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From One Generation to the Next

Youth volunteers grow as they serve the church and its kids

From One Generation to the Next
Lily Swanson (17) serves in Children’s Ministry. Photography by Seth Weber.

Discipleship is a big theme at Faith Bible Church because it’s a big theme in the Bible. No one is exempt from the responsibility to disciple and be discipled as God gives the opportunity.

The middle-school and high-school students at Faith have multiple opportunities for discipleship in both directions. By serving in Children’s Ministry, a growing number of youth are getting the chance to train alongside mature believers while also having their own unique influence on the younger ones.

Joe Swanson, director of Children’s Ministry, sees multiple benefits from getting the youth involved: They’re learning how to serve Christ and His church, and they also play a unique and significant role in sharing the Gospel with the next generation.

“Be like a child”

Elijah Erbeznik is 17 and the oldest of four boys. He says being saved and serving in Children’s Ministry over the past couple of years has completely changed how he relates to his siblings and other young kids. “I wasn’t somebody who really liked to be around kids. I wasn’t that type of guy. But Christ has really used all these years to get me to be prepared for when I’m older and I do have kids. Just cherish this and be like a child with them in a sense. Just have that mentality of getting down to their level and enjoying time.”

Elijah Erbeznik (17) sits with the first and second graders during Sunday school, helping them pay attention to the lesson.

Lily Swanson, 17, has also been involved in Children’s Ministry for several years. Her dad is the director, so she’s usually within range when he wants extra hands in Sunday School. But she says she has come to love spending time with the kids. She serves with Elijah in the first- and second- grade classroom.

As the oldest child with four siblings, Lily says it is helping her grow in enjoying younger kids. “I think Children’s Ministry has gotten me to open up more to people.”

At first, Lily was nervous about what she would be able to talk about with children she didn’t know. “Then I started talking to them and they were like, ‘I have a dog!’ and I said, ‘That’s so cool!’” It wasn’t as hard as she thought to find common interests with them.

Elijah enjoys getting to know them individually too. “They get all excited when I come in. … It’s nice being able to just know these little kids.”

One game Elijah plays with the kids is “grading” the pictures they draw and color. It all started with a simple squabble of two kids each trying to show him their paper first, and now everyone in the class brings their artwork to Elijah for appraisal.

“They get all excited when I come in. … It’s nice being able to just know these little kids.” Elijah Erbeznik

“I give them a little grade, and they get all excited when they hear an A+ or an A. ‘I got an A+!’ Or they’ll run over with other-colored pencils and they’ll grade other kids. I’m like, ‘You can’t do that! I’m pretty sure I put that grade on there, this is the only colored pencil.’ Then they’ll try to steal it from me. It’s fun.”

Elijah’s schedule was already busy when Joe first asked if he would serve in Children’s Ministry. He hesitated before committing to do it. But once he got started, he’s loved it ever since.

“Christ has just been providing time for me to be able to do this. I’ve got other time I can go work. I’ve been really blessed with the hours I have.”

Bringing a unique blessing

Far from just being “warm bodies,” the youth who serve in Children’s Ministry bring God-given talents and energy to the classrooms. The other workers certainly feel it on the Sundays when most teenagers are away at Youth Camp.

Without the youth helpers, Joe says, “There would be a hole in Children’s Ministry because they can get down on the level of the kids and they can do the things that a grandma can’t necessarily do. They’ve got a lot of energy.”

Some teens and preteens serve alongside older relatives, connecting with the little ones in a way the leaders couldn’t. Susan Olson, who has worked with the toddlers for decades, says the little ones have a ton of fun with her grandsons and the other youth helpers. “The little toddler boys just love these teenage boys that play with them,” she says.

Josiah and Ethan Hughes, ages 13 and 15, serve in a kindergarten class with their grandparents, Doug and Lisa Demmert. On a recent Sunday, some of the kids who weren’t particularly attentive to the adults would pay attention when Josiah put his finger to his lips.

Maggie Meyers, who teaches the kindergarten class, appreciates the boys’ gentle spirit with the kids, including giving one-on-one companionship with any child who is struggling to participate in the group activities.

Elijah Erbeznik (17) and Lily Swanson (17) help lead worship time for K-2nd graders by doing hand motions and singing.

Lily, who often plays piano or violin in the main worship services, also serves during music time with the kids – not by playing an instrument but by leading the hand motions as they sing the songs. Oftentimes she’ll grab one or two other teenage helpers from the classrooms and get them to join her up front.

Lily and her friends put a lot of energy into the hand motions, helping to keep the little ones engaged with the music and its meaning. And it sure looks like the teenagers are having fun, too.

Always watching

Elijah hopes to become a lead teacher in Children’s Ministry. Joe and longtime teacher Joel Long will mentor and train him and others who are interested in becoming teachers.

Elijah also wants to serve on the Youth Ministry volunteer staff when he graduates, but he knows these are both serious responsibilities. “You’ve got to be above reproach in a lot of ways. … Someday I’m going to answer to Christ about this stuff. So I need to be a godly man.”

“It gives you a different sense of awareness, just how you’re impacting people.”
Lily Swanson

He’s had opportunities to communicate biblical principles to the kids. For example, with the ones who disobey, he tries to address their heart issue: “You want to honor God, right?” Framing their behavior as part of their relationship to God “helps them understand that what they’re doing is sinning, and they’re not sinning against me, a co-leader who’s helping, but they’re sinning against God. … I don’t care what you do to me, but you’re ultimately doing it to Christ.”

For Lily, the kids have served as a sort of mirror to see herself more clearly. “They imitate your behavior, or they call you on it,” she says. Once she was absentmindedly ripping apart her paper snack cup, and pretty soon she saw the kids in the class were doing the same – and making a mess in the process. “It gives you a different sense of awareness, just how you’re impacting people.”

The Apostle John wrote to his flock with an affectionate value for the youth among them: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14b). 

In a culture that tells young people they can do and be whatever they want through their own strength, youth at Faith are learning to deny themselves and depend upon Christ as they learn to love and serve His church. And they’re finding plenty of joy in seeing how God is working through them.

As Lily says, “They’re like miniature versions of what they’re going to be when they grow up, and you can influence that.”

Lynn Yount

Lynn and her husband, Doug, lead a Growth Group. Lynn serves as a writer and editor for Faith Weekly and other church communications.

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