6 May 2013 11:08 AM

Kids Volunteering for Worship Services

by rbavaria

One of the things I do when I’m not writing the Dr. Rick Blog is serving as the president of my church’s parochial school.  It lets me stay current with kids, parents, and teachers, which I’m grateful for, plus it lets me see kids doing what kids do best – just being kids, learning, making friends, playing, and growing. 


There’s no better way to stay young.


Here’s something I’ve noticed.  Several of our kids also serve as volunteers for our church services and pageants.  They’re acolytes, servers, torch-bearers, banner carriers for processions, readers, greeters, singers, and other posts that make them helpful and valuable members of their community.   They even bring in their animals for the annual pet blessing, which is a show in itself – dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, iguanas, and the occasional goldfish.


Volunteering at their families’ houses of worship benefits all kids.  As I watch the little ones grow into their assignments – from carrying the incense “boat” (the container is boat-shaped, so the carrier is the “boat boy” or “boat girl”) for the youngest helpers to the more difficult torch-bearing (candles and their holders are heavy) – I’m impressed at how their skills, confidence, and sense of belonging grow.


Here are some other benefits.


  1. Reliability.  We want our kids to be reliable, right?  It sure builds kids’ accountability when they need to be present for the 10:00 am service, neat, scrubbed, and prepared.  Others are depending on them.  It makes them feel grown up.
  2. Punctuality.  There’s a congregation of people out there.  Ten o’clock means ten o’clock.  The punctuality of their volunteering will influence their punctuality in school.  And maybe at home, but let’s not expect miracles right away.
  3. Responsibility.  Teaching kids about responsibility  is one of adults’ greatest jobs.  Giving kids roles and assignments to carry out, starting small and growing with time, is smart and helpful.  Praise and small rewards, like breakfast out later, make learning responsibility a little easier.
  4. Teamwork.  Church services – like sports teams, music groups, or a school play’s cast – are all about teamwork.  Each person’s role depends on another person’s fulfilling his or her role.  Being a contributing member of a team teaches kids about working with others. 
  5. Accomplishment.  Face it, it feels good when we accomplish a task well.  Kids can feel proud when their practice pays off, when the service is over, and you tell them what a good job they did.
  6. Confidence.  With accomplishment comes confidence, perhaps the most important feeling we want them to earn.  Confidence extends to school, to friendships, to sports, to life.
  7. Routines.  We know the importance of routine to kids.  The routines of home and school help kids know what we expect of them.  They feel safe with routines and know what comes next.  Volunteering weekly or monthly at their houses of worship gives them yet another routine to count on.
  8. Friendships.  I’ve noticed the volunteer kids in my own place of worship as they bond while helping during services.  The little ones enjoy being “promoted” from boat boys and boat girls to torch-bearers.  The older ones get a sense of pride when they “train” younger ones.  When graduated students come back for holidays, they see the customs living on.  They’ve become fast friends.
  9. Sense of community.  Kids love being a part of a family, a class, a school, a neighborhood, a community.  Being a part of something larger fulfills our sense of belonging.  And belonging to a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple community is just about as meaningful as you can get.
  10. Life lessons.  Of course being present at worship services is more than friendships and social skills.  Kids see and hear the heartfelt teachings, the demonstrative music, the ancient rituals, the moving traditions, and the fervent sermons.  They’re in full view of everyone, so they have to sit still.  They can’t help but learn some life lessons.


We adults try really, really hard to give our kids experiences that help them grow into responsible, dependable, caring lifelong learners.  So, in addition to their schools, their sports teams, their music, and their other extracurricular activities, it’s wise to take advantage of our worship traditions, too.  All for a good cause – the best cause – our kids’ futures. 




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