the shape of leadership

Growing Your Littlest Volunteer Base

Four ways to get kids involved in serving

Kayla Pierce on June 24, 2020

From King Josiah to the boy with fish and bread, God actively recruited children to lead and do ministry throughout Scripture. Involving kids in ministry takes thoughtfulness and patience, but the payoff is high.

By channeling the energy and curiosity of our children and students, we not only boost the volunteering power of our ministries, but we also help develop lifelong habits of serving. Here are four ways to cultivate your littlest volunteer base:

1. Kick the “I’m not a kids’ person” mentality. For a long time, I suffered from this mindset. Even though I volunteered for Vacation Bible School (VBS) every year, I would always hide away doing odd jobs, actively avoiding interactions with children. I wasn’t sure what to say to kids, so I mostly talked to their parents.

Then one year, our director asked me to be a VBS teacher, so I reluctantly agreed. That week, I genuinely tried to get to know the children in my class, and I was blown away by how easy it was to build rapport. I realized my internal resistance to working with kids had caused me to miss out. Not only were the boys and girls funny, but they were amazing and interesting people.

You don’t have to be loud and bubbly to be a “kids’ person.” You just have to be genuine and intentional.

Most likely, the kids’ team at your church works hard to connect with every child, but our boys and girls need a breadth of mentorship for spiritual success. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Even if you do not work directly with kids, your life experiences probably make you uniquely positioned to be a spiritual mother or father to a child in your church. No matter what ministry you lead, prayerfully consider taking a child or student under your wing and letting them work alongside you.

2. Expose kids to a variety of ministries. Show children there’s a place for everyone to serve, and help them imagine serving in a variety of ways.

Our team recently gave our kids a behind-the-scenes tour of places people serve in our church. The creativity director supervised a tour of the sound booth and demonstrated the different software we use for presentations and recording. Seeing the technology in action piqued the children’s interest.

Show children there’s a place for everyone to serve, and help them imagine serving in a variety of ways.

Talk about all the different ways people in your church serve, whether they greet, usher, cook, teach or volunteer in a food bank.

Occasionally, we also have Q&A sessions with missionaries so kids can see the diversity of missionary work.

3. Delegate tasks to kids and students. Children learn by doing, so the more practice kids get serving, the better they’ll become.

I like to ask different children to open our kids’ service in prayer. This gives boys and girls the opportunity to exercise leadership and lets them practice praying in front of others. I also recruit kids to come alongside me and pray for their friends during altar time.

Sometimes ministry is more effective from children than adults. For example, every year we ask our fourth- and fifth-graders to serve as a big brother or sister to an incoming kindergartner. They sit by the younger children, answer questions and help make their transition to kids’ church more comfortable.

The older children take great pride in this responsibility, and the kindergartners are often more comfortable asking their kid-helper for assistance than adult leaders.

As children transition out of our kids’ ministry, I recruit and train some of them to serve on our student team. These students greet kids, check in families, run media, lead worship and teach lessons. They make our children’s ministry possible. When various ministries of our church need support, these students can easily jump in and serve.

4. Give shout-outs to kids and students who participate. Shoot them a message, mail them a card, or brag on them in front of their family and friends.

Children are eager to be acknowledged, and the church is uniquely situated to give them the positive feedback they desire. Our cheerleading can encourage kids to be active participators in our church instead of passive bystanders. It builds their confidence and makes them feel like a part of the team. Besides, it’s easy to get excited about kids serving in ministry.

Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (NLT). And Proverbs 22:6 addresses kids specifically: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Let’s be intentional, harness the energy of our young people, and see how God uses them now and in the days to come.

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