Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Teenagers Should Volunteer & Serve

You’ve heard the statistics before. About 80-90% of teenagers are not active in church within five years after graduation from high school. I’m convinced that is because they weren’t involved in church in the first place… they were involved only in a teen group, and that’s not the same thing.

Think about it. Children are “segregated” from the life of the main church from nursery through high school in many churches. By the time a child reaches their teenage years they almost never transition to “big church” because it’s not as fun. After they graduate from high school, most never seem to find a church that’s like their old church. That’s because their old church wasn’t church, it was their teen group. Soon thereafter they quit church altogether. Remember, the dropout rate is 80-90% after graduation.

This is why teenagers need to be gradually weaned from their segregated environment and integrated into the life of the main church. That’s part of growing up and becoming an adult. There isn’t a 13th grade for them. One of the best ways to do this is by getting them to volunteer and serve in a ministry, especially on Sunday morning. Teenagers can be ushers. They can serve as greeters. They can work in the parking lot and traffic control. They can serve in the band and sing on the worship team. They can serve in hospitality, the atrium café, the welcome center, and housekeeping. They can serve with audio and projection. Teenagers can even serve as teachers in the children’s ministry!

What would it be like if most of the teenagers in our church leveraged their influence with elementary children – who happen to think that teenagers are the coolest people in the world? Parents, what level of maturity would be produced in your teenage child if he or she served somewhere, instead of bouncing from church-to-church and to the different youth groups in town looking for the latest excitement being offered? What if our Sunday services were so relevant to teenagers that they actually got connected to the life of the main church? What if the emphasis of student ministry was on students “doing ministry?” Perhaps this could reduce the 80-90% dropout rate.

Having teenagers serve is a good thing. It moves them from a self-centered life style to an emphasis of serving others. That’s the essence of Christianity. In the long run, teenagers who serve on a ministry team along side other servant-minded adults who will train them and disciple them experience one of the best things that could happen in their life - Christianity maturity.

An added benefit also comes to the church. By training and deploying teenagers in serving roles, there will be always be enough people to carry out the work of God. Additionally, this cadre of teenage volunteers represents the next generation of teachers and leaders for our church, ensuring its long-term future.

I don’t have all the answers, and I am actually very pleased with the age-level ministries at PCC. We are deliberate about keeping teenagers involved in the main life of the church. Many of our teenagers are actively serving in ministry roles right now and show all the signs of significant spiritual maturity and long-term commitment to Christ through the local church. Some serve in highly visible roles and others serve in less visible roles; but all of them are needed. I am amazed at how well our youth leaders have developed and deployed these teen servants into ministry roles at PCC. It's a testament to their good work and the leadership provided by the senior youth leader.

Our youth ministry is built on the philosophy that teenagers can become full-fledged disciples. They are not mini-Christians. They have amazing potential and can be a valuable asset to the Body of Christ. I Timothy 4:12 says that teenagers and young adults can be examples to the whole church in a variety of spiritual disciplines:

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (I Timothy 4:12)

What would happen if our children's minsitry area was suddenly infused with ten brand new teachers? What would happen if the ushers deparment had ten new volunteers to serve on the team? What would happen if our church suddenly had thirty-five new volunteers willing to serve? We would explode in growth! If you are looking for help and wanting to make disciples, you have to look no further than the teenagers of this church. They are the best untapped pool of talent we've got.

Let’s do it for them. Let’s do it for Christ. Let’s do it for our church.

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