What do people experience after Serve?
A lot of people who go on Serve find that they are:
1. More thankful for what they have and want to be more generous with it. After meeting people with great needs and seeing God as the Provider we need to practice giving thanks in all circumstances and giving all we have back to him.
2. Quicker to pray about just about everything. Be ready for the Holy Spirit to prompt you and be obedient. You might have had a very close connection to God on Serve – keep it by praying without ceasing.
3. Emotional about worship and changed lives. Fan the flame beyond your emotions to a place of deep transformation and conviction. Make worshipping and caring for others what your life is all about.
4. Ready to serve in his/her own backyard. Sometimes volunteering close to home doesn’t seem as exciting but it is where we can truly be in community and see God work consistently. Grow to a place of maturity where serving others becomes exciting because that’s what God is doing and not just because that’s what your friend is doing or there is a trip involved.
5. In a spiritual battle. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you got home and messed up somehow. Set your attention and your affection back on God (Colossians 3:1,2) and be sure to stay close to your youth group or a couple friends from church for the rest of the year.
By now, I hope you have had the chance to have gotten a peak at the graphic for this years Serve theme. If I did my job correctly, you have maybe asked yourself: What does this mean? … What is with all the dots in an upside down triangle? And, like a good song, I am going to tell you why I created it like this, but I hope you come to place a bit of your own self into it and that it grows to also have its unique meaning to you.
I am so excited about this year’s Serve theme! Long before we picked the verses for 2015, I was wrestling with them, turning them over and over in my heart and mind. What I came away with and what I think is a central part in this year’s theme is that I have a Holy responsibility. Jesus himself left me with some divine duties and put the Holy Spirit inside of me to carry them out. Wow! I don’t know if that makes you excited or scared -maybe it should make us both? I am excited!
Back to the graphic – After pondering the weight of these beautiful verses, I could not escape the overall shape that the design ends up making. I immediately envisioned this shape representing the responsibility coming down from God himself to us like our heavenly instructions that we receive in these verses. But at the same time, I wanted subtleness to the shape with the idea implied yet not “in your face”. Therefore, the 52 dots make up the downward triangle or arrow and leave room for negative space, allowing the design breathe.
52 – Yes, there are 52 dots. There are 52 weeks in a year. The whole idea this year, like in the verses, is that it’s not just about the Serve week, it’s not just about our salvation, it’s not just about the “God High”, it’s not just about ____________________ (fill in the blank). Jesus called us to go and make disciples and to live out the principals of justice and service every day of our life, and he breathed the Holy Spirit in us to do so! Are you excited yet?
So yes, the inescapable dots come into play here. The red one can be seen either as the Serve week, the Holy Spirit leading the charge or the day we received this calling from the book of John. From there, I hope the eye is drawn to, and the relationship is seen, between that dot and the fact that the word “OTHER” is in red as well. The whole point of this summer is just that; carrying this idea, this Serve week or this calling into the “OTHER” (or to all others). The other dots, then, are simple; they are the rest of the week, the rest of the month, the rest of the year, the rest of our life. The other dots are the other 51 weeks every year that we are to bring the Gospel into. It’s not an easy task or a calling to take lightly and maybe this is why they ended up being spread up, like there is a hill we have to climb, a step we have to take; are you ready?
The seven dots on top represent a week. I thought it important, in light of the Holy weight of this, to represent something tangible. We can do this a week at a time. We can take the principals of Serve into a week at a time. We can lean into this holy discipline. God can use us to change the world.
Diane grew up in what others would consider a Christian home. Diane’s family; two older brothers, mom, dad and Diane, went to church every Sunday – twice, but some things were well hidden in that home. Diane was bullied since she was a young girl by one of her brothers. Her parents found out and made sure it was kept quiet. They just walked through the motions of life. Diane struggled in school socially. She had only a handful of friends and trusted no one. Called “shy” by her teachers, they never really noticed that Diane was withdrawing more each year. Just before her high school years came to a close, her brother sought forgiveness for his actions. He had come to realize the pain he caused his sister and family. He blamed it on being a kid, being stupid at the time, but more than that, he realized how deeply he needed it set right. Diane wasn’t ready to let go that easily.
After high school, Diane went to a small Christian college that specialized in teaching people to do overseas missions. Overseas was the dream for Diane – Africa, South America, somewhere warm and far away. She could escape her small town, serve the Jesus she had come to love in spite of all her pain, and follow the call she had heard on a week long mission project called Serve. That week of Serve changed her. For the first time ever, she had met people who lived in really poor conditions, and Diane did not just feel comfortable there, she felt called there. She decided she would find those people overseas. All she needed was a little bit of money first.
Diane, under the guidance of a friend, took a job working with impoverished folks in a large city in North America. Each day, she would walk with her co-workers among the most impoverished in her country. People survived by diving into dumpsters for food, begging on street corners and living in cardboard boxes under bridges. She came to know these people not as impoverished but as her friends. Each person she met had a story – a deep dark past, and none of her newly found friends could hide their pain. It was as obvious as their weather worn jackets. They couldn’t hide it if they tried. They had to be honest. In there, somewhere, Diane found the courage to be honest too. She began to share about her past, her brother, and her pain. It was refreshing and renewing. Among the lowest of the low, Diane met Jesus. In the homeless men and women, Diane was finally free to share, to be loved in spite of her past and to sense a healing that could not come after years of trying.
Her brother never expected a visit. She didn’t call first, but Diane hopped on the train and hoped he would be home. It wasn’t easy, but they talked. They opened up, and in the midst of tears, they found a way through forgiveness.
It’s not perfect yet. Diane still has some struggles with her past. It creeps in and echoes in ways that still hurt. To this day, however, Diane works on the streets in that same city. She never did go overseas. Missions are everywhere. Missions is life. She hangs out with the poor all the time. She buys lunch for some people and lets some of her friends buy her coffee. They have deep wonderful conversations, and together they find home. Christ is there with her. She meets him every day on the streets.
We don’t all need to go on the streets. Some of us are not called there, but we all need to love. We all need to live this Kingdom out every day. It is our mission. It is our life.
A few years ago, I was wandering through a mall in the city in which I work. I had finished a meeting with one of my friends from the street and was off to another meeting. This way through the mall was a short cut between streets. I was reflecting on the meeting I had just finished when I saw her at the other end of the hallway. To this day, I can’t describe her. I just know that I looked at her and shuddered, feeling like she was disgusting and unpleasant. I don’t even remember why. I didn’t know her. I knew nothing about her. Just her appearance disgusted me. Being a person who wants to follow God, I also knew my first reaction was wrong. I stopped walking, closed my eyes and whispered a quick prayer to God. “Help me see this woman the way you see this woman.” When I opened my eyes, for the briefest of seconds, in place of the woman, I saw my oldest son, and then I saw this woman again. God had answered my prayer. It was as if God had said this:
“You want to see how I see this woman? Look at her the way you look at your son. I love her that much and more! She is my daughter, not an object of disgust. She is my daughter and I love her very much. Treat her that way.”
Humbled, I sat and broke down. I no longer saw the woman. She was gone, but I have changed in my approach to others. I try (and this is hard sometimes) to see people as God sees them. They are his children. He loves them all very much. He wants the very best for each one, and my calling is to come so close to my God in worship, that I begin to see with God’s eyes, hurt with God’s heart and listen with God’s love.
I wonder if the disciples had a similar experience when the woman with 12 years of bleeding reached out to touch Jesus. The story is recounted in Mark 5:25-34. This woman would have felt quite disgusting. Her bleeding made her ceremonially unclean. In other words, she was not allowed to touch another person. If she had children, she could not hold them. If she had a husband, she could not kiss him. If she had parents, she could not receive a hug from them. Imagine that for a second. In desperation, that woman reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. She felt the bleeding stop. Jesus called her out of the crowd to share God’s love with her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” He called her daughter.
That’s what worship does. We become like the one we worship and respond like they do. We see with their eyes. We hurt with their heart. We love with their love.
In last week’s blog entry, Jerry Meadows wrote about prepping students for missions and questioned how they might integrate a missions experience into their daily lives once suitcases were unpacked. It is the hope of most youth leaders that students come away from a mission trip having grown a deeper understanding of their faith, a deeper sense of self and others, and a greater understanding of God’s call on their lives to be agents of justice in the world around them. Yes, some incredible outcomes are hoped for here.
We cannot, of course, assume students will easily transfer their experiences to everyday living and so leaders need to be intentional about the entire mission trip experience. This includes proper pre-trip preparation (not just fund raisers); on site reflections and debriefing about what happened and what was learned, and evaluating what that means for each person as they go home. The 7 Standards of Excellence for Short Term Missions (they have been referred to in previous posts in this series), indicate there should be “thorough, thoughtful, and appropriate follow through for goer-guests,” and so dedicated time needs to be spent on debriefing – not just sharing photos over a pizza dinner. Lastly, and probably most important, is the transfer of things learned on the trip. In their book, Deep Justice in a Broken World – helping your kids serve others and right the wrongs around Them, authors Chap Clark and Kara Powell have a chapter on how to “help students move from doing Kingdom things, to being Kingdom people.” Important then to working with a group of students is to help them understand that this is not about the trip being over, but a journey that continues.
So how do leaders help that process of building Kingdom people?
Here is a list of ideas and suggestions that may be helpful:
- Assign each student in your group a mentor (or ask the student to choose someone) who will walk the mission trip journey with them and help them process each component of their experience and ask questions that will bring clarity and meaning to what they encounter. Although not necessary, it would be great if the mentor has previous mission trip experiences.
- Follow up with students a number of times after a trip to continue processing how they are doing post trip. Do they have more questions? How have they seen God impact their lives now that they’re back home? What ideas do they have to impact their youth group, church or community?
- Upon return home, provide other activities that place students in environments that will expose them to issues in their own community, stretch their skills and perceptions, and maximize what they learned on their trip.
- Continue to educate your Youth Group on how best to serve. Consider an annual theme for your ministry program that will create deeper awareness of issues related to poverty, justice, and missions. The Chalmers Center has some great video clips that will trigger some excellent discussion.
Finally, over the last few years, a group of denominational staff have met together on a regular basis to evaluate their mission programs in light of the 7 Standards of Excellence and bringing all their resources, policies and procedures in line so that mission trips are facilitated with excellence that benefit the senders, goers and host receivers. Along with that work, the group is supporting the development of a curriculum designed with the Standards of Excellence in mind. It is calledCurriculum for Life and considers all participants and their involvement through the process. It is this group’s hope that this material will be available towards the end of 2015. Stay tuned for its launch!
To view the original post, click here.
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!
If you’ve got more questions, please feel free to contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org or @markhilbelink on Twitter.
In our town of Alamosa, Colorado, we are set in the San Luis Valley, surrounded by purple, majestic mountains and green fields where the farmers raise alfalfa, barley, oats and potatoes. Along with the landscape, there is a community where people look out, take care of and serve each other.
Our church, Alamosa Christian Reformed Church, also noticed that there was a huge population of residents that needed an extra hand. The San Luis Valley is the home of two of the poorest counties in the nation, so with willing hands and hearts, Christian Community Service Projects (CCSP) was formed.
The mission for CCSP is to address the physical and spiritual needs of people in the San Luis Valley Community in the name of Christ by helping them to rebuild and improve their lives. We do this by hosting groups that go into our community to do home improvements for residents who do not have the resources to help themselves. As manager, I’m able to see every aspect of the operations and guide the process relationally. My favorite part is calling the residents to let them know a group is being coming to meet their need. My second favorite part is seeing the look of satisfaction on the volunteers’ faces when they make a difference through their selfless hearts and attitudes. Galatians 5:13b comes to mind – “serve one another in love”!
My husband, Keith, is also making a difference in the lives of others in Haiti, Honduras and Peru. His talents in woodworking and innovation with limited resources are a real gift to those looking to use what little they have efficiently and effectively. While Keith goes to teach skills he has also learned so many life and spiritual lessons. The best part of serving in other parts of the world is realizing that even thousands of miles away from home we all serve the one, true and Almighty God.
Our church enjoys hosting Serve with Youth Unlimited every other year and we wish it could happen every week, all year around. That’s why we’ve tried to integrate service principles into the life of our church and families.
Whenever we talk about what inspires us to serve and to host Serve for our community, we have to mention Keith’s sister, Christine Tolsma, Christine was tragically killed in 2008 when she was just 17 years old. This terrible loss was only eclipsed by the blessed assurance of seeing her again one day in Heaven. Her faith was strengthened by attending Youth Unlimited’s Serve which definitely created milestones in her walk with the Lord. At those experiences she made lasting relationships with other students, friends from her own community and with Jesus Christ. She also made lasting commitments that caused her to serve the Lord the other 51 weeks of the year, so we are inspired through the legacy she left to serve the other 51 as well.
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.
The ideal is that your students would enjoy full spiritual meals with you every week of the year.
Happy (almost) New Year! At Youth Unlimited, 2015 is all about “The Other 51”, our theme for Live It and Serve this year. We are so excited for the many students whose lives will be changed through these faith-forming experiences and their interaction with The Other 51. To learn more about what these students will be learning and participating in, read below!
John 20:21b, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive now the Holy Spirit.” (NRSV)
Live It and Serve are just one week of the year, and after that one week, students head back home. Then what?
Students don’t just go for that one week, though. They also go for the other 51. The other 51 weeks in the year matter too, and they know it. Serving God is not about going away for a weeklong “mission tourism” experience. It’s not just about hanging out, meeting new people, and seeing God in a different city. It’s about taking that experience, that one week, and making it their lives! It’s about participating in the Kingdom of God for one week in an intense way so that they can begin to (or continue to) see God’s amazing reign in the other 51 weeks of the year. It’s about seeing God in all aspects of what they do – all the time – The Other 51!
So, get ready for 2015! The one-week youth mission experiences at Serve and Live It are going to change students! Our purpose for this one week is to prepare them for the other 51. We are going to ask, “What would the world look like with a good God revealed in Jesus Christ in charge of it?” That’s God’s plan: to show his reign, his Kingdom, revealed in Jesus to all humanity, and God wants to use students to do it! In these one week experiences, students are going to hear about the size of God’s plan, which is so much bigger than they could imagine. They are going to hear about the people involved in God’s plan, being so many more than they probably thought. They’ll receive some “tools” for working in the Kingdom, and they are going to experience a taste of God’s Kingdom already alive on earth as it is in Heaven – so that they may desire to taste that Kingdom again and again – for the other 51 weeks.
So these one-week you mission experiences are just the beginning. The students who participate are continuing a journey, but not just for that one week. Jesus never asked for one week. He never asked for a little bit of their lives. He asked for it all. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive now the Holy Spirit.” Are you ready for 2015?
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.
- Grieve when you’re going through a hard time.
- Group up with other followers of Christ. Make sure you don’t isolate yourself.
- 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.
- 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.
Brighton’s Serve Journey begins 10 years ago when our youth went on a Serve youth mission trip in 2005 – It’s amazing how the Lord works! He has been preparing us for the last 10 years to now come to this point of hosting Serve in Brighton.
Each year, we send a team of youth to participate in communities all across North America for one week. We have helped people struggling with finances, disabilities and life issues, people from different faiths or different walks of life and we have cared for God’s creation – people, all creatures and His world. We have been the hands and feet of Jesus and it has turned our lives around!
Two years ago during Serve in Orillia, our Pastor received a call to another church. Before we even came home from Serve, thoughts of hosting strongly came to mind. Our youth have always been saying that we should host in Brighton. Knowing the huge commitment involved, it was never an idea that stuck – until now. So, we came back from our mountain top experience and shared the idea with many in our Brighton congregation. Our church family responded with a very excited yes. We knew it would require a great community effort, especially when we would be without a senior pastor.
Brighton Fellowship is a church of ‘doers’. They are the greatest support to our youth group. Months earlier we did a mini visioning for our church and a real passion was to serve the Brighton community, but how does that look? Hosting a Serve project was a great way to help the church do just that.
The journey continued. Council gave their blessing and stands with us for the three year commitment. We made a sign-up board and the response has been amazing. Our church prays for Serve every week and reminds us all how we can make a difference as a church family. We job shadowed the Ajax Serve site this past summer and again were truly blessed. We have contacted potential job sites – the youth drop in centre in Brighton, the New Life Girls Home in Consecon, Community Care, Presquile Provincial Park, the local schools, the two senior homes in Brighton, the low income housing development, etc. Members of our church already help out individually but we look forward to sharing the love of Christ as a church for the Serve week and the ‘other 51 weeks’.
Last week we invited the congregation to join us for the Serve 101 teaching session and 38 people showed up, which is amazing after the short notice they received! After the teaching session, a church member came up to us and said his company would like to donate for the next three years! God is good! We are still without a senior pastor, but our church family has stepped up to the plate. We know the Lord goes before us, beside us, above us, below us and behind us. He truly is with us! We are an excited group and we look forward to hosting Serve…
Let the journey continue!
For more on the outcomes of Serve, click here to download a one-page summary.