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How Young Is Too Young to Sponsor a Child?

Compassion has sponsorship booths at hundreds of events across the country throughout the year. Some of those booths are at events specifically for teens. Working in the contact center, I sometimes speak with parents whose teen sponsored a child at one of these events.

The parents are often concerned that their teen will not be able to see the commitment to fruition. Sometimes the parents are upset that we would even allow their teen to sign up to be a sponsor.

My first experience with Compassion was as a teen. Even at an early age I had a passion for children in poverty [3], and Compassion’s ministry spoke to my heart while at a summer camp in South Texas. I chose a child to sponsor and returned home with his packet.

Regrettably, I wasn’t much of a sponsor to this child. I rarely wrote, and ended the sponsorship when I went to college a few years later.

Now that I work for Compassion, I check his file all the time. I feel so guilty over my broken commitment and am patiently waiting for the day to renew our relationship. Although I pray his current sponsor never stops sponsoring him, I’d be lying if I told you I wouldn’t jump at the chance to sponsor him again.

But not all teens are like I was.

On the other end of the teen sponsorship spectrum, you have Jordan Foxworthy, whose brainchild became our Bite Back campaign. Jordan has helped raise over half a million dollars for this fund, saving countless children and families from malaria. She was even featured on CNN’s “Young People Who Rock” list.

We also have many teens who serve as advocates — working concert tables, speaking at churches, and telling their friends about our ministry. Although I had passion, these teens have the drive and commitment I didn’t.

When I speak with a parent who is upset about his or her teen’s sponsorship, I try to explain our heart behind asking teens to be sponsors. This can be a very positive experience for the teen — instilling values of thoughtfulness and caring, as well as responsibility.

We don’t want to take advantage of the teens in any way — and ask each one to speak with his or her parents about the sponsorship before making a commitment.

Sometimes, a parent isn’t comfortable with their teen being a sponsor, and I defer to their judgment. As a parent, they know their child better than we ever could and should make that decision.

Even though I did not see my commitment to fruition, I still learned many lessons through the experience and feel that other teens would as well.

So what’s your opinion? Is teen sponsorship a good thing or a bad thing?