Editor’s note: Jayne Duldner is the Children’s Ministry Director at Bethany, St. Catharines, a congregation of approximately 1500; about 250 of them children. With a thriving, multi-faceted children’s ministry, it is heartening to hear that along with those faithfully serving from other generations, more than half (61%) of their Sunday volunteer team, and all of their Summer staff team is made up of teens and young adults. As we, in our own churches, lean into what it means for us to be ‘future ready’, let’s read Jayne’s account of the blessing and value of training up younger generations, giving them opportunities to grow and contribute. 

Paul had it right when he said to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith and your purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

Our volunteers are the heartbeat of our Kids Ministry! Without them it would be impossible to create the type of quality programs and make the deep relational connections we want for kids and their families! 

Serving as Training 

You could say that serving is a great training place for young people to learn leadership abilities, relational skills, and responsibility (as they work alongside more experienced volunteers). Our young volunteers are strong Christ-followers who serve out of their love for Jesus. They care deeply for kids, they use their gifts, imaginations and energy to create the quality environments that welcome many kids each week and throughout the summer. And I have to admit, I learn so much from them!

From program participant to committed small group leader

I’d like to introduce you to Lauren. Lauren attended our kids programs as a child. When she was old enough, she began volunteering! Lauren is a fantastic small group leader who loves her kids and always looks for ways to improve what we are doing! Since 2018, she studied Early Childhood and Family Studies in Toronto at university, but she came home every weekend to serve in KidZone. The last three summers, Lauren has worked for the Mennonite Central Committee in Newcomer engagement, specifically with the children of refugees, creating and running programming for newcomer children and youth. Even during Covid, Lauren has not missed a Sunday whether in-person or online! 

Over and over, we are seeing kids grow up in our program, and then return to lead in it as invaluable volunteers or summer staff members! I am very thankful for these amazing role models, like Lauren, who our kids can look up to and emulate

Ponder Points

  1. If we do not have leadership opportunities for youth built into our children’s programs, where can we create them? What could this look like?
  2. In what ways could children and teens take an active part in church services and during other times when the church family gathers?
  3. Do we, as adults in the church, encourage the volunteer efforts of children and teens? How can we show our support?

Jayne Duldner is the Children’s Ministry Director at Bethany Community Church, St. Catharines, ON