Do our young people return from a mission trip feeling as though they’ve “done” missions? In other words, do they mentally check off missions from their list of “good works” and move on? Is the trip akin to a pill that fills their recommended daily mission allowance?
If so, it’s likely we’re treating mission trips as just another stand-alone program we throw into our summer youth ministry mix. That’s why our teenagers stand up in church and talk about lasting change after the trip, then return to their pre-trip life patterns soon after the afterglow fades. Two culprits are to blame:
Problem #1—We compartmentalize mission. Postmodern young people are notorious for their ability to adapt their values to various settings. And they’re adept at adopting parts of a system without integrating the whole of it into their lives. That means they can easily compartmentalize mission in their lives. If we don’t teach it to them as an everyday lifestyle, they’ll never catch it.
Problem #2—We frame mission as doing rather than being. Most youth workers treat mission as something we do, and it’s not. Mission is something we become. Everything else is just fabrication. We can’t tack on a mission trip to our program because it’s the right thing to do and expect teenagers to walk away changed. If we believe that mission is a lifestyle, then it should be the focus of our community year-round—not just for two weeks in the summer.
Choose one Monday each month to conduct a mini-missions project! It’s a fantastic way to get your students thinking about how they can serve others all year round and not just one week each summer.
January: Collect hats and mittens for elementary school students
February: Deliver candy to younger students for Valentine’s Day
March: Organize a Habitat for Humanity fund-raiser
April: Partner with a local shelter to host an Easter egg hunt and lunch for needy kids
May: Organize a Relay for Life team
June: Host a fund-raiser to send a needy child to summer camp or VBS
July: Invite students and their families to help run a carwash, donating all proceeds to your church’s mission fund
August: Put together back-to-school kits for needy teenagers—work with a local shelter to have them distributed where they would be most appreciated
September: Rake leaves for the elderly in your church
October: Host a trick-or-treat party to raise funds for Compassion International and start sponsoring a child
November: Work with a local shelter or ministry to put together care packages and/or meals for needy families around Thanksgiving
December: Go caroling at local nursing homes.
Keep up the interest by adding fun to the events, such as turning the care-basket activity into a scavenger hunt or including a fast-food progressive dinner in between caroling venues!