Teenagers and children are always in need of a place; many are searching for ways to fit in. Your disability ministry can provide them with a place to serve others. I believe youth are so important to pour into because they are the future of our church. If the church teaches them to participate in service from a young age, they will most likely be more receptive to serving as they grow older.
Seeing youth serve oftentimes also encourages adults to serve in disability ministry. Seeing a young girl or boy sitting with an individual in a wheelchair holding their Bible in front of them so they can participate in worship speaks volumes to a watching crowd. Youth are vital to the church but they need to be encouraged to believe that they are.
Here are a few tips to help you encourage children and teenagers to become involved and find their role in your disability ministry:
1. Create a Team
Teenagers often feel lonely and are searching for ways to “fit in.” Your disability ministry can provide them with their place in the church! Start by asking a few teenagers to be a part of a sub-disability team and come up with a creative name for the team. You can even unify the team by making matching t-shirts.
2. Train Your Team
Many of your youth may have little or no experience with disability. Create training days to teach them the basics and the mission of your disability ministry. Be creative and make these training events fun and engaging! There are many games you can play to help youth understand disability on a deeper level, or show them movies on disability such as the Joni Movie, Temple Grandin, A Smile as Big as the Moon, Front of the Class, Wonder. Discuss the movies with your youth after you watch them, encouraging them in ways to love those touched by disability and making specific applications for your disability ministry.
3. Give Them Responsibilities
Once your team is created, come up with specific goals for the team. As frightening as it may sound to give teenagers responsibility, it is so important for them to know that they are valued and needed. By providing them with a specific role and direction, you are allowing them to give back to the church. At our church, we have teenagers on a rotation serving children and adults touched by disability in worship and Sunday school. Many of the youth who serve on our youth team are the same age of the children they assist. You can use this opportunity to teach your youth to be a friend to all children their age – seeing one person in the classroom being friends with a child with disability encourages other students to welcome that child into the classroom.
I hope these tips will encourage your youth to become involved in the disability ministry at your church. You will be amazed what God will teach you and others through them!
Emmalyne Kwasny is a senior at Mississippi State University and serves as editor-in-chief of the university’s student-led newspaper, The Reflector. Emmalyne volunteers with Joni and Friends Mississippi and is currently interning with Joni and Friends Cause 4 Life.