THEME: The Unshakable Kingdom: For the King and the Kingdom
THEME PASSAGE: Hebrews 12:25-29
“25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.””
Jesus loved teaching about the Kingdom of God. There are 31 parables in the Gospels. 23 (nearly 75%) of them are about the Kingdom of God! When his disciples asked him how to pray, he taught them to pray for the kingdom of God to come. And after Jesus’ resurrection, before he ascended to heaven, he spent 40 days talking about the Kingdom of God.
This week at SERVE, we are going to dive into learning more about the Kingdom of God that was clearly so important to Jesus and gave fuel to his ministry here on Earth.
In the book of Hebrews, we read that the Kingdom of God is unshakable!
“There are very few things in the world which can accurately be described as unshakable, or unmovable. Today we can dynamite them, blast them into oblivion, or if they are immaterial, we apply pressure to get something or someone to change. There is no such thing as an immovable object meeting an irresistible force so when something is described as unshakable or unmovable, you had better pay attention.”
In a world that can feel so shaky and unstable, we need to be reminded that the God we serve invites us into a Kingdom that is unshakable and secure. This week at SERVE we will learn more about the qualities and habits of those who are called to participate in The Unshakable Kingdom!
The Unshakable Kingdom we receive from God is not just something that affects our future. It affects our here and now as well. It’s not just something we experience when Jesus returns. It is a part of our everyday, mundane life. It’s not just something we participate in on Sunday mornings or at youth group. It shapes our work, our play, our being.
SERVE 2019 was one of the most influential weeks of my life. Seeing the broken state some people live in is one thing but having the opportunity to help them and change their way of life is entirely different. We made a difference, even if all we did was weed a few rows of a community garden or paint the walls of a non-profit organization. And making a difference made a difference in me.
I was cautious to go on this trip. It was very out of my comfort zone. Then, when I found out no one from my church was in my SERVE small group, I was even more discouraged. However, as soon as I met my small group and spent one day with them, I knew I was here for a reason. The people I worked with and got to know were some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and I quickly realized God sent me on SERVE to do good.
God sent me to a small church in Muskegon, Michigan both to help people and to grow, myself. I learned more about myself in those seven days than I have in my entire life. I learned to not take things for granted. I learned that God works miracles in the strangest of ways. I learned to get out of my comfort zone and talk to people. And I learned to make friends, even if it’s just for a week and I might never see them again.
With each service project – every time we handed out yogurt at the church or cleaned a lot – we made a difference, and I was so encouraged. It might not have been much, but it was something, and it was hopefully enough to encourage others to follow our footsteps, too.
One little nudge can make a change in someone’s life, like the way my life changed at Muskegon SERVE. If the people of Muskegon saw us planting a garden and growing food, it shows them that it’s possible. If the kids at Muskegon Heights High School saw that people were willing to help them, it shows them they can help people, too.
Muskegon SERVE was just one week, but the people I worked with have been doing this for years. They have dedicated their lives to helping their community and are very passionate about what they do. They work so hard with so little. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to see, and talk to, and help these people. It’s changed who I am, and I hope everyone gets a chance to have a similar experience. If you ever get the opportunity to go do good, do it. It will be beyond worth it.
[This is an excerpt from the Fall 2019 Magazine. To read more stories CLICK HERE]
Coming home from a youth mission trip can be much like falling off a mountaintop and walking away very disoriented. You have experienced so much in such a short time that coming back to real-life can be a letdown.
One way to prevent disorientation is to spend some time in reflection and share your experience with others. Below are a few questions to ask yourself and your trip companions as you try to process your experience and integrate what you learned into daily life.
1. What are the top three things I will miss from my mission experience?
Mission trips often come with new friendships, a new love for the location you were in and a spiritual high. While we know that the trip can’t last forever, it is okay to think about what you will miss about being there. Recognizing things that will be missed is also a good way to think about what you may do differently at home.
2. What are the top three things I’m most thankful for at home?
Maybe you are really thankful for your family, your home church, the school you go to or that you have a stable place to eat and sleep each day. Spending some time to reflect on these things will help you have a greater appreciation for all that you have been blessed with!
3. What is one thing I want to remember from this experience?
We hope that we will remember it all but we also know that our memories can fade over time. It’s important to think of some of the highlights and make note so that you can hold onto this impactful experience for many years to come.
4. What do I feel like God was communicating to me during this time?
Do you feel like you learned a big lesson or felt a little nudge? Are you leaving with a renewed conviction to spend more time in the Bible or to get connected with a non-profit at home? Sometimes you don’t even realize what God was trying to tell you until you take a little time to process your experience.
5. Who will I share with when I get home so I can be held accountable for continuing this growth?
We are not meant to go through life alone. Talking about your experience and the things God communicated to you throughout the trip with someone you trust can be a great way to follow through on the promises you have made yourself.
Take the time to reflect on your mission trip
As you ask these questions really reflect on your experience. You may notice lessons that you learned without even being aware at the time. Maybe you want to write down some notes about the benefits of your experience and your answers to these questions so that you can look back on it in a few months.
After you have spent the time reflecting on your experience and preventing the disorientation, you will want to think through the conversations you will have with people at home. You’ll want to be ready to share one story about how the week impacted your life. When people at home ask, “What did you do?” they often really mean, “Whom did you serve, and how did the week impact your life?” Be ready!
Above all, don’t let all the transformation that you experienced during your mission experience fall away when the trip is over. Be intentional about bringing it home with you and always remembering the lessons God was teaching you.
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.
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.
Here are 5 ways you can pray in preparation for your upcoming mission trip.
1. Pray for the relationships that will be formed and strengthened by this experience…
“Lord, I pray that during this experience you would fill me with compassion, generosity, kindness and respect as I interact with the people I encounter. Teach me to look at the heart of people – the way you do – instead of judging by outward appearances. Give me sympathetic ears and observant eyes to be sensitive to the needs of those around me. Lastly, help me to remember this is a temporary community, cherishing the time I have with others while holding the knowledge that we will all go our separate ways soon.”
(1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 17:17)
2. Pray for your time at the worksites…
“Dear Father, enable me to understand and appreciate the situations I am walking into at worksites this week. Give me humility, wisdom and respect as I interact with others so that I will not offend anyone involved. Empower me to work with all my heart for you, Lord. Guard me against laziness, inattention, frustration, unrealistic expectations and other attitudes that can get me off course.”
(1 Corinthians 10:23-32; Colossians 3:23)
3. Pray for the times of worship and spiritual encounters during the week…
“Jesus, grant me a renewed joy in knowing you this week. Strengthen me to speak God’s Word boldly and to be prepared to explain my hope in Christ. Speak to me during devotions, through my small group and at the evening worship. Help me to grow in the fruits of the spirit during this week and carry these lessons home so that my faith would continue to grow and strengthen in the months to come.”
(1 Peter 3:15; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:22-23)
4. Pray for safety in the travel to and from the mission trip…
“Lord, I praise you that you do not sleep as you watch over me. Keep me and my group physically safe and healthy as we travel. Please provide me with patience and flexibility if things do not go according to the plan.”
(Psalm 121; James 4:14-16; Philippians 4:6)
5. Pray for the leaders on the trip…
“Heavenly Father, I pray that you would provide encouragement to the leaders and organizers of our mission trip. Help them remain faithful with the things you’ve entrusted to them. Let them set examples in speech, life, love and faith. Give them discernment to deal with any problems that may arise.”
(1 Corinthians 4:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:12)
We believe prayer is always impactful and hope that these prompts help you find a healthy state of emotional and spiritual well-being before you set off on your experience. Also, don’t forget to continue praying during your trip and as you head home.
Other resources to help you prepare for a mission trip include:
7 Things to Do When Planning a Mission Trip for Teens
If you’re planning a mission trip for a youth group, it can seem overwhelming. Based on our experience, here are things to consider when planning a mission trip for youth:
Check dates with parents early in the process.
Even before October 1 of the year before the summer mission trip, begin asking parents if they have a family vacation planned or know of camps/activities in the summer you should plan around. Don’t just ask the students to ask their parents. Go to the parents directly. This gives you a good contact with them and avoids miscommunication.
If you do not have a budget worksheet for your mission trips, ask your church treasurer to help you create one or call a youth ministry veteran. This is essential to your planning and fundraising. Raising funds is an important work of missions. Here’s some fundraising ideas for youth mission trips.
Raise prayer support.
Every summer there are over 1,500 students and youth leaders who go on SERVE, and we estimate there are more than 5,000 adults who support them in prayer. You might even put your vision, the intended outcomes and a bit about your team and your Host Church in your church bulletin before and after your trip.
Plan your post-trip process in three parts:
Debrief, follow up and follow through. This will help students understand what they think and how they feel about the trip and also help them integrate what they learned during the trip into their everyday life. See the SERVE Post-Trip Plan in the Resource Box for this process.
Most importantly, change the thought from “Where should we go?” to “Let’s make disciples!”
When thinking about mission trips for teens, don’t get caught in the short-sited thinking of just planning a trip. Start with your heart to disciple your students in missional living that lasts a lifetime. Add to that your desire to serve and submit to the host church or ministry, and consider the 7 standards of excellence.
Whether you’re looking to start a mission trip for teens or organize a service trip for them, as you ponder the mission trip being one aspect of discipleship, consider the following:
How can your students plug into the existing community outreach of your church or help advance it?
What experiences will teach your students how to minister in their own back yard?
How can they see the strengths and needs of your own community?
Consider planning a mission trip this summer that will help expand their understanding of how God works through churches to reach a community.
Then, build toward that trip with some late winter and spring service projects in your own backyard.
Plan to go back to those service projects in August – October to follow up relationally, and perhaps continue through the rest of the school year.
You might consider a very local mission trip for your students in middle school, then a regional one for grades 9 and 10, and a longer distance trip for your older students. Or, keep them all together and go local, regional and long distance progressively.
You do not have to leave the country to learn about another culture!
No matter where you live in the United States or Canada, you can find first/second generation immigrants (or possibly first nation people groups) to learn from and serve with. In fact, Youth Unlimited has some customizable mission trip locations in the US and Canada that include cross-cultural learning.
Your mission trip and service projects are like fence posts. They won’t do much good without the rails of ongoing mentoring relationships (in missional living) and solid week-to-week Bible teaching.
Add into your curriculum Bible content on missions, missional living and stories of those who live life on mission. The Youth Unlimited Resource Box has suggested pre- and post-trip teaching sessions. Talk about, or even bring in and interview, the business leader who sees their career as missions,\ or the pregnancy center director or the prayer warrior for your missionaries, etc.
Are you planning a youth mission trip?
Get a FREE copy of the Complete Guide to Planning a Youth Mission Trip. This complete guide will help make you plan your youth mission trip from beginning to end!
We believe that whether mission trips help or not depends on the type of mission trip you have. Real lasting impact is never accomplished in a week. This is why we partner with local churches to provide our SERVE mission trips! All our sites are run by volunteers who live and work in these communities all year long.
We believe that SERVE mission trips provide a two-fold impact:
On the individual involved in SERVE. We hope that each student and adult:
Become doers of the Word and not hearers only
Become justice conscious, meeting needs while being introduced to the root causes and concerns
Grow in their personal faith
Continue serving others when they return to their home church and community
On the relationship between the church and the community. We hope that the week of SERVE helps them to:
Identify community assets and needs
Provide an infusion of energy to their mission, vision, and outreach efforts
Help deepen personal relationships and partnerships within their local community. Our host sites are encouraged to partner with ministries that they have an existing relationship with and allow this group of teenagers to bring energy and excitement to the long-term partnership.
Keep It Safe: Make photocopies of your passport’s identification page and/or of your identification cards, and keep the copies separate from the original when you travel. For added security, leave a copy with a friend or relative at home.
Traveling with Minors: Any adult who is not a parent or guardian should have written permission to supervise the child from the parent or guardian, as well as the child’s identification, and carry it with them. A letter would also facilitate entry for any one parent traveling with their children. This permission letter should contain addresses and telephone numbers where the parent or guardian can be reached. (Example Consent to Travel Form – find more forms and resources here) It is strongly recommended that the letter is notarized.
In year’s past, we have required that all Adult Leaders (21 and over), as well as host team members, have a background check on file with their church. This year, in order to have better accountability and peace of mind at our sites, we are requiring that a copy of each background check be sent directly to our office.
We are also changing our definition of “current” to three years instead of five. (For the 2019 season the background check must have been completed after June 15, 2016)
For more information and details on how to get a background check CLICK HERE.
The Cost of SERVE
For many years, we have been able to keep the cost of SERVE steady at $360 USD. Because the cost of living continues to increase we have raised our price to $375 USD* for 2019 youth mission trips. This price increase will allow us to continue providing you with quality experiences as well as increase the amount our host teams receive in order to cover their costs for the week. *These reflect the cost of a high school SERVE site before April 1st. Please double-check the site description page of the site you are attending to confirm the price.
Revised 3 Step Registration Process
Step One: Save Your Spots!
Step Two: Complete Your Online Paperwork. This must be done by March 31, 2019, or there will be late fee charges.
Step Three: Payment Due. Payment in full for all SERVE Sites is due on May 15, 2019.
We are excited to be piloting a sending church leader training program for the 2019 season. These short videos will help your Adult Leaders prepare for the SERVE week, covering topics such as what it means to be a small group leader, leading with integrity and modeling a safe culture.
Looking for fundraising ideas for a short-term mission trip or church youth group?
Your church group is going on a mission trip. That’s exciting! But, it can sometimes be difficult for leaders to brainstorm ways for your group as a whole (or individuals going on the mission trip) to raise enough money to go.
We’d like to help you easily come up with some ideas.
Here’s a free list of 110 creative fundraising ideas for youth mission trips or other church group mission trips to get you started.
Sign up on an online fundraising website. Numerous sites allow potential donors to conveniently contribute to your cause. Example: GoFundMe.com.
2. T-Shirt Sale
Design a t-shirt and host a sale for your friends, family and members of your church community.
3. Movie Night
Host a movie night at your church and encourage admission by donation.
4. Use Social Media & Email
Online social media (ex. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), blogs and email (yes, really!) are great ways to not only increase awareness of your efforts but also many of these outlets provide their own ways to raise funds or contribute to your cause.
5. Partner with a Restaurant
Many local restaurants offer fundraising opportunities, with a portion of the sales going to your cause.
6. Garage Sale
Ask friends, family members and members of your church community to donate items and host a garage sale (yard sale). You could host this in your church’s gym or fellowship area.
7. Hold a Competition
Sporting events are great ways to get the community and youth involved in an exciting way. Small prizes for the winners can foster the competitive spirit.
8. Car Wash
Get permission to host your car wash in a safe, moderately trafficked area. Buy supplies and make signs to promote the event.
9. Wall of Giving
Using index cards, fill a wall with numbered cards for people to select and donate the amount from the card.
10. Wrap Christmas Presents
During the Christmas season, some stores will allow you to set up a gift-wrapping table by donation.
If you know any hairdressers, hosting a cut-a-thon is a great way to raise funds. Ask him or her to donate a day to volunteering to cut hair for donations.
22. Pancake Breakfast
Host a pancake breakfast at your church for the community to come to, and have the funds contribute to your cause.
23. Service Board Day
Create a service board, where church members can post jobs they need done, with the price they are willing to pay. Other church members can then select and complete the jobs, with the proceeds going to your fundraiser.
24. Dodgeball Tournament
Host a dodgeball tournament with a small fee, and have your youth students invite their friends to it, for an enjoyable and exciting activity.
25. Talent Show
Encourage the members of your church to come forward with their various talents, and put on a show for the community to raise funds.
26. 5k Run
5k Runs and Fun Walks are great ways to raise money for your cause while also encouraging the church body and local community to stay active.
27. Chili Cookoff
Host a chili cookoff, with members of your congregation competing for the title of best chili chef! Make sure they cook extra, as the remaining chili can be sold off for more proceeds.
28. Mystery Dinner Theatre
Have your youth students put on a performance, while hosting a dinner for the guests. The dinner-and-a-show combination can even double as a great outreach to your community.
29. Christmas Tree Lighting
Have a tree-lighting event at Christmastime, with a by-donation entrance fee.
30. Craft Sale
Every community has their fair share of craftsmen! Have members of your church body put on a craft show, with the proceeds from the items sold going to your cause.
Host a trivia night at your church, with snacks and refreshment s. It can be Bible trivia, general trivia or whatever category of trivia you prefer! A small entrance fee and charges for refreshments could make a very successful night.
32. Book Sale
Ask members of your congregation to donate books and then host a book sale, open to the community, at your church.
33. Karaoke Night
Host a karaoke night at your church and charge an admission fee or ask for a donation. This is a great event to pair with a raffle.
34. Envelope Fundraising
Set up a display of envelopes numbered 1 – 100. People choose an envelope and put that amount of money into the envelope
35. Lemonade Stand
Set up some lemonade stands in your local community for those hot summer days, with youth members rotating shifts. Encourage homemade lemonade for a more meaningful experience.
36. Carol Sing
Have your church choir, youth worship band or various church members organize a caroling group around Christmastime and carol through your local community. Ask for a small donation after each house you stop at. Or, host a Christmas carol sing-along at church.
37. Recipe Book Sale
Collect a list of recipes from friends, family members and your congregation. Compile the list into a recipe book and sell to members of your community.
38. Sub Sale
Hosting a sub sale is a great idea for around the Super Bowl! Take orders from members of your congregation and your group can make and deliver pre-ordered subs.
39. Rake Leaves
When fall comes around, offer to rake leaves for local homes, and contribute the proceeds to your fundraiser.
40. Work For It!
Have youth members look for part-time or full-time employment, with part of their wages going towards the outreach.
41. Thanksgiving Dinner
Host a Thanksgiving dinner open to members of the community and charge an admission fee.
Offer to mow local properties in the spring and summer to raise funds.
43. Ice-Cream Social
Host an ice-cream social at your church, with a small entrance fee.
44. Gift Card Raffle
Host a raffle, with the prizes being gift cards to local establishments.
45. Parent’s Night Out
Parents can drop their kids off at the church for a night out. The mission’s team members plan activities and snacks for the kids. Participation in this night can either be donation based or an amount per child.
The fact is – your mission trip begins when you decide it does. If you are called to do good in the world, your fundraising should also at its core be centered in service.
Raising funds for a youth mission trip can be challenging, yet, keeping service in mind, there are many ways to meet your financial goals. You can..
Auction off items donated by church community families and/or local businesses.
Offer to host a Spaghetti Dinner night at your church – everyone likes homemade meal!
A service board would allow church members to post jobs they need done with the price they’re willing to pay. Youth group members can then select and complete the jobs, with the proceeds going to your fundraiser.
I have a confession; I am terrible at self-care. I have a suspicion that I’m not the only one. Too often female youth leaders are the worst offenders when it comes to neglecting rest. We care for our families and then turn around and care for the leaders and students in our churches and communities. There is always so much to do and too few hours in the day. And yet, God in his wisdom, requires us to rest, to Sabbath every week.
It’s often during our busiest times that we need to rest the most. And while every week is busy, the busiest week of the year, in my experience, is always the week of the Youth Group summer mission trip!
So, how does a person sneak in a little self-care during a week that demands so much and allows for zero alone time? I discovered a little trick, by accident at first, but it has now become a self-care mission trip habit!
Before leaving on the mission trip I make a quick visit to a store that sells my favorite soaps (LUSH), shampoos, conditioners and lotions (AVEDA). You know, the stuff you normally don’t buy because it requires a little more time and money. I only purchase the small travel size bars and bottles and immediately pack them into a suitcase. Since the only 5 minutes of alone time any adult gets on a mission trip are the 5 minutes spent in the shower, I turn those precious few minutes into a spa visit!
Come mid-afternoon, when it’s finally time to hit the showers, I eagerly pull out the special occasion spa products, take five minutes and deeply breathe in the natural aromas of calming lavender, invigorating mint and cleansing citrus! It’s just enough time to clear my mind and rejuvenate my soul… because usually the next task is dinner – and dinner with 75 teenagers is no joke!
Special shower products may seem like a trivial detail in the scope of the entire week, but I have found that this small act of self-care allows me to be more fully present during all the other minutes of each day. By filling up my own cup, I have something available to pour out and give to others.
Before you leave on your next youth group mission trip, think about ways that you can sneak a little self-care into the week and be intentional about making it happen. I am confident you will notice a difference, and so will everyone else!
When you go on a SERVE trip, it’s pretty obvious that you have to work as a team in order to get anything done. One example in nature of God’s design for teamwork is that of ants. Ants have to work as a team to get anything done, and when the team works together, well, they all get to succeed! But in a team, not everyone can take on the same role, even ants have different jobs. What kind of “SERVE”-Ant are you?
Fire Ant- Fire Ants are passionate about their service. They are often so excited and determined that their passion can rub off on their team members. Fire ants are hard to miss and hard to ignore. If you are a fire ant, remember to use your passion to gently encourage those around you. We love your excitement and energy; every site needs a few Fire Ants.
1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Carpenter Ant- Carpenter Ants are the really hard workers of the group. They may stay in the background but they know how to get work done. They love to work with their hands and aren’t afraid to get a little dirty. If you are a Carpenter Ant, keep up the good work and try to use your skills to help others work with excellence as well. We love your determination; those service projects would not get done as well without you.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Queen Ant- Every ant nest has a queen. These ants are the leaders of the group. They keep everyone together and make sure everyone is ok. The Queen Ant may have a lot of power over the group but they also have the most responsibility. If you are a Queen Ant, strive to lead your group by example with humility and hard work. We love your leadership and caring attitude; the week would be a mess without you.
Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
God has created us all with unique skills and abilities. How will you use your uniqueness this summer to help your team at SERVE?
I’ve never been on SERVE, yet I work at ThereforeGo Ministries (formerly known as Youth Unlimited). Sometimes that seems weird, and sometimes it makes complete sense.
When I was in college, near the end of my freshman year, I had an intriguing epiphany. After a year with a “just okay” Resident Assistant, I knew I could be a Resident Assistant with greater intentionality, and maybe have a greater impact on my fellow students in that position than my RA had on us. In that moment, I realized when people choose to follow in someone’s footsteps, to pursue a passion that may not have always been their own, it’s usually either because the person who set out before them did a horrible job or they did such a great job that people just have to be a part of what they’re doing.
Though I became a Resident Assistant in light of a situation where I wanted to do a better job for people, I had the opposite situation when I became a high school coach.
In high school, I had a coach who invested in the girls on her team like we were important, worthy and precious. A true practitioner of exhortation, she pushed us, she encouraged us to be more than we were, she journeyed with us and she taught us valuable lessons we could one day take with us as our lives moved on. In hindsight, I saw the great impact my coach had on my life, and when given the opportunity to take over for her as a coach myself one day, I gratefully took the position with hopes that I could one day journey with even one high school girl the way she journeyed with me and my teammates.
So why do I work for Youth Unlimited when I’ve never experienced SERVE? I’m here because I’ve vicariously experienced SERVE in the stories I’ve heard. I’ve seen the impact. I’ve read the quotes. While my faith-forming experiences as a teen didn’t involve jumping in the youth group van and heading across the country to serve another community, I know from my vicarious experience at Youth Unlimited that God does amazing things at SERVE. I know that lives are forever changed for Christ at SERVE. And I know that I just have to be a part of what’s happening here.
You should know that each host team for SERVE works nearly year-round to prepare for the week-long SERVE experience. So when the students and their leaders begin to walk through the doors on those warm Saturday afternoons, there is no feeling quite like the joy we have to welcome them!
Prairie SERVE out here in Sioux City/Sergeant Bluff, Iowa just wrapped up its third year. Each SERVE experience is unique and memorable, to be sure, but as a host team member, I can honestly say Prairie SERVE gets sweeter by the year.
The temperatures were high this year, but the joy of the Lord as our strength was quite evidently that which sustained us. The 42 students that came to Prairie SERVE left their hand, foot and heart-prints all over our worksites, making eternal impacts on the lives of refugees, the down-and-out and the native people that inhabit our Midwest region.
As we learned by Jesus’ example of making change and being changed, chains were broken through worship, intercession, encounters with brokenness and forming new relationships. Our amazing students and leaders loved harder than ever before, and it was truly a taste of the Kingdom on earth in a way I can only imagine caused Heaven to break out into celebration.
Through leading a Vacation Bible School, painting neglected houses, encountering those who come from a completely different lifestyle than us and learning the vast and rich history of our region, all of the participants of Prairie SERVE left with a taste of the Kingdom on their lips and a song of praise to the Lord in their hearts.
Leading and facilitating areas of Prairie SERVE has been a transformational experience for me as I build relationships within the community and fall in love with God’s children in Sioux City, Iowa. I want to extend the invitation to you and your youth group to join us next July as we discover new surprises from the Lord in unexpected and broken places. We hope to see you there!