Youth Helpers & VBS: Boon or Bane?

It happens every summer.  A bunch of teens from the church youth group show up on the morning of Day 1 of VBS to “help.”

You don’t want to turn away eager, willing, available help – particularly if you’re short-handed. Nor do you want to risk the wrath of parents of these teens or alienate the teens themselves.  But what if the “help” is untrained, unprepared and unequipped? Are you doing yourself, the program, other staff or the kids any favors by adding untrained “help” to the VBS team at the last minute?

Boon or Bane?

Anyone who’s been around VBS for long has found out that youth “helpers” can be either boon or bane.  Properly trained, supervised and prepared, their help can prove invaluable and they’re worth their weight in gold.  We’ve also seen the flip side – teens who show up at VBS because the youth pastor talked them into it – and wind up causing more disruptions, distractions and headaches than they’re worth.   These are the “helpers” who not only aren’t helpful, but – well – without getting overly critical, let’s say they just get in the way and gum up the works.

Try This:

If a never-seen-before youth “helper” shows up on Day 1 of VBS, tactfully inquire whether or not they’ve attended staff training or any planning meetings.  Are they familiar with the curriculum?  Theme?  Focus?  Kids?  Have they ever worked with children before?  When and where?  Do they have a current background check and volunteer application on file?

If you get a steady stream of “No” to these questions, gently explain that while you appreciate their interest and willingness to help, staff training and prep is mandatory to maintain a quality VBS program for all involved. Tell them you’ll keep them in mind for next year.

Raise the Bar

VBS is a lot of of fun, but it’s also a lot of work.  Nothing can take the wind out of VBS sails faster then a group of chatty youth “helpers” who spend the day socializing with or texting each other when they’re supposed to be “helping” and interacting with the kids they’re there to serve.  There’s nothing wrong with raising the bar on qualification and commitment levels for VBS volunteers.  Make sure expectations and requirements are clearly publicized and understood up front.  You’ll save yourself -and everyone else – some wear and tear down the road.


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