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:
- One-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!