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How do you use Student Volunteers?

teensYesterday I posted about student volunteers and the consistencies I see in those that are highly engaged in serving.  Sarah Dunn from Southpointe Church in Oklahoma City asked a few great questions…

Do you have guidelines for where middle schoolers vs. high schoolers can serve?
Do you allow middle school students to lead small groups on their own?

There are a ton of extraordinary kidmin leaders with great guidance on this topic.  Here’s what I think.

Authority Gap
When choosing where a student can serve, I think it’s important to consider the gap of authority between the student and they kids they lead. I go by a standard of 5 years. If there is a 5 year age difference between the student and the child, then that’s a good fit.  I have a few exceptions to that rule, but the exceptions are exactly that… exceptions.

For example, most middle school students serve in our Preschool environments (2 yrs to PreK).  This means that an 11-year old 6th grader would serve in a room with a child as old as 5-6 years old (older PreK).

There has to be enough of an age difference for the student to be an authority in the room.  Five years is a good age differential.

No Student Gaggles
We try to limit the number of students that serve in a room. Things seem to run smoother when there are no more than 2 students serving in a room together. However, we have to work hard to ensure that our students understand the expectations and live up to them.

Student Volunteer are the Icing, Not the Cake
We have defined Volunteer to Kid ratios for every age category in fpKIDS. We follow these guidelines to ensure that we have enough supervision in the rooms for the number of kids we see each week.

However, we do not count our students in these ratios until they are 16 years old. That means that when we are staffing our rooms for the average number of kids we expect to see, the number of students we have in that room does not reduce the number of volunteers our ratio requires.

We still place students on our volunteer schedule and expect to see them when they are scheduled. I think students need (and like) that accountability. We just don’t count them in the same way that we count adults.

I have a variety of exceptions.  Here are a few…

The “Not Yet a Student”
I have a few 4th & 5th graders that serve in kids ministry. That’s a pretty young age. But (as with any volunteer) we require they must attend their age-appropriate worship environment in addition to serving… not in replacement worship. And they must serve with their parent (or a designated mentor).

We require the parent or mentor because a student this young requires more guidance than the adult volunteers in the room can provide without detracting from the overall experience for our kids. The parent (or mentor) is there to provide that guidance. I enter into situations like this very carefully and with a lot of communication with the parent. For anyone that decides to allow students younger than 6th grade to serve in their kids ministry, I highly recommend a trial basis where you revisit the topic with the child and parent to discuss how it’s going.

Middle School Leading a Small Group
I do have a few Middle School students leading elementary Small Groups. Some have been highly successful, some have not. And much of the success comes down to their ability to communicate expectations and hold kids accountable. The middle school students I currently have in elementary are successful for the following reasons:

Youngest Age Category – we allow them to lead the younger age groups like Kindergarten or 1st grade.

Half the Standard – we give these students smaller groups to lead (4-5 vs 8-10 kids)

Adult Assistance nearby – there is an adult leading the same age group nearby to provide assistance when needed

Alright Ministry Leaders… Your turn to weigh in.

What do you do? What guidelines do you have for Middle School & High School students to serve? Do you let them lead their own Small Group?

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  1. 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 commited to serving when they are in elementary school have turned into some of our best volunteers in high school.

    • Scott,
      Your thoughts extend into another great conversation about Student Volunteers and how we equip them. Thanks for sharing.

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