Almost four years ago, I took over as the minister to children and families at the First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale. One of my first goals, besides creating a strategy that allowed the church and the family to become partners, was to grow our volunteer base. For the first time, we began opening up weekly positions for high schoolers to begin serving, and they came out of the woodwork!
Students were discovering how to be players in “the game,” rather than spectators in “the game.” Some adults in the church questioned this decision, indicating they didn’t want their children under the care of “other children”—referring to the students. I would be lying if I said that some of the harsh criticism I received didn’t cause me to question my own decision from time to time.
Let’s fast forward four years, to today. Some of our student volunteers are going off to college, a crucial time in their lives. This has been a key time for our leadership team as we are evaluating if “student volunteering” is working. In the course of this evaluation I received a phone call. A phone call that was all of the confirmation I would ever need.
On the other end of the phone was one of our most dedicated student volunteers. She asked me a question. The question went like this “I am going to Florida State University in the fall, can you help me find a church to plug into? And I don’t mean just to attend, I want to talk to their children’s pastor so I can begin volunteering right away.”
Through serving, students are understanding how to shift their thinking from observers at church, to active participation in being the church. The phone call I received was all the confirmation I needed. That’s leveraging the influence of students.