There are times I can’t help but be a bit cynical about churches asking teens to help in certain ways – it is as if they think having a job is the way to keep a teen at church. But in asking teens to be involved in ‘teen’ activities (such as music, sound system, and kids ministry) they are actually removing the personhood of the teen and just stereotyping them. When this happens our teens feel taken advantage of.
Our role as parent is to teach our kids to be a part of the body of Christ. That means building relationship with people, seeing needs and being prepared to meet them, it means being honest and open so you can be both an encouragement to others and be encouraged by others.
So when we ask how can our kids serve in church without being taken advantage of I think the best way to answer that is to take the issue away from being a teen issue and think in terms of a person. How can anyone be involved in the church without being taken advantage of –
- Have the freedom to say no, but thanks for asking
- Have the freedom to say yes to those things that God puts on their heart to do
As adults church generally respect work commitments – a teen may not hold a job but the work in their life at their season of life is called school – and sometimes that needs to take precedence. I find as a homeschooler where we had plenty of flexibility, and even used church service/volunteering as a learning opportunity – sometimes the lines got blurred. But an adult has the freedom to say they are in a busy season of life and can’t give a certain way at the moment. A teen should have this freedom as well.
As adults we acknowledge our emotional and spiritual ups and downs and sometimes we are just not able to serve. A teen also has emotional and spiritual ups and downs and sometimes are just not able to serve.
As adults we have fears and uncertainties that make us resist serving – such as a fear of little kids, a lack of confidence with a musical instrument, being tune-deaf, fear of public speaking etc – when looking at the church rosters we work with these things, teens should be given the freedom to work with those things in their life too – and not just laughed off as childishness.
As adults we have personal beliefs and sometimes we don’t get involved in a particular aspect of church life because of a struggle in balancing that with what we believe (it isn’t a biggie, and doesn’t stop fellowship but we’d prefer not to do something along those lines). In a healthy church this can be worked with – teens may well have the same internal struggles which we need to respect.
My teens have pushed back on pressure to be involved for any one of those reasons at some stage. So have I. So has Peter. When we start seeing our teens as people, with beliefs, struggles, passions then we can guide them in how to serve in the church.
All this comes from the premise though, that being involved is a part of your family ethos and you have passed that onto your teens.
Our teens get to this place of being available to serve by a gradual process. Like anything our kids learn it is modelled, taught, practiced and then lived out. While our kids were little they saw us giving, they saw us giving when it was inconvenient, when we didn’t like what we were doing and when it was hard. They also saw us giving when it was a delight. When they were old enough they walked beside us whenever we were doing something – be it taking the offering, reading the scriptures or serving morning tea. As they grew in skills and confidence they would do something themselves – maybe read a short passage, or play one song on the piano, or help with the children’s talk and we would be standing along side of them. Slowly they would gain confidence and be able to do something on their own, without us by their side. At this point they are able to be ‘on the roster’ as an individual.
During this training time though they were a part of our family and sometimes they didn’t get a choice – it was what our family did. We would take into account their concerns but sometimes they had to learn to give sacrificially, albeit within the support of our family.
Another way to help in the training of our kids to serve the body of Christ (and others) is to include them in your praying about situations. Involve the kids in praying for people you know have a need – but use your discernment – kids don’t always need to know all the details but they can know to pray for people. Talk to your kids and have them pray about finding ways that your family can help in the situation. Involving the kids at this level shows them the whole picture and that serving at church is more than just a roster.
We need to see giving to the church as giving – it is no longer an act of giving if it is demanded of us.
The feeling of being taken advantage of happens when this gets switched around and we are no longer choosing to give. The only way we can stop that from happening is to say, ‘no, but thanks for asking’.