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, 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?

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  1. Ken M.
    Aug 25, 2010
    at 4:41 am

    It depends on the maturity of the teen. If the teen has proven to his/her parents and others that he/ she has the passion along with the drive and commitment, I don’t see a problem. Does the teen has a part time job that will allow independence without relying on others to make the payments? Does the teen understand that he/she will be in a relationship with the sponsored child? Has this teen completed other projects or activities until its completion? Or is this a teen who gets excited over any new thing and wants to experience the new thing on the spur of the moment only to lose interest a few weeks later?
    I don’t think a teen should take on this responsibility without discusssing it with the parents. There is another life involved.

  2. Marvin
    Aug 25, 2010
    at 4:51 am

    I had the same experience that you had. I did not do much with the sponsor ship and stopped after a short time when I went to college. This was 1990 so the type of information compassion has now was not available…and I had no idea at the time the value of sponsorship. I don’t regret sponsoring as a young person, and I think that my sponsorship did some good even though I did not write often and ended the sponsorship. A few years after college I started sponsoring again and the child I received was about the same age…14…that the original child would have been. I picked up her sponsorship from a different person…as a team we blessed this child…this child graduated from the program…. Even if a person can not finish the sponsorship as a team we can make a difference in the life of a child. I would just suggest writing a final letter saying why you can not continue….

  3. jennifer
    Aug 25, 2010
    at 7:55 am

    I started sponsoring when I was 17. I felt a strong desire to sponsor and even though I could only pay $10 a month, my dad picked up the rest. His support of my passion was really encouraging to me. I still sponsor that first child and now my husband and I sponsor two more children.. If my dad wouldn’t have been so supportive of my passion, I don’t know if it would be as strong as it is now. I knew that he was proud of my desire to help a child and that encouraged me. So, I think teens sponsoring children is a great idea if the parents are supportive as well. That might mean contributing money for a short while, but more importantly is the encouragement and support.

  4. Aug 25, 2010
    at 8:26 am

    Shaina’s, Ken’s and Marvin’s prior experiences do support the concerns many parents–and many of us in Compassion–share about teens sponsoring children. This concern, for me, includes college students who are, chronologically, at least, out of their teens.

    However, Tony, Jimmy and Richmond are more than adequate testimony to the other side of the coin–having been sponsored by teenagers and now living in the freedom from poverty. A presentation to a group of young folks needs to cast the vision, but also to make as clear as possible the need for commitment and responsibility.

    But, then, the same can be said for a presentation to adults of all ages, as well.

  5. Aug 25, 2010
    at 8:32 am

    I started sponsoring a little boy from the DR as a teenager and I’ve been sponsoring him for over 10 years now. I hope to meet him later this year. :)

  6. Aug 25, 2010
    at 9:41 am

    I sponsored my first Compassion child almost three years ago when I was 16 years old. Her name is Sasa and lives in Indonesia, and I am still still sponsoring her. I regularly write her letters, at least once or twice a month. Soon after I began sponsoring Sasa, I tried sponsoring another child from Ethiopia with a group of friends who seemed excited at first but never gave me any money so I couldn’t continue sponsoring the second child at the time.

    Recently I went to Jamaica on a missions trip and decided to sponsor a girl that I met and became friends with there. At the time the amount of her sponsorship was the same as Compassion costs, but since then the amount has more than doubled because she entered high school. This sponsorship is soley for the purpose of education, so the costs include transportation to school which is extremely costly in high school because these schools are much farther away than the elem & middle schools. I really can’t afford this sponsorship as I go into college, still praying about what to do. Teen sponsorship is a great thing, and it has given me so much passion. That isn’t to say that it isn’t a hard thing, especially when the time comes to go to college. I wish there was some way that my sponsorships could continue as I go through college, and then I could pick them back up after graduation.

  7. Aug 25, 2010
    at 10:05 am

    As an Advocate, I had a young girl come up to my table in a church and ask for a child whose sponsor had “quit” on them. This girl was one of those who had sponsored as a teenager and not kept up with it. Now she wanted to “make amends” by helping another child in the same situation, although she realized she could not get her former child back. It was very touching for me, and we found a darling little girl for her.

  8. Aug 25, 2010
    at 10:15 am

    Advocate Jill Foley is on a Compassion trip in Peru right now, and introduces a 16-year-old boy who lost his sponsor and is need of a new one. Maybe someone would like to sponsor this bright young man, who longs to be an industrial engineer.

    http://jillslist.blogspot.com/2010/08/hola-amigos.html

  9. Aug 25, 2010
    at 11:12 am

    I think it’s great for teens to participate, as long as their parents are on board and are willing to oversee their teen’s involvement. As a parent, I’d want to make sure the money is being sent each month, that letters are being written and sent — and I’d want to be prepared to take over the sponsorship if my teen was unable to continue for whatever reason.

    There are teens who post here and on OurCompassion.org who seem really thoughtful about what they send their kids and seem super-dedicated!!

  10. Paul 'Kenji' Staniforth
    Aug 25, 2010
    at 11:33 am

    Im 16, and recently comming back from soul survivor my heart was broken for underpreivalaged children… I think your right in saying it is to do with how mature the person is, and how willing and realistic they’ll be in years to come .. but it is something i want to continue for as long as i can and see how i can changed someone else, and see how they can change me ..

  11. Aug 25, 2010
    at 12:11 pm

    I became a sponsor at the age of 16. I’m with you in that I didn’t uinderstand the full impace of my sponsorship at the time. But it opened my eyes to so many things about the world and God’s call on us as followers of Jesus to care for the poor, and I am so thankful for the years since that first sponsorship and all they have taught me. It’s never too late to start sponsoring, but I’m convinced my adult life has been made so much richer through that one act of sponsorship as a teenager.

  12. Aug 25, 2010
    at 4:43 pm

    I am not sure I understand why a parent would be in a situation that they would be upset at Compassion for having their teen sponsor a child. If the parent had given permission, then they still gave the last word in it. Maybe a parent could be upset at approaching a child to sponsor another child….
    Having said that… I totally agree that the parent would know the child best to see whether this would be a good thing or not. I look for sponsors for children. I would never suggest a child to sponsor against their parents wishes. The reason being is that the child is commanded by God to obey his or her parents… We are about doing God’s will, not about just raising money for poor children. I tell that to my sponsored children too, when they talk with me about contacting me outside of the lines of communication of Compassion. I tell them that I would love to have direct contact with them, but that more than that, I want them to learn to be submissive to their authorities and if they aren’t, that I’m teaching them to eventually disobey God… So, it would defeat the purpose for us to have direct communication. It’s about serving God and giving Him the honour.
    But going back on the original topic… I think it is fine for children to sponsor other children. If I had biological children, I would most likely want them to sponsor a child as long as they prayed for that child and wrote the child letters. But I can see that there might be situations where it would not be the best for the child to sponsor. Though those would be the exceptions. That’s why the parents should have the last word in this.
    I think it is a great idea, because it builds in them to minister to others. That’s why I also think it would be a good idea to offer to the LDP students some of the correpondence sponsorships. They can’t pay for the sponsorships, but they would make awesome correspondents!!!

  13. Chuck Guth
    Aug 25, 2010
    at 6:33 pm

    I believe that the teen should understand the importance and their parents be fully aware. My step-daughter sponsors a child but I can tell you that the other side of the family was none too thrilled. However I can tell you from working most teen events they “get it ” a lot quicker than adults. I think testimonies from Tony and the others validate the aspect that teens can make a difference and should be sponsors. I like people like Jordan Foxworthy are great examples of teens making a difference

  14. Katie
    Aug 25, 2010
    at 9:51 pm

    I’m 19 and I sponsor two girls, whom I write to every week :) Age is only a number! I think my generation has a lot of passion that can be positively channeled into sponsorship!

  15. Jill
    Aug 25, 2010
    at 10:31 pm

    I sponsored a child through another organization at a church trip when I was 16. My parents weren’t to trilled about it, mainly cause they don’t fully trust the use of the funds, but they were supportive that I wanted to do it. I regret never writing letters, I had the sponsorship for two years, I never received a letter either, had I received a letter it may have made it more real. I now sponsor three child and write to them once a month and send birthday and family gift each year. I’ve never forgotten about my first child and often think of him and wish I was a better sponsor. Through I never wrote I think it gave me a desire that made me want to do it again when I was older.

  16. Aug 25, 2010
    at 10:37 pm

    My uncle sponsored 2 kids with his own money. He only lived until he was 18.

    When my grandma met the family I nannied for (mom works for compassion), we found out who the kids were.

    I decided to sponsor at 20. It is so easy to use the “I am too young” excuse, but then I kept thinking of my uncle, and how he was never “too young” to serve God.

    Josiah was king at the age of 8. “Too young” is a modern fallacy. I believe our culture fosters immaturity. I wish more people would tell their kids they are not too young and raise them to be responsible people who keep their words. Part of the reason I chose to sponsor an older child is because I know that I am making a 2 year commitment instead of a 15 year commitment–better for this unstable time of my life called “early twenties.” And it also comes down to priorities. Sponsorship and internet on my cellular are very close in cost. Since I am low on money at this time, I chose to limit my cell plan. Tamirat matters more to me than checking my facebook every 5 minutes or constantly reading the Compassion blog :)

    I do wish, however, that I was better at writing letters, and not just online. I have yet to send a handwritten letter. I keep bugging my grandma to write her kid and tell her we should do it together.

  17. Anna
    Aug 25, 2010
    at 10:43 pm

    I’m 16 and my family and I sponsor 10 children (though I don’t give the money) and my kids our one of the best things in my life! I am so thankful to God that he has let us sponsor his children! My mom loves sponsoring too. But I guess it does depend on the teenager, if they’ll write or not. And what their parents say. AND what God is leading them to do.

  18. geri
    Aug 26, 2010
    at 4:25 am

    I was 13 when I started sponsoring. I pestered my parents to let me sponsor a child and used my Christmas and birthday gift money to do so. I also took on odd jobs (cutting grass, babysitting etc) to pay for it. It was the best thing I have ever done and to this day, am thankful to my parents for letting me to do so.
    Geri

  19. Kathy Olson
    Aug 26, 2010
    at 10:01 am

    I started sponsoring at 17. I wasn’t the best sponsor and gave it up after a short time when I lost my job. I felt really bad about letting my sponsored child down and the next time I sponsored at 18, I stuck with my child through graduation. I think the proverb about “train up a child in the way he should go” is valid here. Had I not been permitted to sponsor when the urge struck, I may have turned my attention to other things and not sponsored later. I’ve been sponsoring for 28 years now, and I think the “ends” justifies the rocky start.

  20. Rachel
    Aug 26, 2010
    at 10:31 am

    As an older teen who has worked from the moment she was able to, the question of whether or not a teen should sponser a child seems ridiculous. From where I am it looks mostly like a control issue with the parents. I work hard for my money like many other teens and parents wouldn’t usually question us spending it on a movie or a new pair of jeans. So why would they have a problem if I chose to sponser a child instead?

    Of course its different for kids without jobs, because the parent would probably have to supplement a bit. But in the later half of the teen years, a kid should be moving toward being completely independent. To tell your 16/17 year old not to sponsor a child is going to make them miss out on the joys of giving!

    -18 year old with 1 sponsored child =)

  21. Michelle Hayes
    Aug 26, 2010
    at 10:50 am

    I have sponsored a child on behalf of each of my children but they are the correspondees. I gave it to them as a birthday present when they were 8 & 10 and they both love it. They learn about life for these children and instead of expecting the latest gadget, they appreciate what they have. We have all learned a lot and been blessed by the kids we sponsor (4 now). I am about to embark on a campaign with other parents/grandparents in my town to consider doing the same at Christmas for their kids rather than buying another piece of plastic to fill their bedrooms.

  22. Julie R
    Aug 26, 2010
    at 12:13 pm

    I became interested in Compassion when I was 14. At the time, I didn’t have a steady income so I asked if my entire family could sponsor a child and I could kick in money whenever I earned some. I am now 17 and because I have a steady part time job, I started sponsoring a little girl by myself and still help with the girl my entire family sponsors.

    I think teens can definetly get involved and sponsor children. However, teens do need to think it through and think about whether or not they have/make enough money to pay $38 a month.

  23. Georgeann
    Aug 26, 2010
    at 1:20 pm

    My son began sponsoring a child in Bolivia when he was 13. He asked his Dad for a job so he could pay the monthly amount. He is now 18 and in college and I am helping him with the financial part. He has written his child regularly and has sent gifts to the child and the child’s family. I think it has been, and still is, a great experience for my son. He is the reason I now sponsor a child in Haiti!

  24. Rachel B
    Aug 26, 2010
    at 2:09 pm

    I agree with annabelle that our culture “fosters immaturity”, and also believe that we should be raising our children to become mature adults. Parents are called to instruct and discipline their children, and all christians are called to give, so it stands to reason that we should be raising up children who give. Not necessarily through child sponsorship, but give, nonetheless.

    I began sponsoring my first child when I was 17, and she has since graduated the program. I currently sponsor 4 children, and they are some of the best things to ever happen to me. I love getting their letters and pictures in the mail, and am blessed like crazy by their prayers for me.

    Rachel

  25. Kristen
    Aug 26, 2010
    at 2:42 pm

    My daughter began as a correspondent to 2 children about a year and a half ago. Since then both girls have had their sponsors drop them. The first one, I picked up. When the second one was dropped a little over a month ago, I told my daughter she was going to have to find her own funding. She has recently gotten a job to pay for the sponsorship of her friend in Indonesia (they are only 2 years apart in age and are very much alike). This is her junior year in high school and she is carrying a very heavy course load, has church activities 3 days a week and now is going to try to fit in a job. She is feeling very overwhelmed but I pray it works out for her. I also pray that she will make time to write as that has been lacking lately!!

  26. Beth L
    Aug 26, 2010
    at 3:06 pm

    Shaina,
    I met some great kids on my sponsor tour who loved their parents’ sponsored children or sponsored their own children. It is a testimony to the world that not all kids are bad or selfish.

    And, the comment “did not come to fruition” make s me wonder what did open the doors to you becoming a Team Lead for Compassion, or if you would even be writing so many great articles for the blog if you didn’t have that experience. I hope that you are able to reunite with your formerly sponsored boy, but even more, I hope that you see value in what you did do and how God has used that since that time. God bless.

    • Shaina
      Aug 27, 2010
      at 10:19 am

      Thank you for your encouragement!

  27. Aug 26, 2010
    at 8:32 pm

    I was one of those teen sponsors. I was sixteen when I first sponsored Uli from Indonesia. Now 6 years later I am still sponsoring her and I have 6 aditional children and 21 correspondence kids. I am so thankfull that I had the chance to start sponsoring when I was young.

    In my case I had wanted to sponsor a child ever since I could remember, but I waited untill I was earning enough money to cover the cost of sponsorship by myself. In my case, with my parents’ support teen sponsorship was a very good thing.

  28. Shaina
    Aug 27, 2010
    at 10:38 am

    Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts and comments. I am so encouraged by your excitement for teen sponsorship. I know I benefitted greatly from my experience, and now realize that many of you have as well!

  29. Corina Lucas
    Aug 28, 2010
    at 2:10 pm

    When I was about 8 I tryed sponsoring a child my older brother was going share with me then did not like the kid I picked so he did not want to, I was just to young, and because my dad signed his name the child only ever wrote to my dad. I really enjoyed getting letters, but hardly wrote back. His stepfather made him stop going to the program I think. Now I am 14 and have been sponsoring for almost a year. The whole 38 is money I worked for, not my parents money because I didn’t want to give my money. I try to write about once a month(not including cards). I might even sponsor a second child next compassion sunday.

  30. Mallory
    Aug 31, 2010
    at 4:35 pm

    I began my first sponsorship when I had just turned 18. There were times in college that my mom made the payment for me, and it was really such a gift that she did so. Eight years later, I’m still sponsoring her.

  31. Sep 1, 2010
    at 1:33 pm

    I just edited the post to remove the sentence that said there is an age restriction that prevents children under the age of 13 from sponsoring a child. There is not.

    If someone under the age of 17 wants to sponsor a child, we allow them to do so with parental permission.

  32. Katrina
    Sep 3, 2010
    at 11:22 am

    I’m agreeing with the other teens that have commented here.
    I started sponsoring my first child when I was 14 or 15. I’ve had babysitting jobs since I was 12, so making the payments was never a problem for me. Sometimes I wished I had more money to spend on myself, but I never regretted the sponsorship. When I was 17, I signed up for another at a music festival during the summer and then another that fall. I kept feeling like if I still had spare money, it could go to the child. If I had enough money to watch a movie, buy a new shirt, go to a concert, etc., then I had enough money to help another child. I have switched jobs at least 5 times since sponsoring the first one, and have always been able to maintain my commitment to those four children. I’ve even gone months without work, but either through savings or gifts, money always came, because I know that God wanted those children provided for and the only way I’d ever stop sponsoring a child is if I absolutely ran out of money; sponsorship would be the last thing I’d take out of my budget. I love my kids, pray for them regularly and write letters to them at least once a month. I think parents should be encouraging their young kids to make a sacrifice for the sake of others. Jesus tells us to give up all for the poor and teens are not exempt.

    –Katrina, age 19

  33. Katrina
    Sep 3, 2010
    at 11:24 am

    Also, I’m not saying that it will be easy or that it was not a big deal for me. I’ve worried and wrestled in prayer over this time and time again, but God always comes through. I think parents should encourage their teen’s “child-like faith” and teach them to trust God to provide for their sponsorships.

  34. Dana S.
    Dec 27, 2011
    at 2:14 pm

    I am just barely 17. I have been sponsoring a child for three months. I have no job, but I had been saving money to do this for several years. I knew that I could get more money because many of my relatives give me money for my birthday and Christmas, and because I could ask my parents to help me with the sponsorship in place of material gifts. If this is truly something that God has called you to do, He will get you the money.

  35. Renee
    May 9, 2012
    at 1:53 pm

    I am i teen and i sponsor 3 girls one in honduras, one in inda and one in the phillipens

  36. Trish
    Jul 29, 2012
    at 7:56 am

    I began sponsoring a child with World Vision as a junior in high school. I loved her and wrote to her constantly, I still do. Sponsoring as a teenager was a great way for me to learn how to budget my money and learn to give to others. I now correspond with 4 children through compassion as well as my child with world vision. I don’t think anyone is too young to sponsor.

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