Beyond the details of planning for a youth service trip is one of its most essential elements: building enthusiasm. A youth mission trip may be one of the most positive and memorable experiences a young adult encounters. We need the youthful gifts of passion and creativity to align the church in the mission of God.
Here are seven ways to empower and encourage your youth as you partner with them on your short-term mission trip:
1. Make a list of the people (or the person) they most admire and their qualities.
Once they have this list, urge them to strive to achieve the most essential qualities. The list of distinctive attributes stimulates interest and propels them toward goals they can accomplish. Keeping these qualities top of mind can make for a more meaningful mission trip experience.
2. Spend time in prayer.
One of the most uncomplicated methods to deepen your youth ministry is to increase your commitment to prayer. Students, youth leaders and adult volunteers alike can all benefit from extended times of worship before, during and after their trips.
3. Reduce fear of failure.
Encourage teens to step outside their comfort zones. The critical element of the youth service mission is to get to know the people they are helping. It’s okay to ask questions. Remind them they might make a mistake. Guide them to continue on in a new way rather than seeing it as defeat.
4. Share and reflect before sleep.
Take time at the end of every day to think deeply about the day. Share accomplishments, tell stories, ask questions and answer concerns. Give a brief update on the next day’s schedule to set expectations for the morning and build excitement.
5. Develop a student leadership team.
Recruit highly determined teenagers with raw skills and train them to use their gifts as leaders. This responsibility builds confidence and shows them their opinions and ideas matter.
6. Plan after-hours activities.
When the work is done, encourage your youth to collaborate and create. Encourage them to pair off or form groups to create a skit or dance, write a song, play a game or do something else creative to share with the rest of the group.
7. Formalize reflection and feedback.
Recommend everyone keep a short journal to reflect and record thoughts during the trip. Or instead, send your youth group home with some open-ended questions to reflect on. Meet a week after the youth mission trip to celebrate and formally share the trip’s outcomes, new knowledge acquired and insights. You could also create an online survey to gather more information about your group’s experience during the mission trip.
Mission trips can be life-changing. Whether you attend a SERVE mission trip experience or another kind of short term mission experience, giving your youth group some preemptive things to ponder steers them from spiritual apathy and self-absorption and into a deeper relationship with Christ. During the trip, and after, keep up the reminders to focus on God and keep their eyes open for what he’s doing in their hearts and lives.
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