Starting Out Young

My favorite church memories are those of service. I grew up attending a small Episcopal church (now Anglican) where youth were continually encouraged to serve, and their volunteerism was an integral part of the service.

Young children attended Sunday school and every so often would delight the congregation by participating in a play or special presentation. Older children were encouraged to serve as acolytes  those who donned white robes, carried the cross or candles in the procession, helped with serving communion and lighting/putting out the candles on the altar at the beginning and end of service. And adults were encouraged to serve by joining one of the committees and volunteering to read the Scripture before the sermon.

I loved growing up in a church environment that started cultivating a mind and heart for service in their members at a young age. It is a great habit for young members to fall into because it will likely continue as they grow older. And not only that, but it was one of many churches to live out these instructions from Paul to Timothy:

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

As young adults, we have a special privilege of using our gifts to make a difference in our churches. We have something our church elders might not: an abundance of time and energy. Many of us are not yet married and do not yet have children. We do not have other pressing responsibilities. We are perhaps working full-time jobs (or many part-time ones), but we still have time to serve in our churches, particularly if our goal with ROCK THE BODY is serving once a month.

I haven’t found my place of service yet in the church I attend now. (If my pastor is reading this, like I know he probably is, I’ll take suggestions!) It is not traditional to the point where acolytes or Scripture readers are needed. There are no open opportunities that I am aware of, so maybe it is up to me to analyze my gifts and create an opportunity to bless the congregation.

For some of you, this might mean volunteering in the church nursery once a month or volunteering to play with the worship team in one of the weekly services. Maybe you’re gifted in teaching and feel led to start a small group or a youth group. Maybe you can volunteer as a greeter or organize a community service project once a month.

My brother used his high computer literacy to help with the projection of Scripture during the sermon. He is attending school to become a youth pastor, and he began a youth group at my church several years ago under the guidance of our pastor. And in that youth group, high school/college students formed a worship band and volunteered to lead worship. They saw an opportunity to serve with their gifts, and they owned it.

In most cases, I believe your church will admire your drive and encourage you in your gifts. I have yet to see a church tell someone they are too young to do something or make a noticeable difference in the church. What are some of your gifts? Are there known and open opportunities in your church to serve, or will you need to find a need on your own and work to fill it? Does your church encourage active membership in its younger members? If not, how can you help?