Youth as Slave Labor

Posted: July 8, 2010 by Todd in Ministry
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You haven’t been a youth pastor long if you haven’t been approached by someone in your church (or even someone outside of it) with a request that goes something like this: Do you think the youth could -insert request for manual labor here- next week?

Sometimes these requests are reasonable and sometimes they are not. Before I proceed, let me say that it is important for the youth to help with the work of the church – even the mundane tasks. In this article, I want to show you how best to react to these types of requests when they come up.

Recently, a prominent member of my church stopped me in the hallway before worship and said, “I have an opportunity for the youth to excel.”  “That sounds creatively worded,” I replied. He went on to explain that we had some tables and chairs being delivered next week – he didn’t know what day yet – but could use some help from the youth moving them off the truck and into the church.

Here’s the trap that I try to avoid: never promise that the youth will help. There is a golden phrase that you can use to get yourself out of this sticky situation: “I will let them know about the opportunity”. Better yet, you can tell them how to let them inform the youth about the opportunity (send email to youth list, post message on Facebook site, and for the ones you’re annoyed by – a copy of the youth roster). If they are persistent at trapping you into making a commitment on behalf of the youth, tell them something like, “I’ve had success getting the youth to help when I (fill in the blank – text message them, promise them pizza, etc)”. The key is to keep the ball in their court and don’t promise that any youth will be there.

Youth hate feeling like the slaves of the church. Of course we want them to be humble servants, but genuine service is fueled by a passion to want to help. If you drag your youth too much or rely on parents making them do something they will get annoyed and it will cost your program some mojo.

If you can create in your youth a passion to serve, it will lead to a lifetime of service. If you make them serve, they may end up “helping out,” but they haven’t truly served. True service can never be done begrudgingly.

We’re in the business of serving and not in the business of cheap, outsourced labor.


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