A serving experience is likely in your future.
It’s no secret that many youth groups take part in an annual spring, summer, fall or winter mission trip. You can either throw students into these opportunities, or see the time between now and then as its own opportunity of preparation.
I personally believe helping teens get ready for trips is as important as the trip itself.
- There will be distractions on the trip: I’ve taken students on serving trips who treated it like a vacation experience. They brought tons of spending money intended for shopping and souvenirs and made it the focus of the trip. It was my fault for not adequately getting them to seek Jesus before we attempted to serve Jesus.
- There will be difficulties on the trip: Whether it’s an emotional meltdown, a flat tire or entering into a strange neighborhood, things can go wrong. Would you like your students to respond to tough moments as a team or as random individuals thrown together? The former is the obvious choice, and yet I’ve dropped the ball in helping teens experience life together before overcoming opposition together.
It’s crazy how easy it is to counteract all of this with some simple investments leading up to your experience.
One of my favorite approaches has been to assign points to certain activities that the participants would have to take part in if they wanted to go on the trip. They then had to meet a certain point threshold by a specified date.
(I’ve only had one student refuse such a prerequisite, as she felt she was above having to build a relationship with anyone she was going to be on the trip with. Her dad typically gave her what she wanted, and so she went on the same trip with another youth group that didn’t require it.)
Here’s what I proposed:
- Student ministry nights: Between now and the trip, students need to take part in at least one-third of our gatherings.
- Fundraising: Between now and the trip, students need to take part in at least two fundraisers with our group.
- Church opportunities: Between now and the trip, students need to find a way to serve within the church at least four times.
- Prayer gatherings: Between now and the trip, students need to gather with other members from the trip at least twice to pray for the trip and each other.
- Devotional: Between now and the trip, students need to read through the same devotional book together.
The catch is that this has to be more than just a checklist. We built team-building activities into the student ministry nights that would help us as leaders learn what to watch for in each teen. We likewise learned which activities were easy versus difficult for each kid, allowing us on the trip to better assign duties based on personality and skill.
The other upside? Students ended up more a part of the student ministry and church after the trip was over. We were better able to help them understand how what it meant to be a Christ-follower and not just a trip participant.
Isn’t that what the trip is all about?
For more along these lines, I’d suggest snagging Toby Rowe’s “The Volunteer’s Back Pocket Guide to Youth Mission Trips.”
Meanwhile… any thoughts on any of this, or on what’s worked for you?
Thanks for serving and loving students,