My 51 – Austin Serve

We, here at Austin Serve, were excited when we saw “The Other 51” theme for 2015 because it’s sort of what we’ve been doing here ever since we started in 2011. One of our stated goals for our site is to be a launching pad for young people to go back to their home contexts and home church as havoc-wreakers for the Kingdom. We recognize that one of our roles in our family of churches is to be a bit of a research and development (R&D) outpost on the front lines of Kingdom mission and so we not only want to invite young people into that experience but to give them ammunition to take that back to where they came from.

One of the things we tried this year during our Spring Break Serve (which was the first Serve of the 2015 season), was to use the tools afforded to us by Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). ABCD was a concept developed in the early 90’s and used extensively in mission environments which try to help empower people rather than just do things for them. ABCD recognizes the image of God in all people and helps everyone play a role in community development rather than having the “haves” do the work and the “have nots” learn to be dependent. As facilitators of short-term missions, I think this should be especially important to us because they always run the risk of becoming “hit-and-run” scenarios.

So, in addition to giving them context for all of our worksites, we spent one of our evening sessions doing some community asset mapping. The process is super simple and it helps groups think through the connection between what they’re doing on your site and what they’ll do when they get home.

Materials Needed: Lots of Post-It notes, markers, three boards to post things on.

Step One: Ask kids to gather with their own churches, rather than their small groups. If it’s a good-sized church, split it into groups of 6 or so.

Step Two: Have the group brainstorm assets of the area five miles around where they live and five miles around where the church is located. Suggest some based on what people come up with – things like vehicles, farming knowledge, etc. are often not seen as assets at first. Write each asset on a Post-It and have them stick them to the board on the left (of the three). Challenge each student to come up with at least 3.

Step Three: Have the group brainstorm needs of the same five-mile areas or city centers, if necessary and write their ideas Post-It notes, sticking them to the board on the right side (of the three). You may have to get the ball rolling with some suggestions. (This activity is often harder for people who come from rural or more affluent communities where needs are not as forefront).

Step Four: Read as many of the Post-It’s out loud. There’s bound to be some humorous ones. Then ask the kids to use their groups to throw out some tangible projects that could use the resources of the community to meet the needs in the community. Be as creative as possible. Our Host Team also formed a group and just took an outsider’s crack at combining the two lists – which worked really well.

This process not only gets people thinking about assets and needs in their community but it also begs the question: why isn’t your church already doing these things? Use that as a springboard to talk about some real things that a youth group or church could tackle in the next 6 months. Talk about what role serving the community has in their youth group back home or their church back home.

Some good stuff is bound to bubble up!

Community Assets

If you’ve got more questions, please feel free to contact Mark at or @markhilbelink on Twitter.

My 51

For decades there has been an ebb and flow of unity among churches in New England. It seems the water is rising again!


Student ministries gathered for a few hours to advance unity and intentionally create synergy among churches.


It sounds way too cliché to paint the evening as an event full of fun, food and fellowship, but those were on the surface the entire time and it just felt right. There was a sense of belonging and affirmation. It seemed like everyone in the room that Friday night was saying, “This is my night. This is my time with the Body of Christ. This is my act of worship. This is my life for him. This is one week I will end in praise.”


What about the other 51 weeks of the year? That was the challenge. How do we live a life of true worship and help others grow close to Christ?


If fellowship was on the surface that night, then true worship and the Word were present on the deeper level.


Bryan Weigers of New England Chapel spoke from his heart that night emphasizing, “You are loved.” He shared his own hard times. Recently, one of his daughters needed 11 surgeries in one year. His other daughter broke her back. He suffered a broken neck. All this took place within months of each other. Yet God saw his family through the hard times. Bryan urged students to sign on for a “4G Experience With God” for every week of the year.


  1. Grieve when you’re going through a hard time.
  2. Group up with other followers of Christ. Make sure you don’t isolate yourself.
  3. Give it up to God. Dedicate the struggle to him. Even give thanks for how he is working when you can’t yet see how he is.
  4. Give to others. Even when you’re hurting you have much to give and God will use you to help others.


The Andy Needham Band led worship, introducing a new song that became an anthem for the night called, “Love is the Song”. Another song that resounded with the message of the evening was “O Great Love”, which is a great reminder that the deep and abiding love of God has far reaching effects on our lives. To listen to the song, watch the video below.



Annika Bangsma, a catalyst for the event, said,


“It has been my prayer that ‘youth ministry’ wouldn’t consist of just one lone youth worker striving to do the impossible, but a community endeavor both within and between churches to help adopt teens into the body of Christ—and thus become an endeavor full of relationships, accountability, joy and belonging.


It is for this reason that Bryan and I are both big fans of Youth Unlimited events, as we feel that they are great opportunities for students to grow in their relationships with Christ and with others.


Bryan and I had already planned to attend the Youth Unlimited Live It convention this summer with our groups, and thus when we found out that Andy Needham Band was booked to be the band at Live It, God stirred us a little further. If ANB was coming from our area to go to Chicago, what if we could take all that good stuff that was going to be happening in Chicago this summer –and give our area a little taste of it?


The theme for Live It in Chicago this summer is “The Other 51”, therefore, we decided to take some ownership of that theme, and thus, “My 51” was born: we would plan a night to showcase the band and the opportunities that exist through the Live It experience, while also bringing together area church youth groups and youth groups from throughout our classis (Vermont, Connecticut) for an exciting night of relationship building – both with one another and with our Savior—just like at Live It.  As such, we used some basics from the Live It playbook – a dynamic night of worship, telling Christ’s story, and social time for youth to connect with one another and their leaders; and were very excited at the results.


Many from the group in Massachusetts and the Andy Needham Band plan to meet at Youth Unlimited’s Live It which is a one week convention beginning July 21, 2015, at Trinity Christian College.


For a free download of “O Great Love” by the Andy Needham Band to help inspire others through their 51, fill out the form below.

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