Mission Trip Musts [2]

 —  May 17, 2012 — Leave a comment

Yesterday we looked at the first thing I believe we “must” include in our mission trips for college students.  Today we will discuss the second thing:

2. Create Teachable Moments (and brutal ones)

If you take a trip to a second-world country like Romania or a third-world country like India or Cambodia, expect the college-age people that go to be rocked. Expect their hearts to be engaged and their minds to do some intellectual gymnastics. Be prepared to deal with the anger they may feel toward Americans and the American lifestyle when they come back. They usually look at the amount of money, how it’s used and the over abundance of material possessions to be repulsive after these experiences. And, in many ways, rightly so. But how they handle that can be another story. As leaders we have a chance to sieze as well as create teachable moments to help people process the trip in an effective way.

I remember a trip we took to India. We served in a few ways there, but the trip was more of an exposure trip. We went to two or three different ministries a day, listening to the stories of missionaries and their ministries. We spent 12 days in the slums of India, where the poorest of the poor live. We were in some tribal areas outside of Mumbai (what we refer to as Bombay) as well as some slum areas in the city. In fact, Mumbai is said to have the largest slum area in all of Asia having over 1 million people in this one slum. It’s unbelievable to spend time there. Heartbreaking, for sure.

Well, part of the exposure trip is to expose people not just to missionary possibilities, but also to the culture. So I did something a bit risky at the end of a trip to India. I didn’t tell anyone, but the very last day we packed up in our rural location and headed into the city for our last night. Nobody knew where we were going. We took the train into the city (which is a total experience in itself!) and then a cab from the train station to the Gateway of India. This is a national landmark that you may have seen in pictures. We gathered there, sat down by the water, and debriefed some of the trip. Being right next to the slum area we talked about our time there, the things we saw, the things that stood out and those that broke our hearts. When we were done I told everyone to put their backpacks on and we were going to go to where we were staying for the night.

They didn’t realize it, but we were already there. Directly across the street was the Taj Mahal Hotel. This hotel is five star, plus. It’s the nicest I’ve ever stayed, anywhere. If you go to the pool, you have a personal servant. If you want anything, they get it for you.

People were shocked.

No, actually they were angry.

“How could we go through all this, learn what we did the past two weeks and then stay here tonight!?” they asked. “How much are we paying for this!?” one person asked as he pulled me aside.

The intellectual gymnastics began.

I told everyone to go to their rooms, take a shower and meet back in the lobby in an hour. After that hour we walked down the street to a restaurant to get dinner. It was there that we began to discuss this issue. There were some real times of tension, but in the end it was a great teachable moment. The bottom line was that right outside of the walls of the hotel was the largest slum in all of Asia. But India has both extremes and I wanted them to see that. In addition, I didn’t just want them to understand it in theory, I wanted them to feel the dichotomy between the two worlds. And they definitely felt it. It was a challenge to them to begin thinking about what they value as they go back home. We talked about the abundance of comfort we live in everyday and how when we go back we have a choice: we can remember the stark contrast we live in compared to the rest of the world, or go through life focused on our own comfort and forgetting how others live.

[sample taken from College Ministry From Scratch]

Mission Trip Musts

 —  May 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

Doing mission trips with college age people is an incredible experience, for sure.  Over the next few posts I simply want to lay out a few things I believe we should include in our trips.  Here is the first aspect:

1. Have an aspect of exposure. 

Many people, especially in America, have huge misperceptions of what it means to be a missionary. Our students were able to see people with a four-year degree volunteering in the nursery, holding, changing, and feeding babies. They were able to see a guy from Sweden who was there to help with computers. They saw some Germans who were there to teach orphans the construction trade, or people from Switzerland who taught the kids to be mechanics. They were exposed to just about every vocation in one way or another and saw how any trade can be used in the “mission field.” Suddenly these students saw how their “field” of interest could potentially be used for the benefit of someone else rather than just for themselves. Not to say that they would need to move to Romania to use their vocation for God, but it helped them think through their vocation very differently. This was one of the biggest long-term impacts of our trips. Far too many people feel like they have to abandon a particular field of ministry to “do something for God.” That couldn’t be more false.

I even did some trips where we limited the serving aspect of the trip and focused almost solely on this exposure aspect. I’ve led these types of trips in Cambodia, India, and Vietnam. These trips were designed to simply expose college-age people to as many different types of missionary work as possible. They would see anything from a music teacher volunteering in a Cambodian orphanage to a guy who started a church and seminary in India. They would see a mechanic training orphans in that trade, a second grade teacher on a mission base, or a stay at home mom. The goal was to get those who went on the trip to think through their vocational perspectives and life direction differently. And by exposing them to all kinds of people, trades, and stories perspective is easily changed. Even if they don’t move overseas, this is a life lesson we can teach: you don’t have to abandon a profession or field to live your life for God.

 [sample taken from College Ministry From Scratch]

Leadership Thought

 —  May 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

In my most recent book, Worlds Apart, I wrote a chapter on navigating inter-generational relationships.  I talk about this all the time in workshops and seminars, but the bottom line is leading people toward these relationships can be difficult to navigate.  There are all sorts of obstacles to tackle in churches when it comes to cultivating relationships between people of different generations.  I’ve written in LENGTH about these in previous books, but here are just a few:

  1. Intimidation of older believers.
  2. Church models that are geared toward people’s preferences.
  3. Younger believers not seeing the value of having an older person investing in them.
  4. Older believers thinking ‘mentorship’ is simply an unglorified counseling session.

I can go on and on, but there is one thing that I can tell everyone.  One thing that is universal regardless of context, regardless of generational values or preferences, regardless of intimidation factors….there is one thing that everyone needs.  Leaders need this.  Adult mentors need this.  Younger people need this.

It’s patience.

We must pay the price of time with people.

In our culture we are horrible at cultivating relationships.  It takes us a tremendous amount of time to build relationships with other people.  And yet, when it comes to mentorship somehow we expect it to work immediately…and if it doesn’t we think something is wrong.

In Worlds Apart I mention a friend of mine who says something about “discipleship.”  He says this: Disciple is spelled T-I-M-E.

Patience.  It’s how we love people (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Companies and organizations often do “exit interviews” and they do so for many different reasons.  But the biggest one is that they get really honest answers.  While people are “under” you the faucet is often shut because there is usually too much to lose.  But once they don’t have anything to lose, people let it flow.  Companies do these exit interviews so they can learn, become better at what they do and more faithfully care for their employees.

I think student ministry pastors need to do this too.  Asking graduated seniors the following questions can help you become better at what you do, be more in tune with the actual needs of your students and provide a natural way for you to give a few things for them to think about as they move onto the next stage of education.  But mostly it’s about asking them questions and keeping your ears open.

Here are 10 questions to ask graduated seniors:

1. What is one thing you would NOT want to see changed in our ministry?

2. If you were me, what two things would you do differently in our ministry?

3. What questions are you thinking through right now? (note: this is a good one to ask because it can clue you into which questions you should answer for the next years seniors!)

4. What do you think the biggest need is of the students in our ministry?

5. What aspect of our ministry do you think is the most effective in helping students grow in their faith?  Why that one?  Anything we can do better?

6. What do you think the students at (name school here) want the most out of life?  What is a way that our ministry can meet/address that desire?

7. What was it that helped you best connect in our ministry?

8. Do you feel like you were invested in the way you expect churches to invest in people?  What could we do better?

9. Was there anything in our ministry that made you feel uncomfortable or discouraged?

10. Do you feel like you were encouraged in our ministry?  If so, what did you find to be most encouraging?

If you desire to be more effective in what you do, ask for the faucet to be turned on.

Okay, time for a little survey here.  Just click on the type of resource that you feel like would be MOST beneficial to you as you lead your ministry. Take a little poll:

There is many common issues we all deal with in college ministry and same sex attraction is certainly among the top.  If you have longevity and trust with those you work with, you know this to be true.  Well, here is a fantastic…and I mean fantastic example of what a healthy relationship with someone who struggles with this looks like and the positive impact it can have in a church context.

Sin is serious, but…

 —  April 25, 2012 — Leave a comment

In college ministry we work with a lot of people that deal with shame and guilt.

Yesterday I taught on Mark 9:42-50 and talked about the seriousness of sin.  I defined sin for in two ways:

  1. to fall short of God’s perfect character
  2. to do, say, or think something God wouldn’t do, say or think
We talked about how when we recognize our sin and how seriously it offends God, we can be certain we are in tune with the Holy Spirit.  But, then we have to be careful.  We will “deal” with our sin in one of two ways: (1) in shame and guilt or (2) with Holy Spirit conviction.  I have a chapter on this in my next book coming out – more on that later.
Shame/guilt and conviction are not equals.  In fact they couldn’t be more opposite.  They stem from different “sources” and lead us to two completely different places.  I broke down the differences between these two in the following ways:
Shame and Guilt:
  • Views sin through the lens of arrogance and perfectionism.  In other words, we are ashamed of our sin because we feel as though we are “above” doing such things.
  • Counsels us to run from God because we sin.  We feel as though we have to work certain things out before we go to God.  We talked about how this is precisely the trap Adam and Eve fell into in the garden after they sinned.
  • Counsels us to harbor our sin.  Shame and guilt hold us back from confessing our sin to God or other people.  We don’t confess it to others because, viewing our sin through the lens of shame, we feel as though others will treat us different or hold it against us in some form.
Shame and guilt are real feelings that we all face to one degree or another.  But it’s not of God.  There is no grace in shame.  No Jesus.  No gospel.  No Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will help us recognize our sin, but He will not use shame and guilt as a motivator to deal with it.  Instead, He convicts us (John 16:8-11).  Here’s how I broke down conviction:
  • Views sin through the lens of humility and God’s grace.
  • Counsels us to run to God because we sin.  When we are convicted, we recognize our limitless weakness to be perfect and look gratefully to God’s grace.
  • Counsels us to confess our sin to God and to others.  We confess it to others as well for two reasons: (1) so that God can show us His grace through His people and (2) so that we experience the beauty of accountability.
Helping college students differentiate between these is vitally important.  Shame/Guilt will cause us to shrink back from God, the people of God and the work of God.  Conviction on the other hand will draw us to those things and allow us to freely engage in God’s mission.
Could be some good discussion over a cup of coffee with student today…

Leadership can be tricky.  And developing a formula is nearly impossible.  Everyone is wired differently and certain people can do things that work for them but are entirely awkward for others.  But to be an effective spiritual leader there are at least 3 things we cannot do.

(1) Put people’s gifting as higher priority than their character.  Spiritual leaders are concentrated and focused on developing Christ-like character before they are utilizing someone’s abilities/gifts in their ministry.

(2) Belittle others to make themselves feel better.  Spiritual leaders don’t look down on other people but instead serve them in humility, are heart broken over the areas they are failing and then seek to build them up with humility and grace.

(3) Have a Messiah complex.  Spiritual leaders don’t think they can do it all or fix everyone.  Instead they recognize where they are weak, bring others around them that are stronger than them in certain areas, and view themselves as a conduit that God sometimes uses.