Category Archives: Mission Trips

What I Learned on a Student Mission Trip to NYC

wol-logo-fullThis past week, I had the joy of leading a group of students to a mission trip to New York.  The beginning of the week was filled with hard work on the Word of Life Bible Institute Campus and Word of Life camps.  We mowed acres of land, and painted about a dozen cabins.  It was a full couple days of work.  Then, we took off for New York City to share the Gospel on the streets.  Here’s what I learned from this precious week of ministry…

No “I Can’t”.  We could have easily made this entire trip a week of work.  Painting, cleaning, and serving at the camp would have been a blessing to both our team and the camp.  We would have been physically stretched for sure, but these students needed something more.  This was a step of faith, and for some a terrifying step.  But they did it!  They shared their faith with complete strangers, handed out tracts to people passing by, and prayed with people who needed answers.  I saw fear change to boldness.  A boldness I hope will carry on to bring the Gospel here…and reach this city for Christ.

People Need the Lord.  Sorry for putting that famous Steve Green song in your head for the rest of the day, but it’s true.  There are people who are searching for something bigger, searching for hope, searching for joy, searching for forgiveness…and the list goes on.  And the Gospel can provide all these things.  God has provided a way of hope, joy, forgiveness and assurance of eternal life.  And people need this and many want to hear about it.GPS NYC tshirt design

God Controls The Weather.  I remember looking at the weather for our trip and seeing many days with rain in the forecast.  With good weather being of utmost importance, I just had to pray that God would work it all out.  Well, would you believe that it only rained when we were not doing ministry?  That’s right, it rained at breakfast one day, and on the days of travel.  Incredible!  God is truly in control.

I’m ashamed that I’m ashamed.  Why am I not sharing the sweet good news of the Gospel more?  Am I ashamed of the Gospel?  Am I too lazy?  Am I too busy?  If I’m honest with myself, it is probably a combination of the three.  There’s no reason why I cannot have more Gospel conversations.  It shouldn’t take 1500 miles of travel for me to be motivated to daily focus on sharing the Good News.  While I have the privilege of sharing Jesus regularly as a pastor, I fall way short of the faithful witness God wants me to be.

I love my “job”.  You may think I’m crazy for taking 7 teenagers into New York City (by the way, my wife was with us and she is amazing, and I brought another leader who was incredible on the trip as well).  Who would spend a week of their summer driving nearly 25 hours, staying up late, mustering up energy to get teens up (and yourself up), sleeping on cot mattresses on the floor…I LOVED IT ALL!  These teenagers bring me joy.  I get to see them share their hearts, help others, grow closer to God, encourage each other, fight through fears and frustrations, and come home changed.  I’m so very blessed to this for a living.

imagesSo for those that debate on doing short-term mission trips…do it.  Do it to find life-changing results.  Do it to change the culture of your youth ministry.  Do it to help spread the Gospel and the love of Jesus.  Do it because there is no lesson, program, or event you can design that does what these trips do.  The teens that got on that bus or van at the beginning of the week will be different when they step off that bus or van at the end of the week.  Go and make disciples of all nations!

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7 Lessons from my Mission Trip to Nicaragua

God’s Peace. When you are doing something that brings glory to the Father, He will give you the peace you need. Leaving your family and kids for a week is not easy. Leaving your wife and kids for a week to leave out of the country is a whole new level. I’ll be honest, it was a struggle to say goodbye as my little girls gave me their final hugs to their daddy. But, as soon as I entered the airport terminal, and immediate feeling of peace and security overwhelmed my spirit. God gave me His peace right when I needed it.

Sometimes Things Get Dirty. The low-light of my trip taught me a great lesson. I was having so much fun playing soccer with the kids after our gospel kid’s program. One of the kids kicked the ball to me, and as I attempted to head it into the “goal” (two tree branches in the ground), my back foot slipped out from under me and I landed head first in a huge mud puddle. I was covered in mud from head to toe. But it was in that moment that God taught me. The pastor’s son began to take off his shirt to give to me to wear…a young man, who I later saw wearing that same shirt (probably one of the few he owned) was willing to give up something for me, whom he just met. Talk about being humbled.  Not because I was full of mud, but by this young man’s willingness to give.  Lesson learned. Be willing to give, even when you have little to give.

Gratefulness. No running water for 4 days. Houses made of plastic and tin metal. Toilets flushed with a bucket. House walkways covered in trash ankle-deep. Kids abused and neglected. If I can’t have gratefulness after this experience…shame on me. And shame on me for any covetousness I will have for the rest of my life.

Significance of the Program. In America, a puppet program may be boring or even weird for the kids. After all, it’s tough to compete with Pixar, Dreamworks, and Sesame Street. But where we were, these kids had very little. It made our program more significant. Not because we wanted to the focus of the attention, but because we wanted to bring these kids something very special. It really put things in perspective.1966743_10152986984257345_1638882985323562529_n

Minister Like a Mission Trip. Oftentimes we go all out for mission trips and pour our hearts into these trips. There is no reason this should not happen here. Do I have the same passion for the kids in VBS, AWANA, and Sunday School? I hope so. But reality is, there are times when I become complacent. Lord, help me ministry everyday with a passion for sharing Jesus and his love with kids, in Central America, in Africa, and in America.

God’s Grace. When you see little kids bringing their toddler siblings to these programs, often feeding them with a bottle and putting them to sleep, you can’t help but see God’s grace. I saw God’s grace in how a little girl brought her twin baby brothers to a feeding center and the little boys did not make a peep. I saw God’s grace in a 5-year-old boy who brought a one year old to the children’s center and never heard the little girl cry. “Let the little children come to me”…well, I saw this happen right in front of me. I saw how God allowed these children to come, by His grace.

Be in the Moment. If I was transparent, there were times where I could have mailed it in, and just taken a rest from a full trip. One such moment was after teaching an adult Sunday school class in a small rural church. Instead, a little girl caught the corner of my eye. She was three, and as cute as could be. I reached my hands out during the final songs of the service, and she jumped in my arms. Her grandmother in front of me, with a big smile on her face. I asked where her mother was, and I recognized the Spanish word that came next…muerta. Her mother was dead, and the grandmother was taking care of her, and 3 other siblings. My heart broke as I held this little girl in my arms. If I would have mailed it in, I would have missed these hugs, I would have missed this story, I would have missed the opportunity to tell the grandmother I would be praying for her. Lord, help me be in the moment more in my life. I don’t want to miss these moments.

Thank you for all your prayers this past week. God truly blessed, and my life will never be the same. I’ve always said that mission trips are life-changing. And after this trip, I’ll say it with an even louder voice.

 

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Mocking Evangelism

What’s wrong with me, I’m currently reading a book called “Questioning Evangelism”, and I’m about to blog about Mocking Evangelism. Before you start throwing stones at your computer, let me straighten things out here. Questioning Evangelism is a book about using questions in evangelism. And I’m not encouraging mocking evangelism, but the use of Mock Evangelism events.
Mock Evangelism events are a staged event where students can practice sharing the Gospel with those they know and trust. How is it done? Well, let me help you explain by answering 3 Questions: Why, Where, & Who?evangelism4

Why? Maybe your youth ministry is different, but I’m entering my 3rd year in my current ministry, and when I polled the high schoolers, very few have ever led anyone to the Gospel. So I wanted them to learn how to do it in a “safe environment”. So the Mock Event allows the students to practice their gospel presentations with familiar faces before they go out and share with strangers.
Where? My goal is to make it real as possible. One time I set the gym up like a lunchroom, another was a park, and last year was the streets of Chicago. Also sounds are effective. So, in that lunchroom setting, I was the principal and would give announcements from the sound system. Or for a mission trip to Chicago, I showed slides with sights and sounds of downtown Chicago.
Who? In the past, I’ve mentioned the importance of intergenerational ministry.  Well, here is one way to accomplish bridging the generations together. Each time, I invite several adult small groups to come and participate. For the student lunch room, I had adults dress up like cheerleaders, athletes, or in goth costumes. For the park, one guy was passed out on a bench, another was painting portraits, and another was playing catch with his kids. BEST PART: Gave permission to adults to “step out” of character when needed and instruct or encourage the teen. Say things like “Here’s what you can say here” when they get stuck or “that was really good, keep going”. This is a real opportunity for natural discipleship/mentoring to take place.

Extra: Be Creative. Use sounds, people of your church, PowerPoint, decorations. Make it real, so when you do take your students out, they will be as ready as they can be. Cater to your Trip. For example: I knew part of the Chicago trip would be to invite people from their homes. So I had “actors” in side rooms ready to answer the door. The teens had no idea who they would meet on the other side. Hilarious! But it gave them experience of what they would face on the trip, and in real life.

Hopefully you can see the value of Mock Evangelism Events, particularly in the mission trip training process. However, I’ve used these events concluding series on the importance of sharing the Gospel. Please, don’t allow this event to be a replacement for the real thing, but as a training ground for your students to be sent out as missionaries in their homes, neighborhoods, schools, communities, and around the world.

 

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Evangelism Resources

In a previous blog on Evangelism, I mentioned the value of setting students up for Evangelism success.  Now, before I move on, let me just clarify.  There is no A + B = Angels Rejoicing in Heaven.  In other words, God is in charge, and it is up the Spirit of God moving in the heart of that individual.  A teen could have a perfect Gospel presentation, and the person listening could still say no thanks.

That being said, it is important you give your students the tools to succeed in evangelism.  One was mentioned here, giving you the website for the wordless bracelets and 4 points bracelets.  These are so valuable because you do not need to bring any materials, simply wear the bracelet for a visual presentation.  It’s like having a PowerPoint presentation on your arm.

share-Jesus-on-TwitterHere are 5 resources that I have used or have had recommended to me are the following:

  1. The Mission Ball – A soccer ball with the Gospel?  Many mission trips will have a language barrier.  This tool can break the ice, and with soccer being a universal sport language, this could be your ticket to a Gospel conversation.  Their website describes it as “simply a soccer ball covered with Biblical text. It includes the 10 Commandments, God’s simple plan of Salvation, and selected Scripture.”
  2. May I Ask You a Question Tracts – These come in multiple languages and are simple to use.  Many people who have used these tracts call them simple, clear, and effective.
  3. Solarium – Are you a visual person like me?  These tracts provide a visual presentation, by presenting the Gospel through pictures.  A tool developed by Campus Crusade, and is described on their website as 50, 4×6 original photographic images and 5 simple questions that allow you to enter and explore the lives of people around you.  Soularium is designed to create a space for authentic dialogue with people about their life and spiritual journey. It’s perfect to use with students, neighbors, co-workers, friends and family – people of all ages!”
  4. EE – 2 Diagnostic Questions – Use these questions to begin Gospel conversation:  1. Have you come to a place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven, or is that something you would say you’re still working on?  2.   Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”  What would you say?
  5. eCube – This cube designed Gospel presentation is great for child evangelism.  It’s easy to learn and use, and is a fun way to present the Good News.  This valuable resource also comes in a kids version.

So there you have it.  Help your students share Jesus with these five resources.  Set your students up for success.  Five fun ways to share the Gospel, which will re-energize the passion for the lost in your teens and provide learnable ways to share Jesus with others.

What about you?  What evangelism resources have you used in your ministries that have worked with teenagers?  Share in the comments section, and help others share Jesus more effectively.

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Evangelism Series – Mission Trips

Mission Trips.  What comes to your mind?  I can sum up my experience with these trips in two words:  life-changing and once-in-a-lifetime.  That’s right, I set the bar pretty high, but let me explain what I mean.

In presenting these trips to teens and parents each year, these are the two words I continue to come back to over and over.  Life-Changing.  It is rare that I see a teen, who has gone through training with the proper attitude and teachable spirit and that does not experience some type of spiritual life change (Barna Research agrees).  Once-in-a-lifetime.  How could I make such a claim?  Well, ask your parents, how often do you get to go to camps to serve for a week as an adult?  How often do you take international trips to Japan or Mexico?  Well, when you put it like that…I guess these trips are really Once-in-a-lifetime.evangelism3

So what about Evangelism?  How do you prepare the students to evangelize?  What tools have helped them feel equipped and ready to share the Gospel?  Here are steps to preparing your teens for evangelism for a mission trip.

  1. Train ‘Em.  Before I even start.  You must require each student to commit to mission training.  This training should last several months, and attendance is required.  (2 absences – extra assignment, 3 absences – meeting with parents, 4 absences – dismissal from team.  (Here are some previous article on mission training- here, here, and here)
  2. Can I Get a Witness?  You guys know this generation.  It thrives on community, relationships…while previous generations were centered on knowledge and facts…this generation seeks connections and a cause.  Well, that’s what a testimony can bring.  So, as part of your mission trip training, teach them how to give their testimony.  Both kinds of testimony – the obvious one and the most precious – when they gave their life to Jesus Christ.  But there is another – the testimony of what God is doing in their life now.  TEACH them how to develop these testimonies.  Have them write them out.  Have them share them with the group, with family, with friends…publicly in church or with in conversation with unsaved family & friends.
  3. Fool’s Gospel.  Make sure you are on the same page on what is the true Gospel.  There is some confusion as to what the Gospel is out there.  Guess what?  The Gospel is not giving to the poor, the Gospel is not helping your community…those are things that can lead people to the Gospel or can show the love that is in the Gospel…but not the Gospel.  The Gospel in a nutshell, is the Good News that Jesus, God’s only Son, who did not sin, died a painful death on the cross, to pay the penalty of sin, and provides forgiveness & eternal life in heaven for all those that repent and trust in Him.  It is not what we have done, but is all about what God has done in the finished work of Jesus…Our students need to know this.
  4. Tools For Success.  It is important we do not set our teens up for failure.  So, it is important we give them the tools to succeed.  For example – Wordless Bracelets, E3 Bands (My favorite), or 4points.  Have students wear these AND teach them how to use them.  Provide training on each color, what it represents, verses of support, and illustrations.  Practice within the group.  These bracelets have been so effective – I’ve had some of my students use them at children’s ministry events this year.  They set up a table and make the bracelets & share the Gospel with them.  All because they were given the TOOLS to succeed.  I don’t want these teens on the mission trip fishing with no bait on the hook.  With nothing to fall back on when they get nervous.
  5. Leave it to the Pro’s.  Bring in a professional.  If you are going to work with kids on the trip, bring in your children’s director (that may be you, I know) or an experienced Sunday school teacher, or someone with a teaching background.  Bring the generations together and allow that teacher to teach your students how to present the Gospel to kids.  (Intergenerational Ministry ).  Maybe you are going into a different culture.  Bring someone with that culture experience to teach them how they can be more effective with Gospel conversations.  (Example: Spanish Teacher from Community College)

Disclaimer:  Make sure your students are evangelizing at home too, and not just on the mission trips.  Remind them that every step they take is on the mission field.

 

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Mission Trip Responsibility List

misionesAs mentioned in previous blog posts, it is important to give the students responsibility on this trip, and raise the bar of expectations.  After all, it is called a STUDENT mission trip, not a Youth-Pastor-Led Mission Trip or a My-Parents-Made-Me-Go Trip.  It can be done a number of ways, but one easy way is to give a spiritual gift inventory, then use the results to give student responsibilities that fit their God-given gifts and responsibilities.  Before I give you list, keep in mind a couple of things:  Don’t underestimate these students, Don’t be afraid to let them fail (but not fall completely), and put them in charge of something.  Give them ownership…and here are some ways you can do that…here some examples of trip responsibilities:

Communicator/Trip Administrator: Keep the team current on what is needed at the meetings, keep the church updated on the progress of the team, and maintain home contact during the trip. (That was my job.)

Work Coordinators: Make sure all the stuff gets done in order for us to live. Organize efforts for bag lunches, clean-up, and make sure we have everything we need before going to a ministry site and again when leaving.

Team Encouragers: Make sure we “do everything without grumbling or complaining” and be available to team members when needed. Let them know they are appreciated and valued. Guard the morale of the team.

Communication Assistants: Assist adult leaders by leading tasks and communicating for them as asked.

Ministry Coordinators: Make sure presentation and programs are planned and executed in an orderly and excellent fashion.

Photographers/Videographers: Record images that capture the spirit of the team, the people, the culture and the sights of location to help us remember and to share the experiences with those back home.

Prayer Coordinators: Make sure the team is “praying without ceasing.” Take the initiative to bring the team together for prayer. Keep a prayer journal for the team, including requests, praises and answers to prayer.

Public Relations: Make sure we leave a good impression wherever we go. Prepare “thank you” notes for people we visit.

Praise Band Member: Assist the music leaders. Help lead music, teach hand motions, generate excitement for the songs.

Music/Band Leaders & Members: Need to find children music appropriate for program, come up with motions to songs, practice and know songs well, provide upbeat music portion of program.

Game/Prize: In charge of coming up with group games, organizing the materials, running the games, and distributing prizes.

Drama Team: Find or write a drama that fits the theme of the week.  Team members must memorize their lines, come up with prop ideas, and practice their skits/dramas regularly.  Organize dramas and practices.

Teaching Team: Organize supplies, including materials transportation. Make sure everyone has the proper materials, teach others on the team how to lead story, games, check inventory, etc.

Multi-media Team: Oversee sound equipment, including transportation from location to location, as well as projectors, setup, tear-down, etc.  Also will help with PowerPoint and videos when needed.

Crowd Supervisor: When not included in program, sit with the kids in the crowd, encourage participation, do the motions, create energy, and keep an eye on and control kids in crowd.

Hospitality Team:  Leaving a good impression wherever we go – hotel, conference, on the streets/neighborhoods, etc.  Also, need to make sure this is done during training & interaction at church.  PLEASE & THANK YOU’S ALL DAY LONG!

Cleaning Crew:  You are not a maid service.  However, you need to make sure rooms are neat, people pick up after themselves, & put stuff away.  We are sharing rooms, so don’t treat it like a bedroom.  A big part of your job is encouragement for the REAL maid service – leave thank you notes, and keep room reasonable.  (This applies to those staying in hotels, but can be modified to other mission trip locations)

Prop Set Leader:  Oversee equipment transportation, organizing props, setup, putting them away afterwards, etc.

Supply Team:  “Did we forget something?”.  Your job is to make sure we answer “no” to that question, both when we leave Columbus, and each time we leave the hotel.  Also, help keeping track of people.

Trip Mom: Covers what Youth Pastor/Leader cannot…be a mom to the kids.  This would include helping those that are not feeling well, those that get hurt, those that are crying, and other things that your Youth Pastor is poor at doing.

Team Secretary:  Keep track of all this is mission trip.  Help the Team Communicator and other program team leaders stay organized.  Will also help with organization of team meals and help assist the Schedule Administrator.

Schedule Administrator:  Make sure we are on schedule and not late to things.  Will update the team on what is next and where we need to be.  Will need to have a good handle on the schedule to update leaders & team.

 

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Mission Trip Training – 10 Steps to Prevent Disaster

What is the best way to prepare for a mission trip?  In a word…TRAINING.  You want to avoid the Romeo who tries to ask out the missionary’s daughter or the insurance deductible for what is left of the new orphanage wing…Well, here are 10 steps that will help prevent disaster and set the table for God to work.  (Disclaimer:  Accidents, Trials, and Difficulty can/will occur during mission trips, but there are some difficulty that can be avoided)MissionTrainingPortfolio

1.      Application Process

Mission Trips are serious business.  They must be handled differently than a trip to an amusement park.  You don’t just put a sign-up list on your bulletin board with cool font and clip-art graphics.  No, most of the trips are designed for those students serious about serving God and getting their hands dirty for Jesus Christ.   So what do you do?  You have an application process.  Have each student fill out an application, get references from their parents/guardians and another adult, and must be turned in by the deadline.  Following the application, have them interview with yourself (include parents & other leaders in the interview).  Lay out the expectations of the trip, the assignments, the attendance policy, and the behavior expected in each participant.  If the student cannot meet the expectations, it is in your and their best interest they are not part of the team.

2.      Here’s Your Notebook

Make it look official.  Give each student a notebook with the assignments, place for notes, support letter samples, contact information, prayer requests, release forms, etc.  Students will be able to keep their program assignments and other materials in one spot, and will be advised to take their folders on the trip.  Although it takes some work to put these notebooks together, it is well worth the effort.

Lessons for the notebook notes include Evangelism training, Bible studies on Missions, and assigned reading review.  Guest speakers from the church provide a great way to connect the generations in this effort.  I’ve had elementary teachers and children workers come speak on child evangelism, working professionals speak on leadership or give a “How to Paint” tutorial, and Spanish teachers teach us about Latin culture.

3.      Strict Attendance & Expectations

When I say strict, I mean it.  I give the students one excused absence from training which would include vacation, sickness, etc.  If they miss more than one, they will receive an extra assignment.  Two absences will result in a meeting with the parents.  Why so strict?  I want these students to take this trip seriously.  They will be representing Christ and our church in another state/country, and skipping training shows they don’t see the trip as important.

Also, as part of their attendance each time we meet, I ask each student about the following:  Devotions, Church Attendance, Book Reading, and other assignments.  If there is consistent neglect of these things, additional assignments, and/or meeting with the parents will occur.  If the negligence continues, the student may be dismissed from the team.

4.      Get Your Church On Board

Each year, we prepare a short 15 minute presentation to the church about the trip.  The students present the trip by preparing a PowerPoint, explaining the training, preparation, funds needed, and trip tasks.  A student also will pray for the trip following the presentation.  This shows ownership of the trip and the church will most likely get on board when they hear about the trip from the teenagers themselves.  (And when you get back, makes sure to organize a testimony service)

5.      Unwrap Gifts

unwrapThe last few years I have required that each incoming/new student fill out a Spiritual Gift Inventory.  Using the results of the inventory, I place each student in the groups that best suit their gifts and abilities.  Why would I place a shy introvert whose gift is serving in the lead teaching role?  Similarly, why would a type-A, brilliant communicator with a teaching gift be put in a primarily behind the scenes role?  Sure, there will be times when you go out of your comfort zone, but the primary role should be one that reflects their gifts and abilities, which will in turn allow them to reach their greatest potential for God’s glory.

Tasks and responsibilities could include/but not limited to:  Communicator, Work Coordinators, Team Encourager, Communication Assistants, Ministry Coordinators, Photographers, Prayer Coordinators, Public Relations, Praise Band Member, Teaching Team, Hospitality Team, Cleaning Crew, & Supply Team (Stay Tuned for Task & Responsibility explanation list later in the blog this month)

6.      Unity Doesn’t Just Happen

Unity takes so much work.  This past year we did a unity game and it was complete silence, frustration was high, and people were getting offended by their misuse.  But, we kept at it, continued to do unity games periodically in training, and the final unity activity gave me goosebumps…communication, laughter, leadership, encouragement…that was worth the effort.

7.      Provide Leadership Opportunities

Stretch your students to reach their potential in leadership.  Give them responsibility.  Allow failure, but be there to pick them up when they fail at times.  If the teens aren’t pushed and are not taken out of their comfort zone, your spiritual growth opportunity will decrease significantly.  Allow them to lead music, teach lessons, take the pictures, share the Gospel, lead the devotions…You let them lead, and it may be more work in the outset, but the blessings will be so much more than you ever expected.

8.      Practice Makes…It’s Never Gonna Be Perfect

This is a no-brainer.  You have to schedule time to practice.  Whether it is puppets, music, teaching lessons…give them time to practice during training.  Allow students to be leaders during these practices, particularly the upperclassmen running these practices of their particular part in the program.

9.      Don’t Forget About the Gospelmission-trip-checklist

Speaking of practice, give the students opportunity to practice sharing the Gospel, both real and imaginary.   Here’s what I mean.  Each year, I set up the gym like wherever we are going.  I typically ask 2 or 3 small groups to come and participate in a mock evangelism event acting like different kinds of people.  One year was a park in inner-city Chicago or New York, and other year we were at a camp with a whole bunch of adults acting like elementary kids.  It gives the teens opportunity to practice in a less-pressure filled environment.  As the teens mature and gain more experience, take them door-to-door or to local parks to talk to people about Jesus.

10.  Prayer

Last, but certainly NOT least, is prayer.  Inside the notebooks should be a list of prayer requests that you have for the trip.  Encourage students to pray for these regularly.  Design a prayer card with the team’s picture on it and send those out in your support letters.  Have those cards available in the lobby of the church for people to grab and put on their refrigerators.  Also, as seen in the responsibility list, designate 1 or 2 students to be prayer leaders.  Have these leaders design a prayer book for the trip, and during training have them lead the prayer time and also keep track of individual prayer requests along the way.

See 10 Keys to a Successful Student Mission Trip for more trip information and resources.

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How to Plan a Mission Trip Report Service

missions1In most church situations, members of the church contributed in numerous ways to the youth mission trip.  Whether it was being a faithful prayer warrior, donating materials, or contributing financially, the church as a whole was invested in the student mission trip.  Therefore, it is wise to dedicate a service to celebrate what God did on the trip.

Here’s how you plan such a service, and I broke it down into categories for you because I’m such a nice guy:

Music:

Depending on the talent and trip experience, you may not have the capacity of the youth being in charge of the music for the service.  If that is the case, then you simply have the normal praise team sing, play, and lead per the norm.

However, if music was a big part of your mission trip outreach, then by all means, allow the church to participate in what you have worked so hard to prepare and present on the field.  Even if it is children-centered music, so what!  Sing praises to the Lord!

I’ve done it both ways and they both are effective.  Again, it just depends on your circumstances.

Service Responsibilities:

This is an opportunity to teach your teens responsibility and also provide ministry training.  So, go all out and allow the teens to be ushers, door holders, sound technicians (supervised, if needed), lead the opening prayer, give announcements…and the list goes on.  Take advantage of being able to put teens in places during the main service, and hope that it sticks on a regular basis.  I’ve seen teens continue in the sound booth or do announcements periodically as a result of this opportunity.

Trip Recap:

It’s tough to pack in all the details into one sitting, but do your best.  Separate the trip training, the responsibilities and the trip days into smaller chunks.  Allow several of your students to explain each aspect of the trip, both preparation and the trip itself.

Testimonies/Message:

Typically, I say something to the effect of “this was a student mission trip, so you don’t want to hear from me, you want to hear from the students”.  And you know what, it’s true!  So get the students on stage and allow them to give their testimony.  Typically I ask for volunteers, but this year, each of them got on stage and said the following:  Name, Grade, # Mission Trip, Responsibilities on the trip, & lesson God taught them.  The impact this had on the church was astounding!  I’m still hearing great things from this!  Sure, many of the teens will be extremely nervous.  Sure, you may need to help them with their speech.  Sure, you may need to hand out paper bags for them to breathe into…but it’s worth it, and the parents will be thrilled.  If possible include leaders in this testimony time.  (Disclaimer:  I realize if your group is large, this is near impossible, so maybe have them each write/type it out and put in book form & have the older students or those that experience life change give testimony)

As for the message, if you have a student mature enough to present the message, then by all means.  Again, anything you can hand off to the students, then do so.  With this, please spend weeks up to the message helping prepare and craft the message with the teen.  Don’t leave them hanging to prepare for a message.  If a message is too big to handle for your students, then allow some to give short devotionals from the Scripture you studied in training or on the trip.

Video:mission-trip-Video1

Everybody likes a video.  Put some music to it.  And if you’re like me, you probably have students that could do this way better than you, so give them the pictures and video and let them have at it.

Other ideas: Include other summer activities within the time of testimony for those that worked at camps or those that were impacted by camp or summer conference.

There ya have it.  If you have more ideas, I’d love to hear from you.

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10 Keys to a Successful Student Mission Trip

Something you will hear me say often in reference to short-term mission trips (Barna research has my back on this one), “There is no lessonGPS logo 2013 I can teach or event I can plan that can do what a short-term mission trip can do”.  What I mean by that is this, the spiritual life change, the comfort zone breakdown, and the transformation that I consistently see result from these trips…it is hard to reproduce, and it certainly should not be replaced in our youth ministries.

Over the years, God has given me the blessing of being able to lead trips to inner-cities (Chicago/New York), overseas (Barcelona, Spain & Ireland as a student), and more local trips like the mountains of Kentucky and the campgrounds of Scioto Hills.   These are some lessons I learned along the way:

  1. Preparation is Key.  What if a doctor never studied anatomy…what if a bungee jump operator didn’t learn to tie a knot…what if a hairdresser never went to cosmetology school….the answer, they would cause a lot of damage!  And same with mission trips.  If you don’t prepare well in advance, you may just cause more damage than good.
  2. Give Expectations Up Front.  This isn’t a come to the meetings when you feel like it experience.  Each potential team member goes through an interview & application process.  As part of the interview, the applicant is given, in detail, all the expectations of the trip, from behavior to training requirements and assignments.
  3. Train Them.  Soon, I will need to write a detailed list of the mission training, but here are some highlights:  read a book together (ex. Crazy Love, Do Hard Things), unity training (see #5), mission training (curriculum like Prepare.Go.Live), Personal Evangelism Training, Guest Speaker with Professional Training, Trip Presentation to Church, Group Practices (Drama, Crafts, etc.), and accountability (see #4) to name a few.
  4. Keep Them Accountable.  They know the expectations (see #2), so keep them accountable.  Each time we meet for training, the team is asked about their church attendance, daily time with God, homework, and team responsibilities.  Sure, they miss every once in a while, but if it happens twice in a row, the student in warned, and extra assignments follow.  If it continues, a meeting the parents and possible dismissal from the team.  Behavior can also be a means of dismissal as well.
  5. Work on Unity Early.  You may thing unity exercises are silly, but you will thank yourself later if you start them early and often.  The transformation I saw from the first time we did the exercises to the last day, it honestly gave me goose bumps to see the difference.  It was because we worked at it.
  6. Open Their Gifts.  Something we do during training is a spiritual gift inventory and assessment.  Following that, I give each student responsibilities based on their gifts.  Ranging from team encourager to teaching team, each team is given responsibilities, but because their jobs are connected to their spiritual gifts, it allows them to have a better chance of success, and less chance of frustration.
  7. Raise the Ante.  One year I walked out on a limb and had students be in charge of certain groups and given leader responsibilities, such as drama leader or music leader.  Sure, I gave them guidance in the process, but I raised the bar in the preparation process, and boy did it pay off!  I saw some amazing leadership growth in those students.
  8. Never Underestimate a Teenager.  I can remember a shy 9th grader coming into my youth group.  He usually sat quietly during events & lessons, saying very little.  Well, as the years went by he began to grow, but still had a quiet, shy nature.  During his senior year, he signed up for the mission trip to Spain.  He was the sound/media leader, which fit his personality.  But, I felt he needed more, so I gave him the task of learning a magic trick for the park presentation.  That same shy, quiet 9th grader, I got to see him do a magic trick in front of hundreds of people, and use that trick to share the Gospel.  NEVER underestimate a teenager…give them opportunities, and push them to new heights in their spiritual lives!
  9. Can I Get a Testimony?  Every year we do a wrap up service for the mission trip for our church.  It’s great, because many in the church gave towards the trip and were praying faithfully (Prayer cards with a team picture are a wonderful idea), and they want to hear all about the trip.  In the past I have asked if anyone would like to share their testimony of what God taught them.  This year, I decided to have every member of the team, including leaders, give their testimony.  Man was that powerful!  Sure, there were some that were extremely terrified, but the audience, especially parents, was extremely grateful.  (Next week’s blog – How to Plan a Mission Trip Testimony Service)
  10. Life Transformation.  As I mentioned in the intro, there has not been a trip that has gone by that I have not seen at least one student’s spiritual life dramatically change as a result of the trip.  There has been dramatic change (not just a mountain experience either) that I have seen in students.  Students taking their summers to go back to the mission field we went to on the summer before or students saying they want to work at the mission we served at after college graduation.  What a blessing to see lives changed!  That makes the effort that goes into #1-9 worth it.

Special thanks to my youth pastor growing up who taught me many of these lessons early, so I didn’t have to learn the “hard way” all the time.  Love you PK!

 

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