By Michelle D. Basich
Some of them still sleep in past 9am on a weekend…others seem to not want to be involved in church activities…and seemingly all of them come in late to the late service! If they do volunteer they can’t commit to a weekly basis and if you ask them to come by the church during the week sometimes they can’t do that either! What is it about those 20-somethings? Why do they offer to serve but don’t see through on their commitments? Why are they so lazy?!?!
I am one of those “non-committal”, “can’t pick things up during the week” “lazy” 20-somethings. But, I’ll tell you a secretâ€¦I LOVE working in children’s ministry and have been working with kids and youth groups since I was in one myself. I plead with you children’s pastors/directors and family ministersâ€¦ don’t give up on us!
I get a little defensive when I hear people talk about all the different ways they serve at church through ministries. Inevitably, I’m soon put on the spot with the dreaded question or statement, “Which ministries are you involved with?”, “Our kids’ choir could really use a leader like you!” or “It seems like you love babies. Have you talked to our nursery director?” Though well-intentioned, those statements can sometimes eat at my core.
I recently read an announcement in my church’s bulletin that called for nursery workers. To sign-up you had to come by the table at the back of the church and register. It was a two-hour, one-time, mid-week commitment. Interested, I went by the table to register. In my state a full background check is needed to work in a nursery. A request to “stop by the table” soon evolved into needing to fill-out a 6 page application and miss part of work to pay to get my fingerprints taken. I was caught off guard; it was a much longer process than was communicated. Unfortunately, I still haven’t stepped foot in our nursery. I decided to volunteer for Vacation Bible School instead.
I grew up going to Vacation Bible School as a child and love being there as an adult. Unfortunately, this year I had to miss the final night’s performance. Little did the children or parents know that in order to help at VBS from 7:30am-12:30pm in the mornings it meant that I had to move my work hours from 1pm-9:30pm at night. It may have appeared flaky to some, but I was doing all I could to serve and be a responsible employee. It isn’t that we 20-somethings don’t want to serve or aren’t willing, sometimes there are just roadblocks that make it difficult.
Another roadblock that my fiancÃ© and I have faced is that of our respective churches require commitments to serve. We’ve gotten to the point where we just laugh when one of our churches ask for an every-other week commitment and then the other’s church asks for 3 consecutive weeks. With a 1-2 hour commute between the two of us, work travel and family obligations, we would never see each other if we made the kinds of commitments requested. So, we have to barter and negotiate and ask for exceptions. In talking with others my age, it seems that asking for exceptions is in-fact the norm for us! Between balancing family birthday parties, graduations, out-of-town weddings and work trips, I’m hardly in the town I live in for two weekends consecutively! We need you to understand that moving around from town to town is normal for us. We are a transient generation! But, even in our transition we want an opportunity to serve.
Sometimes it’s not that we don’t want to help or aren’t able to help it’s that we need you to work with us to understand where we’re coming from and to provide opportunities to serve. Below is a list of ideas that would help me and all 20-somethings who desire to serve in the children’s and family ministries at church.
1) We’re in debt.
I know I’m the exception to not being in debt. It’s sad to say, but a lot of 20Somethings miss extra church functions and evening events because they are working 2+ jobs to work off school loans and debt. That is neither lazy nor irresponsible! If someone gives this answer -suggest people in the church who may be able to advise them. Don’t just give them the cold shoulder. Ask if there are things they’re interested in that don’t involve a nightly commitment. Perhaps incorporating prayer for your students into their daily quiet time.
2) Understand us.
Even if we are not in debt, we may not have large amounts of expendable income. Many are living paycheck to paycheck. Suggestion: When it comes time to requesting supplies, don’t only ask for (1) Smart n’ Final sized package of graham crackers, put that and a smaller portion equivalent, such as 6 boxes of 10 oz. crackers.
3) Tell us what we can do.
Are there jobs that require odds and ends, or can be done when time allows, instead of one large time-block? Or, perhaps set-design on a Saturday afternoon, leading a children’s “leadership” group, etc.
4) Ask us what we can do when we can’t do what you ask for.
Suggestion: If taking an offering for a needy family in the children’s ministry program, ask for things like baby-sitting hours, food preparation, donated frequent flyer miles, fundraiser publicity, etc.
5) Recognize that we are the (quickly approaching) future of the church.
We need to learn how to take care of the younger women and respectively, younger men in the church. Even if that is a slow process – help us learn! It takes guts to go to a new church and volunteer to do something by ourselves. If it’s not a good fit, don’t just say that and let us walk away. Encourage us to want to ask again!
6) Use social networking.
We use it! If you really want us to know what’s going on, you should too. Many people in their 20’s use Facebook more often than they call their families. It’s a new reality, but it is what it is. Websites like Facebook can be used as tools to bring together groups of people. Perhaps your VBS team? Or you can create “groups” on Facebook for Sunday School leaders, etc. (INCM will soon have a Circle Builder section on their website)
7) Use us for what we’re good at.
Don’t know how to create a “group” on “Facebook?” We do! We are internet savvy. Do you have extra props or supplies from a recent VBS? Looking for props to use for that youth group fundraiser? Don’t know what to do with the 5 refrigerators that were just “donated” and left in your office? We can buy, advertise and sell just about anything – and get it picked up for free, at our convenience. We are the generation of masters on websites like Craigslist.com, Freecycle.com and eBay.com.
8) We have usable hobbies.
I have a community garden plot and have a plethora of zucchini. I’ve eaten so much zucchini this summer it makes me sick to even type the word! For all I know this could be a great opportunity to provide a healthy snack at a children’s camp, or to be used in an object talk, or even provide seeds for a craft or project in Sunday school. Be creative!
9) Let us pick one another up.
It’s true, sometimes we are just straight out lazy, non-committal, unmotivated humans and it may be to the best interest of the children’s ministry to pair us up in service teams. It may take two of us to maintain a steady Sunday School leadership presence. Suggest this, and let it be a learning toolâ€¦a way to get our feet wet without burnout on the near horizon.
10) Ask Us! Believe in Us! Pray for Us! Trust Us! Use Us! Encourage Us!
By your example of faith and encouragement, we will learn to do the same for the children in your church’s children’s ministry.
All that to say, help us to help the body of Christ. We are the hands; we are the feet. We are a missing, active link in the church. It’s reality that a lot of us move away to go to college, or to find a job. It’s reality that we aren’t always close to our families. This is an opportunity for the body of Christ to act like a family. Let us pray for children, change diapers, read stories, prepare crafts, think of games, mentor youth, plan men’s/women’s activities, lead VBS, tithe, and even help in our fields of expertise.
We may look lazy, but we can be powerhouses of servitude.
Michelle D. Basich loves sunshine, being outside, traveling, speaking Spanish, organic gardening and anything reminding her of Christmas! Some of her published works include articles in Radiant Magazine and n.I.n.E. Magazine, as well as children’s book reviews for Armchair Interviews. She has been a guest speaker for junior high and high school youth groups, as well as for college women (with Campus Crusade for Christ). An alumna of the Honors Program at the University of California, Davis, she majored in Communication. She has also completed certificates in Leadership Development, Event Management and Ethnographical Studies. Currently she is a Project Manager in Ventura, CA. Excitedly, she is preparing to marry the love of her life, Matthew. You can find Michelle at http://www.facebook.com/mdbasich, www.WeeklyWisdomByMichelle.blogspot.com orhttp://twitter.com/MDBasich.