It’s a mission trip not a vacation. This is a value I have been trying to get teens and adults in our church to grasp in regards to teen mission trips the last several years. When I have conversations with youth ministers in various church sizes, denominations, and locations it seems to be a struggle many are having when it comes to conveying the purpose of taking teens on a mission trip. When it comes to youth mission trips it can begin to be viewed as just one more thing the youth do each year a.k.a “The teens each year always have a retreat, go skiing, do a car wash fundraiser, and go on a mission trip.”
In my humble opinion here is the problem, I believe we can begin to forget the purpose in why we go on a mission trip in the first place. I know people will probably have various reasons in taking youth to various locations whether they be domestic or international but here is my rational…
1. To go into the world and make disciples
In the great commission we were given the mission to go out into the world to make disciples. For this to happen we have to personally be growing in the faith ourselves, we need to be a part of the church body, we need to be seeking Christ both in our individual lives and as the body of Christ together. I know some will definitely disagree with me on this point and say that a youth mission trip is a great place to bring a teen who does not know Christ in hopes of them coming to know him throughout the week of service. Does this happen at times? Sure, but my question is should that be the focus? Should the focus be on bringing teens who don’t know Christ or have strayed and are making really poor choices right now in hopes of them turning things around? Or should it be on taking teens who are seeking Christ in their everyday lives and want to share the love of Christ with those around them? Obviously no one is perfect except Jesus and all teens and adults will have room in their lives for growth in their faith but what will be the focus?
2. To reach out to hurting world
We continually see through the scriptures Jesus reaching out and helping not only spiritual needs but physical needs as well. We can read through the scriptures and see where when Jesus met the physical need of someone it opened the door for the spiritual needs as well. Mission trips are a great opportunity to reach out to those who are hurting around us.
I live in Ohio and this year I decided to take our teens to Cincinnati, Ohio for our youth mission trip. Every other year I have taken teens out-of-state but I wanted the teens to see that people in our own state are hurting and need physical needs met as well as spiritual healing through Jesus Christ. I want them to see that we are not going on a mission trip so they can get away from home for a week, we are not going so they can goof off with friends for a week, we are not going for a vacation but we are going to so we can spread the name of Jesus Christ.
Why do you bring youth on a mission trip?
Filed under Church, Missions
What has surprised you?
In Ministry I am sure we all come across things that surprise us sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ways. I think the longer I am in youth ministry the less surprised I am by things that happen. We have had people throw up in vans on youth trips, I had several students multiple times moon our other vehicles following service events…not sure why service brings that out but for some reason it does. I have had in the same week a parent come in my office (very graciously I might add) and explain that they think we are doing too many “fun events” for the youth ministry and we need to do more “serious stuff” and then literally a couple of days later a different parent (very graciously as well) came in and said we do too much “serious stuff” and we need to do more “fun events” for the youth ministry. There have been times that I have totally thought an event was a bomb and people seemed to get a ton out of it while other times I thought something went really great but showed little lasting effects.
This past summer’s mission trip was definitely one of the roughest for me. There were students who worked extremely hard, had great attitudes, and remembered why we were there in the first place. There were others who looked for ways not to work, complained a lot, and seemed to look at the trip as more a vacation than a mission trip. Each year when we come home we do a mission trip presentation for our church with songs, testimonies, and a message. I have to be honest and say I was not looking forward to it…I thought what are people going to share? Did very many people get anything out of the trip? I was surprised to say the least…
Teens opened up and shared how God had used this to stretch them out of their comfort zones to reach out to those around them who were hurting in their neighborhoods, God used the trip to spur the teens on to truly see how they were called not only to serve on the trip but in their own communities, and a brother and sister shared how God used this trip to begin the healing process with them and their father who they had harbored some bad feelings towards for quite a while. The testimony that the brother and sister shared was very touching to me. It showed me how greatly the Holy Spirit was working in their lives to forgive someone just like Jesus had forgiven them. Honestly I believe we could have stopped the service after their testimony and it would have been a great day. I say all of this to say that God is never-changing but He is definitely a God who surprises me a lot. How has God surprised you?
Please feel free to share a funny story or a serious story of a surprise you have had in ministry!
Filed under Church, Missions
Are you criticizing by creating?
As I mentioned previously in a post I along with several other adult leaders took some senior high youth from our church on a recent mission trip to Taylorsville, NC with the christian organization YouthWorks. It was a great trip as there were many wonderful things that were done in the community. Homes were repaired, yards cleaned, ministries helped, lives touched all in the matter of a week. That was the great part of the trip but there was also some frustrating parts on the trip as well. As I said in my previous post it was very hot (usually in the 100’s with the heat index) this compiled with working outside, non-stop meetings, sleeping on air mattresses, taking showers in a local middle school can add tension to any group. Our group was no exception there were times when people would work extremely hard, do whatever needed to be done to help the team, even if it was not easy or comfortable. There were also times when people complained about the silliest things…who took a longer shower, who got to ride where in the van, what group got icecream first, what music was played in the van, what room people slept in…and the list could go on but I would prefer to block them from my memory 😉 There were also times when people chose not to work when others were working very hard and this can test anyone’s patience including mine.
Today I ran across this wonderful quote from Ben Franklin which says, “”Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” I think when we go on mission trips with kids, teens, or adults it can be very easy for us to criticize those in charge “Why are they doing it that way?” “If I was in charge that is not how I would lead!” “They are doing a bad job the leaders last year were much better!”, or to condemn “I don’t like how they teach…I don’t think they are a very good Christian.” or just complain, “Ugh..why do I have to go do that?!” “That’s not how we did it last year!” but when we do this what good is it bringing? How is this helping the situation? One of my favorite quotes that I try to remember on a regular basis is from Pastor Mark Batterson (Pastor of National Community Church and author of numerous books such as Wild Goose Chase and Primal) when He challenges people to “Criticize by Creating”. I think this is a good challenge for all of us because it is so easy for us to criticize, condemn, or complain when something is out of the norm for us, when we are in a tough situation, or when people might not do something exactly the same way we are use to. It is during those times that we can either tear down those in charge, cross our arms, and complain…or we can criticize by creating, step out of our comfort zone, un-cross our arms, lay down our judgments and do what we can to make it a better situation.
Really the choice is up to us. Which do you find yourself doing more? Criticizing or Creating?