One of the reasons young people leave the Church is that they feel no emotional connection to the people in the congregation. Our churches were meant to be like a healthy family, where the members support, encourage and hold each other accountable.
Look back at the descriptions of the early church found in books like Acts. Sure, they had their problems, but it is obvious they were in each other’s lives on a daily basis. Someone who is in the lives of our children and teens for only a few minutes once every week or so really isn’t going to have a huge impact on their spiritual lives.
As a volunteer teaching children or teens, you can help improve this dynamic. It takes a little extra time and effort on your part, but it can make a huge difference in the spiritual lives of your students.
There are a lot of ways to help your students begin to develop impactful relationships with the adults in your congregation. Here are some of our favorites. (Please make sure to follow all safety procedures. You want this to be a positive experience for your students, not one that harms them in some way.)
- Invite “special guests” to your class. Perhaps a member has special expertise or an interesting story that ties in with your lesson. Maybe they have traveled to the place where the Bible story happened. Having other adults participate in meaningful ways in your class allows your students to get to know them a little better. Often one or more of your students will connect emotionally to your guest – opening the door to a future mentoring relationship.
- Have guest panels. Older elementary students and teens enjoy an occasional panel discussion. It allows them to hear faith stories and ask questions. The best panels allow older Christians an opportunity to help students understand what living a Christian life looks like in our time and location.
- Have rotating stations. Hopefully, the adults in your church are using their gifts to serve God and share their faith. Set up tables and allow students to rotate. This allows them to experiment with different gifts and hear stories of how others use their gifts to serve others and share their faith.
- Include them in field trips. Perhaps a member works at a museum where artifacts from Bible times and places are displayed. Or maybe they have a special interest in where you are taking your class on a field trip. Field trips are great, because your students will have more time to interact with adults from church they may normally never meet.
- Have a guest of the day. Take the first five minutes of class and have a guest of the day. Encourage the guest to tell students something interesting they have done. (Most kids view adults at church the same way they do their school teachers. They are often shocked to learn the adults in their church travel and do all sorts of interesting things.) Ask them to share a favorite verse or tell about a time when they saw God working or learned God was right.
- Encourage prayer partners and formal mentoring. Work with ministry leaders to pair students with safe adults in your church. Prayer partners are usually a easy way to begin. Many churches pair adults with older children and teens in mentoring relationships.
There is a lot of godly wisdom in the people who attend your church. It needs to be passed on to the next generation. The best way to accomplish that is within the context of a meaningful relationship. Helping your students find those godly adults and develop relationships with them can give your students the extra encouragement they need to live a godly life. It’s worth the extra time and effort it may take you to help them.