Lord. Let’s gather around them, support them, and teach them what it truly means to be a servant of Christ.