College ministry in the summer can be an interesting beast to tame. Some of our ministries aren’t really affected by the summer months, others blow up with all their college students coming back home, while others go dormant because students go back home.
But one thing is common across the country when it comes to college ministry and summer: mission trips. So, what I thought I’d do here is issue a caution, a suggestion, and then a focus point for you as you prepare your teams.
Caution. Mission trips can be wonderful things for everyone involved. Our churches can be impacted, those that go on the trip can certainly be changed, and those we serve can really be helped. But it’s important to make sure we are not teaching the wrong thing. The mission field is not somewhere other than where we live! We all live on the mission field, it’s called planet earth. So, a quick word of advice as you prep your teams: make sure they are beginning to view themselves as missionaries where they live, now. The trip can be a part of that process, but we must be intentional with making sure our mindsets are correctly aligned with God on this. God is doing things all over the world and, like every other missionary on the planet, God uses us where we live. If we don’t think God wants to use us where we currently live, we need to move.
Suggestion. Mission trips are packed with service opportunities, which is a wonderful aspect of these times. However, we often miss a fantastic opportunity with college-age people on our mission trips: exposure. Many people, especially in America, have huge misconceptions of what it means to be a missionary. We think missionaries are all people working out in the bush somewhere with people who have bones in their noses. Well, college students need to experience otherwise. They should meet someone with a 4-year degree volunteering in a nursery, holding, changing and feeding babies. They should meet someone who is a computer whiz running the IT for a school. They should spend time with someone who is teaching orphans the construction trade or mechanics. It would be wonderful if they met a person with a 4-year art or music degree teaching children in an orphanage.
This type of exposure is critical for college students. By being exposed in these ways they can literally see how their “field” of interest could potentially be used for the benefit of someone else rather than just for themselves. This is so critical that I would even suggest doing trips with the sole purpose of exposing students in this way.
Focus Point. A critical aspect of college ministry is helping students move from only having relational connections in the student ministry world to having relational connections in the adult world. By doing so they are exposed to older adults who they can learn from, glean wisdom from, and look up to. That to say, invite an older adult or three to go on the trip with you. Hand pick a few that you think would be great for college age people to be exposed to. Don’t invite them to be chaperones. Invite them to join the trip as your friend and have them be a part of the team just like everyone else. This way they can actually build relationships with no barriers.
These types of relational connecting points have to be taken advantage of when working with college students. And time away for a week or two on a trip like this is pretty much the prime time for life long relationships to start.
Thanks for loving college students!
Chuck / @chuckbomar