Food for Thought

Having just finished a humongous fudge-like brownie one night around 10:00pm, I was inspired to write about youth conventions, high school mission trips, camps, retreats and the like.

Earlier that day, I had a well-balanced meal complete with a side salad, broccoli and a great main course full of protein in the shape of a pulled pork sandwich. Therefore, my decision on the brownie was based on a desire to feed my sweet tooth. The brownie was so rich, I was enticed to have coffee with it (did I mention it was 10:00pm?) and then couldn’t sleep, thus, the analogy and this article.

When you plan to take your youth group on a faith-forming trip, what form of spiritual nourishment does it take?

The fudge-like brownie? This type of nourishment is full of empty calories that give a rush for a short time then leave students feeling down and spiritually sluggish after the superficial energy wears off. Does your faith-forming mission trip create spiritual cavities, holes of disillusionment, that need to be repaired later?

The garnish? No one eats that leaf placed on the plate for decoration. On a dare, I have watched a many 13 year olds eat it and wince with regret. When a youth group trip is placed on the calendar because it’s a tradition or an expectation, it can be a great looking symbol but lack substance, leaving a bitter taste. Make sure it is on the calendar because of God’s leading or don’t put it on at all.

The main course? I might pity this situation more than the others mentioned so far because so many eggs are in this basket (sorry to introduce breakfast into the analogy – now I’m hungry again). The youth leaders with this mentality believe the short experience stands on its own. Their group goes, grows and comes back, but the experience isn’t tied into anything before or after. The summer youth trip was viewed as a complete spiritual meal like a TV Dinner – just pop the students into the microwave discipleship of a van ride, confined space and compressed relationships then return them to everyday life.

A compliment or supplement? Here’s where I think the experience (or event) belongs. You serve up main courses all through the year – at youth group meetings, bible studies, Sunday services, Profession of Faith classes, etc. Through mentoring relationships and service opportunities, in their own community, students have well-rounded, regular “meals”. They even get the dessert or fast food now and then as you live life in community as Christ-followers. Then, the faith-forming event is a supplement or a compliment to their spiritual intake. It’s meant to give them a boost so you make the most of the momentum, integrating what they learned from new ideals and experiences into every day life.

They can take this supplement four to five times per year through mission trips like Serve, attending a convention like Live It and then your own fall retreat or camps as well.

The ideal is that your students would enjoy full spiritual meals with you every week of the year.