How to Empower Student Volunteers

Kids' ministry
Just how much do you value your student volunteers? (Lightstock)

I recently wrote about the value of student volunteers and how we can create an environment that helps them stick. One post generated an excellent comment by Scott Kinney at Seacoast Church. This guy doesn’t blog (to my knowledge), but he should.

Here is Scott’s comment:

“We treat middle school and high school students as if they were adult volunteers. They go through the orientation process, shadow along side a current volunteer, then when they are ready, we give them their own small group or area of ministry to lead.

"We also have a program called Nerve2Serve here at Seacoast that teaches 3rd–5th graders the importance of serving in the church, in the community and in the world. I have seen over time that kids who start out fully committed to serving when they are in elementary school have turned into some of our best volunteers in high school.”

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This single comment is chock full of great guidance for kids’ ministry leaders when it comes to empowering student volunteers.  

We can all agree that when students are challenged, they can rise to the occasion. So, how do we create an environment that challenges students?

Scott mentions three things that clearly communicate to student volunteers they have something to offer.

1. Orientation

Scott takes all his students through an orientation process just like adult volunteers go through. This is smart because it gives the student equal opportunity to hear the vision and direction of the ministry. Students have something to offer toward the vision. Inspiring them with the vision only helps them more.

2. Mentoring

Pairing student volunteers with qualified volunteers helps them learn the ropes and understand how to do their role. In our kids' ministry, our most successful students are the ones who work with great volunteers who give them meaningful tasks. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here.

However, I’m challenged by Scott’s comments to bring more students in as elementary small group leaders. If we do this, we have to have a better system for mentoring to ensure we don’t place the student in a no-win situation.

3. On-Ramp

I love Scott’s on-ramp to serving, Nerve2Serve. And I’m totally stealing it.

The idea of fostering an attitude that serving is an aspect of worship and is just as expected as attending a worship service or spending time in the Word? It’s just smart. This is going on my “must do” list for 2014. Thanks, Scott!

Here is where I want to foster growth in my student volunteer team in 2014:


What practical tools do student volunteers need? Because of their lack of experience, most student volunteers I know are not experts in managing a gaggle of kids. Some things are simply learned through parenting experience. And these guys aren't parents ... yet. So, what unique training opportunities (outside of mentoring) can I give them to help them learn these room-management skills?


I believe students should be equally involved in appreciation and training events alongside every other person that volunteers in kids’ ministry. However, I also think there is value in creating community within the group of students that serve. Does that mean hosting an annual event that appeals to our student volunteers? Possibly.

What about you? How do you empower student volunteers to serve in kids’ ministry? What on-ramps have you created to bring students onto your team?

Gina McClain is a speaker, writer and children’s ministry director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tenn.

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