It’s hard to argue the importance of volunteering. You already know that disability ministry doesn’t work without a small army of volunteers. Studies from the Coporation for National and Community Service concluded that “Youth who volunteer are more likely to feel connected to their communities and, do better in school, and are less likely to engage in risky behavior.” Now that is a win, win, win.
So, if you believe in the benefits the volunteering brings teens, don’t overlook its importance in the life of a teens affected by disability too. But wait, can teens affected by disability really volunteer? You bet your lifesavers! And they can be better volunteers than some neurotypical adults too.
For example, consider one of the teen guys at our church. He was labeled as high functioning on the Autism Spectrum. He grew up around technology all his life. He even went to a digital academy instead of a public school for a while. Any guesses where he would be a great volunteer? Think of the one ministry within the church that begs for volunteers on a weekly basis from the stage, children’s ministry. Children’s ministry is a ministry that won’t be fully staffed until Jesus returns. Trust me, I know. I was a children’s pastor for many years. Children’s ministry leaders are always sweating it from week to week wondering if they will have enough volunteers to keep rooms open. If open to it, they may find very capable volunteers in the teens affected by disability.
First, children’s ministry leaders are familiar with these teens as many of them have aged out of children’s ministry not long ago. Second, the teens affected by disability are familiar with the children’s ministry. Familiarity goes a long way. We plugged this teen guy into volunteering on the children’s ministry tech team. Because of his familiarity with technology he could easily run the AV for the children’s ministry large group environment. He drew great pride from ability to use his giftedness in the church. This gave him a place of belonging among other volunteers and it met a need in children’s ministry. Win, win, win.
Consider the unique giftedness of some of your teens affected by disability and where they might be a good fit volunteering at church.