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Kids Make a Difference

Gordon West

HELPFUL HINTS

Use these pointers to keep your children's service projects running effectively.

  • Plan ahead. Even the best-intentioned service projects can backfire if they're not properly planned. Take time to map, coordinate, staff, and evaluate every service project you sponsor. Your extra effort will pay off in the form of repeat volunteers, happy staff, and fruitful projects.
  • Prepare adults. When adults have realistic expectations about children's service projects, working alongside -- not over -- kids is more productive and meaningful for both groups. Explain to adults that by serving with children, they're helping children learn to serve. Encourage adults to focus on the goal of mentoring kids for service -- not frustrations and inconveniences.
  • Be specific. Go over what's expected of children -- and what isn't. Everyone -- adults included -- needs to know what each job involves. Be clear about behavioral expectations for children and what jobs may be beyond children's abilities.
  • Give everyone a task. Kids feel valued when they're given responsibility, and they'll rise to the occasion. Structure tasks so children can do as much as they're able.
  • Provide for needs. Plan for transportation, supplies, and snacks.
  • Encourage kids. Help kids be excellent representatives for Jesus by encouraging them and honoring their contributions.
  • Structure projects so they're age-appropriate. Younger children need more hands-on projects. Instead of a canned food drive, have younger kids deliver the collected cans to the food pantry and stack them on the empty shelves so they can tangibly see the impact of their service.

SERVING MAKES KIDS DIFFERENT

Kids benefit from serving others. Children for Children (www.children4children.org), a nonprofit organization promoting hands-on volunteerism and giving for kids, identifies several benefits children reap when they serve. They learn traits such as responsibility, leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving, self-respect, self-discipline, self-motivation, and tolerance.

When we teach a child to serve, we're also teaching that child to become a servant for life because children who serve become adults who serve. Consider these statistics from Engaging Youth in Lifelong Service (Independent Sector).

  • Adults who volunteered as children give more money and volunteer more time than adults who began serving later in life.
  • Two-thirds of adult volunteers began serving as children.
  • Those who volunteer as children are twice as likely to volunteer as those who don't.
  • Across incomes and age groups, those who volunteered as children give and volunteer more than those who didn't.
  • Those who volunteered as youth and whose parents volunteered became the most generous adults when it comes to giving their time.

Gordon and Becki West are the founders of KidZ Kan!, a ministry of KidZ At Heart International (www.kidZatheart.org). Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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