Hiring Youth for Ministry Work

Hiring a teenager to help with landscaping, child care, or other activity can be a great way to involve youth in the ministry while at the same time providing income. If you’re looking to employ someone under 18, be aware that employment rules that apply to most businesses generally apply to your ministry as well.

Minors and the Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs how workers, including minors, are to be treated. It also establishes guidelines for jobs minors can perform.

Work Hours. While the FLSA does not place specific restrictions on the work hours of minors age 16 and over, it does set guidelines for children aged 14 to 15. They can work:

  • Only during non-school hours;
  • As many as 3 hours on a school day, and 8 hours on a non-school day;
  • Up to 40 hours on a non-school week; and
  • Between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (June 1 through Labor Day hours extend until 9 p.m.).

Pay Requirements. Minors who work for a ministry are still subject to the same labor law requirements that apply to adults. The FLSA requires that minors be paid at least minimum wage for any work they perform. When paid on an hourly basis, which will most often be the case, minors who work more than 40 hours per week must be paid at time and a half, just like adults.

  • Stipends or Lump Sum Payments: Due to stringent FLSA minimum wage requirements, ministries should avoid using stipends, gift cards, or flat payments in exchange for work performed. This is true whether paying minors or adults to perform work for the ministry.
  • Unpaid Internships: Some ministries offer temporary internship opportunities to minors. If an internship is offered without pay, however, a violation of FLSA wage requirements can occur. This is particularly true if the job assigned to an intern is similar to work that’s typically handled by an employee. For this reason, it’s much safer to offer only paid internship opportunities.

Work Hazards. Regardless of age, employed teens under the age of 18 are not permitted to perform hazardous jobs of any kind. If a ministry allows a minor to work under hazardous conditions, it could be required to pay hefty fines. Based on Department of Labor restrictions, ministries should avoid employing minors for the following jobs:

  • Operating motorized vehicles, Minors are generally not permitted to work in jobs that require frequent driving on public roads and highways (though there’s an exception for incidental driving by employees who are at least 17 years old).
  • Operating heavy machinery and power-driven equipment
  • Operating circular saws and other powered cutting devices
  • Working on roof operations. All work performed on or near a roof is considered hazardous.
  • Working on a ladder or scaffold over 20 feet high.

Teens age 15 and under are also prohibited from undertaking the following jobs:

  • Construction or repair jobs;
  • Baking/cooking activities; and
  • Operating lawn mowers and other lawn equipment.

If you’re in doubt as to whether a job would be considered “hazardous” for purposes of an employed minor, hire an adult instead.

Work Permits

Some states require work permits to be issued before a minor can be hired. Although the FLSA does not specifically require such permits, it does require that employers maintain other types of records. These records should be kept on file for at least three years and are subject to inspection. Ministries should retain such information as: hours worked daily/total hours each workweek, the basis upon which the employee’s wages are paid (i.e., hour/week/piecework), payroll deductions, and total earnings per pay period.

Your state likely has laws relating to the employment of minors. Consult a local attorney for guidance.

Screening Minors

Minors often help with child care in a ministry setting. While this work is frequently performed on a volunteer basis, it’s also possible for ministry day care operations to hire minors as child care assistants. Ministries should carefully screen all of their child care workers, regardless of their age. Screening all workers, including minors, will help a ministry limit its liability in the event that a child is injured or harmed while in the care of an employee.

Because criminal background checks cannot be effectively conducted on minors, it’s important to use a comprehensive worker application. The application should ask for the names of two or three references—teachers, coaches, youth leaders, or other people who know the applicant well. Contact these individuals to determine whether or not the minor is capable of performing the job for which he or she has applied.

For more information on youth and labor, please see: