Tag Archives: Missions

How to Plan a Student Mission Conference in 5 Easy Steps

In the past 7 years, we have hosted a student mission conference.  Basically, our goal is to encourage students to be missionaries at their schools, in their neighborhoods, and on their teams/bands/social platforms.  In order to do this, it takes creativity, planning, and organization.  Want to give it a try?  OK, then let’s get started…

  1. There’s No “I” in Team. Broaden your network, and network with others churches for an event like this.  For example, I contacted a missionary of a local parachurch organization and several other churches.  One larger church even offered to host, and it’s been at that church every year since then.
  2. Sharing is Caring. Once the network is established, don’t be afraid to share.  Put your ego aside, and share.  This might mean another youth group’s praise band leads the singing.  You might have other youth pastors be speakers.  Ask another church if they would host.  Be willing to share the responsibilities, and make it a collective effort.
  3. “Creativity is Intelligence Having Fun” (Albert Einstein). If this is going to be an annual event, you will need to get the creative juices flowing.  Each year, we have changed it up.  One year we had a special speaker.  Another year we allowed the students to pick their breakout sessions.  Another year we did a mock evangelism training event, where students received evangelism training and then entered a “cafeteria” to witness to students (youth leader actors).  Students come each year with a new experience.  I believe this has allowed this event to be successful.
  4. Free is Free. One year we had a special speaker, so there was some cost sharing for the honorarium.  But since then, with ministry sharing, each year the event has been free.  We cut the snack, speaker fee, and other costs to allow the event to be free each year.  This has made it easier to invite other churches when the event is free.
  5. Does the Bible Talk About The Gospel? Have trouble coming up with a theme?  Not with this event.  With the Gospel interwoven throughout the Bible, finding a theme has never been an issue.  Each year we take a different aspect of the Gospel and evangelism and allow that theme to drive our teaching portion of the event.

Bonus: For The Detail Oriented People in the Crowd.  We host it on a Wednesday night for 1.5 hours.  Sunday night would be another great option, keeping it in the regular youth program schedule.  Limit the praise time to 2 songs and have your icebreaker ask people are coming in.  This provides for more teaching time.  Keep prayer a focus of the night as well.

There you have it.  If you have any questions on how to plan this event, feel free to comment below.  It has been a real blessing to our youth ministry over the years, and I hope it will inspire you to plan a student mission conference in your ministry sometime soon!

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5 Ideas to Make a Mission Conference Go Well

MissionsConference538x303Give, Give, Give. Take the entire month prior to the mission conference and collect a special offering for the missionaries. Give a goal amount for each missionary/missionary couple to be given on the day of the conference.

Practical Gifts. I’ve heard stories of missionary conferences where their gifts are not useful, or even insulting. Why not give them gifts they can truly use? Give them gas cards, gift cards to restaurants, and grocery gift cards. These are things they need, not a Precious Moments calendar or a basket full of used Veggie Tales VHS tapes.

Short & Sweet. While I can see the benefit of a week-long conference, it lends itself to exhausting your people and the missionaries. The argument could be made to have that week as an opportunity to get to know the missionaries. Well, this can still be done in a shorter time span. For example, have a dinner for the missionaries on Saturday night and invite all the board members and their wives. Then, after the conference on Sunday morning, host a potluck dinner for your entire church family. This will provide ample time to get to know the missionaries.  Saturday night to Sunday afternoon is a reasonable time frame for a conference, and people leave refreshed and refueled, rather than ragged and run-down.

Children’s Conference. Host a children’s mission conference during the adult conference for the younger grades (invite older grades to join adults). This could be hosted by skilled children ministry volunteers, or by missionaries skilled in teaching children.

Team Effort. Form a mission conference team that divides and conquers. The organization of meals, gifts, and missionary correspondence takes more than just one person. Form a team that is passionate about missions, and divide up the tasks based on their skill set. Typically, it is not hard to find people who love missionaries in your church.

 

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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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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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