We had a load of people volunteer for leadership recently. That's not something I say very often. Like many other youth ministers, we've lost quite a few leaders over the last couple of years, and although we've managed to draw a few new leaders onto our teams, we're still short in several groups. Last week, something remarkable happened. We added nine new leaders on the same day!
It started with something that is really important but could have just been a box to tick. We had to train our existing young leaders (aged 14-18) in safeguarding. All of our adult leaders need to undergo training, but some of it can be really heavy for younger leaders. We wrote our own training for the young leaders and planned a couple of hours to train them in safeguarding and other basic skills like leading small groups.
A few years ago, we had a mass of young leaders involved in our children's ministry. How did we get to that place? Our 11-14s meet during a service on Sunday morning, while our 14-18s meet on Sunday evening. We would talk to our 14-year-olds (year 9 in the UK) as they finished their time in morning groups, offer them a day when they could look around all of the children's groups, and many of them signed up to help in one of them at the end of the summer term. They joined a children's team in the autumn term, as the new school year started. Many of them growing up had seen the impact that leaders just older than them could have. Sometimes practicalities helped: parents were coming to the morning service anyway, the young people were used to getting up for the 11-14s group, their friends were now doing it, so they would volunteer.
That was pre-Covid. During Covid, the messiness of transitions (for help with this, see my blog here) meant we'd lost some of that progression. When we invited our existing young leaders to the safeguarding training, we invited four. Then we thought, because we were doing the training anyway, we could just invite more people. So, we invited everyone on our database who's 14-18. We sent a couple of general emails out to all of the group, and we also sent a few personal emails out. We added in free pizza, asking people booking to say what their favourite topping was. The outcome?
Twelve young people booked up and received two hours of training in children's leadership. Another one has since said they want to be involved - nine new leaders on one day!
We've had three young people ask to serve in the group we find it hardest to find adult volunteers for - our open group early on Friday evening. Others have volunteered from crèche to our 11-14s group. OK, so they don't count towards our ratios, in fact, they count against them, but they are already doing a great job arriving early, working hard, discipling and teaching children and being incredible role models to them, while they work out what God has made them for.
Young people are often passionate about Jesus, willing to learn, good at getting alongside children just a few years younger than them and they often have time to get involved. Some of our young people are now involved with tech in the main services and they've often been involved in the band. We took a sixteen-year-old to a run of primary school assemblies today!
Are there young people you know who could be involved in children's ministry or in any other area of the church? Inviting all of your young people might only be inviting one but that would be enough! What a difference one committed young servant of Jesus could make in the lives of a group of 4- to 6-year-olds!
The writer of Proverbs said wisely in Proverbs 22.6:
"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it."
Yes, that includes following Jesus, but it should also include finding places to serve him in the local church and in the wider world.
Photo by Ryan Ng on Unsplash.
If you want to think more about this, read the chapter 'Serving' in my book, 'Raising the Bar: Nearly Everything You Need to Know about Christian Youth Ministry' which you can buy here.
In it, you'll find other ideas about growing the value of serving among the young people in your church. You can find out what other youth leaders think about the book and read a couple of free chapters.