3 Strategies for Working with Teenage Volunteers

Ahh, teenagers. They seem to be very likely to volunteer for your ministry. With both public and private schools requiring service hours, it is to be predicted that they would come knocking at your door. But it’s not just that. Teenagers have disposable time to share with the church. Plus, younger people are very optimistic. When they volunteer, they think they can change the world. They may not be able to change the entire world by volunteering for your ministry, but they are likely to change the lives of those that you are serving, which in turn changes the world one person at a time.

In this series of blogs, we are exploring each generation of volunteers, why they volunteer (or don’t volunteer), and how to utilize the gifts they bring to the ministry. So who are the best volunteers? They all are in their own way.

The challenge with teenagers is that, even though they are very likely to volunteer, they are seen as unreliable. They sometimes don’t show up when they said they were going to and their work is sometimes mediocre at best. I find this is true because we often give them the jobs that no one else wants.

Teenagers are tired of always volunteering to clean up or serving as waiters at a major fundraising dinner. We ask them to do jobs that are no fun and save the fun jobs for ourselves. (I get it because I’ve done it.)

Given the opportunity, teenagers want to really make an impact in their church and do something that makes a difference.

Here are 3 strategies that are very effective when working with teenage volunteers:

  • Give them lots of direction. Any new or inexperienced volunteer is ready to serve and make a difference, but often don’t have the necessary skills to be effective in their ministry. This is where you come in. Be specific and provide lots of detailed directions as they learn. Be a mentor and teach them. Once they learn the skills, you can begin to back off and give them some autonomy. Think situational leadership.

 

  • Give them the opportunity to serve at higher levels. Teenagers are looking for trust from their adult leaders. Be quick to trust and allow them to take on major tasks and roles. If you have high expectations of them, they often follow through. If they fail to follow through, that’s okay. Chalk it up as a learning experience for them, help them learn from the failure, and give them more opportunities to lead. High school teenagers serving on a pastoral council, liturgy council, or a finance council is not a far-fetched idea. You’ll be amazed by the perspective they bring to the table.

 

  • Allow them to volunteer in pairs or small groups. Peer influence is still important in their lives. When they have the opportunity to volunteer with some of their friends or peers, they will be more excited about the opportunity. If they end up volunteering without others in their age group, then they will be less excited to be there.

Question: What strategies have you used with teenagers who volunteer in your ministry?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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