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Four Steps to Helping Students Live as Missionaries

 —  September 9, 2013 — 5 Comments

I like it when people pick up the tab for my food.

A guy named Doug approached me years ago when I transitioned into a church as its youth pastor. He’d been a faithful student ministry volunteer and wanted to start a friendship with me. We connected at a nice restaurant where we swapped stories and yapped about youth work.

We eventually got onto the topic of missions, and I learned that Doug had a heart for Alaska. He’d traveled there earlier that summer so he and his team could share Jesus with the locals and help villages prepare for the winter months. He wanted to take another trip there, this time rallying all our students to join in.

The only problem was I hadn’t been to Alaska and didn’t have any attachment to it. Doug could’ve been talking about Russia or China and my reaction would have been the same for the very same reason. I wasn’t invested into a process that gave me that vision.

Intentionality, if you will.

I awkwardly shared this with him, not to shoot him down but to ask how we could get kids to care about areas of the world beyond their own. It occurred to me (perhaps for the first time) that I’d never done this in previous churches and much of the enthusiasm for mission trips or certain areas of the world came from me. Students may have had good experiences once they jumped in, but it really required me asking them to get passionate about what I was passionate about.

Using Acts 1:8 as a model, we wondered, “What does Christ’s mission to reach ‘Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ represent to us?” We brainstormed a four-step strategy to warm the hearts of students toward doing more than events and trips but progressively thinking like a missionary. Think about how this plays out for your ministry:

  • MissionsOne-time local opportunities: How can you help students have a no-strings-attached experience in blessing others locally? Maybe it’s using a youth group night to do yard work for homes near your building, or perhaps it’s a Big Day of Serving event you bring to town. How could you give them their first taste of the joy of serving?
  • Area partnerships: Who in your area could you create a relational commitment with? For example, if you have a high number of teen pregnancies in your area should you partner with a Christian crisis pregnancy center? What about identifying an area or need close by for a Week of Hope project?
  • Drivable distances: Where could you take a road trip to help teens experience different cultures within your culture, so it still feels like what they know yet presents a different demographic or perspective? Is there a before-and-after story they can join into, such as a Group Workcamp?
  • Extended opportunities: What parts of the world should you care about and send teams to? Is there a ministry students could keep track of and hear regular updates on how their investment is paying off? For us, it was Alaska. For you, it may be something through LifeTree Adventures.

A process like this gives kids a taste of evangelism and serving at one level before they jump into the next. An obvious benefit is they can take steps forward as they’re comfortable. A hidden benefit is they don’t just go on a trip “somewhere else” without having a foundation of engagement where they live.

Intentionality, if you will.

Is this the one thing that’s missing in your approach to missions? Might some type of strategy like this or something else give you the forethought needed for the future to helps kids think about sharing Jesus today? I’d love to interact with you on this, so toss in your thoughts and let’s figure this out together.

Thank you for loving students!

– Tony

Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

5 responses to Four Steps to Helping Students Live as Missionaries

  1. This is something that has hit me in the past year, how involved we get in our “youth programs” and how much need there is around us. With the things going on globally and the Christians in persecuted areas around the middle east, I’d like to get my students to be less self-centered and get praying about God’s outpouring and how they can reach out. I think a start like this, locally, can get them thinking more about the people that need us to reach them and will probably inspire them to think about missions. There is so much to do, so many people to reach locally and outside the US and it is in our hands to teach our students to become part of this global revival at their young age.

    • Fran, I totally agree with you. I am praying that God will help us as leaders to prepare our students hearts for missions. My greatest desire is that they will begin to notice needs around them, even if it is just one student that they may go to school with that they are noticing needs help with something as simple as their homework. I know that the best way to get them noticing things is to get them into the field and cause them to realize that there are people all over our area’s that are in great need of help.

  2. My greatest downfall, when it comes to promoting and planning mission minded events is strategy. I am so bad when it comes to promoting mission based events that it seems like my kids miss it before it even gets here, and once it the day does arrive for us to go and serve none of my kids show up. My desire is to see all of them in the field actively serving in some capacity. But my struggle is preparing them and getting them excited to go and do it. I am trying to keep it from seeming like a chore, because I know they do enough of that at home. How can I strategize and get my students excited to do missions in our community? I want my students to be excited about going and doing something as simple as yard work for our neighbors. What have y’all found to be effective in preparing your kids for local missions?

  3. Thanks for this wonderful advice. I will definitely try to apply this into my ministry. Thanks, again!

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