One part of my job I love most is being the coordinator for summer missions groups who come to serve our ministry. It’s awesome to help a group of students see what “inner city” ministry and service looks like in Florida. Inevitably as the week starts to wind down, the emotions start to flare. Tears start to flow from even the “toughest” of the group. There is simply something about getting away to only focus on Jesus and His heart that becomes an incubator for growth.
Yet, there is an unfortunate piece to “going home.” All of the emotions have not been fully processed. Students don’t know how to talk to their parents about “feelings” when they don’t even really “get” what is going on in their heart. Many groups don’t meet in a way that is about “going deeper” in the summer.
How can we help students with their emotions after the trip?
Make Sure To Debrief Well:
Debrief both at the end of the trip and again a week later. What is God stirring up in their soul? Is He drawing them closer? Has He helped them see something they have never seen before? Come up with ways to really help them process. Provide journals to write or draw in. Set them up in very small groups if at all possible of one to three to discuss what they are thinking and feeling. Get them talking. During the trip, I lead students through different questions they answer on index cards. I collect them daily. Then two weeks post trip, I mail them to the youth pastor to give out, to help continue the process.
ONE Action Step:
Often times conviction slams a student in the face on a trip. They want to come home to “DO” and “BE” more. The problem is they try to take on everything they want to change at once and then crash. Help them with ONE thing that helps them move forward. What is ONE change they can make? If they never read their Bible, can they start with one verse, one chapter, one “something” to help them keep reading? Help them with the “ONE” and put it into action IMMEDIATELY.
Emotions Are Good:
I believe God gave us the ability to cry and feel because it is a way we are created in His image. Sometimes students just need to know that having strong feelings is “normal.” One friend was telling me recently about his own child who attended a pretty incredible trip. The first day back they expected their teen to be silent. Well instead they were talkative wanting to share every detail. It was a day later, in the middle of lunch when the tears came and the sobs hit. Let students know each of them will process differently. They may laugh and cry at the same time. Yes- even the boys. Totally natural. Prepare students for this, let them know it’s coming and give them aids to think it through while at home. Do they need to write, draw, sing, make math equations, or play basketball? Whatever they do, they need to process. Make SURE to send materials home to help parents know how to help as well. (Leadertreks has some great resources for this.)
Most importantly, remind students the trip isn’t the “end” it’s the “spark” to more. Our theme this past week was “Momentum.” We discussed building momentum each day in serving the Lord and living with Him and then how the trip as a whole built momentum to a further journey with Christ. What is He doing in their lives now? How is He talking to your students? Use the trip to continue to build momentum in your student’s relationship with the Lord.