Crock pot or microwave?

Have you ever prepared a roast early morning and then let it cook in a crock pot throughout the day? Have you ever placed the ingredients in a bread maker and set it to be ready at dinner time? If so, you know what it is like to have your space fill up with the smell of food cooking for hours and the anticipation that it creates for the food you’ll enjoy later in the day. In fact, it is the pace of the cooking that adds to your enjoyment of your meal. On the other end of the spectrum, a hot pocket that is heated in the microwave for a couple of minutes might provide a hungry person food. However, it is doubtful that its’ flavor or your anticipation would match the quality that comes from a slow cooked meal.

So, what does crockpot cooking have to do with mentoring? I believe many of us choose to employ a microwave approach to how we structure our expectations for building intergenerational connections: we are willing to invest a minimal amount of time, but for some reason are surprised if the relationship that develops isn’t what we hoped it would be.

We would do well to be reminded that an impactful relationship takes time. In fact, time is the very thing that helps build connection, depth, and meaning in mentoring. In the same way crockpots create enjoyable meals, a slow, deliberate, and patient approach to forming relationships continues to be the best way to building meaningful intergenerational connections.

Posture

Many of us approach mentoring with the idea that it is a process that is based within a specific context: two people sitting across a table from one another engaged in a guided conversation. While that may be true in some instances the posture of mentoring doesn’t have to be limited to a face to face meeting. In fact, initially it might be better if it doesn’t.

Sitting directly across from someone can be an intimidating posture for individuals as they begin to get to know one another in a mentoring relationship. While a table may provide a physical buffer there may still be a sense of vulnerability that comes from being in a person’s direct site of vision for an extended period of time. To help ease that anxiety, it might be helpful to consider the physical posture we employ as we seek to build intergenerational connections.

Rather than starting face to face, consider changing your posture so you are shoulder to shoulder during your initial interactions. Look to do things together that might create space for conversation without having to stay in a fixed location like taking a walk, or meeting outdoors in a park or location with a shared view. This shift in posture may create a more casual atmosphere that sets a foundation for the deeper conversations that are often part of a long-term mentoring connection.

Perspective

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of working with several churches that are interested in developing intergenerational mentoring connections in their congregation. While each situation is unique, there are some common themes that emerge in these conversations. Over my next two posts, I’ll deal with two of them specifically: the first will focus on a perspective that might be helpful at the beginning stages of a mentoring relationship, and the last will deal with the idea of posture.

So, what does perspective have to do with mentoring? For many of us, we may be hesitant to begin meeting with a student or emerging adult unless we have a clear idea of what it looks like to be a “successful” mentor. Or we may begin a mentoring connection with someone only to lose momentum if we find our initial conversations to be challenging or even awkward. In doing so, we are experiencing the impact our personal perspective can have on our ability to connect with a younger person. From an “older” person’s point of view, a challenging or awkward beginning to intergenerational connection might be viewed as evidence that they aren’t equipped to be the perfect mentor to an emerging adult.

The good news however, is that young people aren’t looking for their mentors to be perfect, they are merely looking for them to be present in their lives. An older person who is able to shift their perspective to reflect this reality will find that students and emerging adults are simply seeking authentic relationship. All they are looking for is an older person who is committed to journey with them as they move into their next stage of life.

5 Events to Raise More Money for Your Next Youth Mission Trip

Convincing people to give you money isn’t always easy – even if it’s for a life-changing youth mission trip. You need to get creative to inspire your youth and make them excited about raising money for the trip. We’ve created a practical list for youth workers and pastors to help make your next Christian youth mission trip a financial success.

1. Text-to-Tithe Campaign

A text-to-tithe campaign can be incredibly useful because people can give whenever or wherever they want. Your youth group is already well-versed in communicating via text message. You’ll need to do some upfront work to get the campaign setup, but after that, let your youth lead the charge demonstrating how the campaign works to the congregation.

Promote the text-to-tithe fundraiser in multiple channels, including social media and the church’s newsletter. Tap into your teens’ enthusiasm and have them make announcements at the end of sermons about why the fundraiser is essential.

2. Charity or Silent Auction

A charity auction or silent auction is a reliable fundraising method for a reason. Guests can bid on their favorite or most unusual items, and the highest bidder receives the item. While this event may require the most planning out of all the options on our list, it also had the potential to raise the most money.

Encourage your youth group to think of different services they can offer, such as yard work, painting, shopping, deliveries, babysitting, cleaning or snow removal. Or they can reach out to local businesses to donate items. If you have ample space, you can save a lot of money by hosting the auction at your church.

3. Crowdfunding Campaign

Tap into the growing trend of online fundraising, specifically crowdfunding, to raise money for your youth group. Use your congregation’s expansive social media network to help spread the word about the youth mission trip to existing and new supporters.

You’ll need to create a mobile-optimized fundraising web page and make room for great visuals like images and videos. Lean on your youth to utilize their strengths to tell the story and encourage them to share the campaign. The best part is crowdfunding can be used together with countless other fundraising events.

4. Parents Party

A parents party is an excellent way to give the parents a night out and also raise money for your youth mission trip. You’ll need to put together a party planning committee and start selling tickets. In exchange for tickets sold, the teens in your youth group can be made available to babysit that evening free of charge.

Time the event around a holiday for maximum promotion. Parents would love a night out during the busy Christmas season or even Valentine’s Day.

5. Teach a New Skill

Mine your congregation for people with skills others have always wanted to learn. Maybe you have talented sewers, website developers, crafters, photographers or carpenters willing to donate their time. You’ll need to sell tickets and provide the materials and space required for the lessons. In no time, you’ll have funds for your youth mission trip and a congregation armed with a new skill like how to build a simple shelf or hem a pair of pants.

Youth group fundraising doesn’t have to be complicated or tedious. Use these ideas to get your youth group and congregation excited about raising money for your upcoming youth mission trip.

Are you planning a youth
mission trip for High school students?

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!
Get The Free eBook

Youth Mission Trip Planning E-Book

5 Reflection Questions to Ask After Your Mission Trip

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.

Are you planning a youth
mission trip for High school students?

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!
Get The Free eBook

Youth Mission Trip Planning E-Book

7 Ways to Empower and Encourage Youth Before a Youth Mission Trip

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.

Are you planning a youth
mission trip for High school students?

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!
Get The Free eBook

Youth Mission Trip Planning E-Book

9 Benefits of Youth Mission Trips 

Through our 100 years of ministry, we have learned a lot including the fact that our youth mission trips are a powerful way to remain active in church and grow in your faith. Through a faith-forming, short-term mission trip experience, you will serve God and learn about what it means to get involved in the community and be a good neighbor. The participants, community and the churches involved all benefit in ways that will continue to guide and shape their lives years later. 

Here are nine benefits to expect after taking part in a short-term mission trip: 

1. God will change you. 

You’re not going to change the world in the short time you spend on your mission trip. There’s so much going on around you that it’s challenging to make a significant impact in a week. You are there not for adventure, but for obedience. You are going because you know that God has commanded all of us to serve the world and love our neighbors. That is the main point of this trip. Soak it up and pray God will change your heart in extraordinary ways. 

2. You build relationships with people. 

Finishing a project is only a small part of a successful youth mission trip. The rest is all about building deep and meaningful relationships with the people around you. The people you cross paths with deserve to be treated with care and respect no matter their circumstances, no matter their level of education, no matter the color of their skin, no matter their language and no matter their needs. Be willing to ask questions. Go simply to learn and communicate. Come back with stories and the names of all the new people you’ve met, not just a photo album of nameless people and mission trip selfies. 

3. Your comfort zone will be challenged. 

Many of us get stuck in the sameness of our spiritual lives. It can be useful to step out of your comfort zone and allow God to stretch you. You’ll experience physical, mental and spiritual change during your week as you learn about the new place and build relationships with other Christ-followers. 

4. You are taught faith in ways you don’t expect

Sometimes God uses a short-term mission trip to reveal your purpose and God-given strengths. Sometimes on mission trips, people discover they want to start non-profit organizations, get degrees in social work or serve as a full-time missionary. The experience is a time and place to allow God to work in and through your life. Use the trip as an anchor in your faith, and it will propel you forward, deepening your relationship with God. 

5. Your compassion grows. 

Pain, suffering and poverty are not just things you learn about in the classroom or read about in the news. Behind these things are real people with names and families. Learning compassion through service on your teen mission trip can be a powerful form of knowledge. 

6. You practice patience and flexibility. 

Rarely on a mission trip does everything go as planned. Be ready to forgo things you enjoy in your day-to-day life to serve others. Requests you may think are simple may end up taking a lot of work. Be patient and trust in God, even when things don’t happen in the way you’re used to. 

7. You become more globally aware and better understand the world. 

Expect to encounter the world in a way you never have before and may never again. Despite language or cultural differences, all humans are fundamentally the same. We all have a need to be known, cared for and to have lives steeped in meaning and purpose. A short-term mission trip can open your eyes to the reality of life and make you turn to God in humility. 

8. You commit to servanthood. 

It’s easy to believe youth mission trips are about you and what you will gain. This list focuses on many of those very benefits. But these benefits should be the byproduct and not the main focus. Use the trip as a time to take your eyes off of yourself and look for the needs of others. How does God want you to help other people meet their needs? Continue your commitment to servanthood by serving in your church and community at home. 

9. The benefits don’t end when the trip is over. 

After the experience is over and you’re brimming with passion and stories, it doesn’t have to end. Continue to focus on seeking justice in your own neighborhood. Keep trying new things. You don’t have to fly on an airplane to serve others. Take what you learn and find a way to apply it in your day-to-day life. 

If you’re considering a mission trip, either with Youth Unlimited or another organization, remember they can create dramatic shifts in how you view the world. After all, God uses short-term mission trips to make a long-term impact on the lives of those who serve.

To learn more about how you can serve communities in the USA and Canada in missions, head on over to our SERVE Missions Trip page for a list of trips and testimonials.

Looking for more benefits of a youth mission trip? Check out this great resource!

FAQs

Saturday

  • Registration, welcome, community-building games.
  • You will usually be introduced to your small group, which consists of six to eight students and one adult leader from different churches.

Sunday

Monday through Friday

  • 6:30 AM – Wake up
  • 7:00 AM – Breakfast/prepare lunches
  • 8:00 AM – Devotions
  • 8:45 AM – Leave for work sites
  • 4:00 PM – Showers/free time/organized games
  • 5:15 PM – Leaders’ meeting
  • 6:00 PM – Dinner
  • 7:30 PM – Evening session with a speaker and worship
  • 9:00 PM – Small group discussion
  • 10:00 PM – Snack and free time
  • 11:00 PM – Lights out

Saturday

  • Pack up and head home to serve in your own community!

Other:

  • Recreation/Sightseeing: At some point during the week, a half day or full day is set aside for recreation (organized by the Host Team). Expect to visit a local attraction, such as beach, theme park, do some sightseeing, etc.
  • Detailed schedules are set by the local Host Team and may vary from what’s described here. Please be flexible, and follow the schedule set by the Host Team.
  • Middle School experiences may start on Saturday or Sunday, and typically wrap-up on Friday.

We get this question a lot: “How old do you have to be to go on mission trips with ThereforeGo?”

High School SERVE Mission Trips: Any student who has completed grade 8 through graduating seniors in the spring of 2021. *We are making a one year age exemption for class of 2020 graduates who were unable to attend SERVE 2020, due to COVID restrictions.

Middle School SERVE Mission Trips: Any student who has completed grades 6 through 8.

Adult Leaders: Adult leaders must be 21 years or older. See more information under the question “What are adult leader expectations (and how many are needed)?”

Do I have to be in a youth group or can I come by myself?
Our current SERVE model does not accommodate individual participants. For more information contact us.

Find a mission trip destination here »

Find SERVE mission trip locations here on our trip locations page.

When choosing a mission trip, we recommend taking the following factors into consideration.

  1. Dates: It’s important to figure out what dates work for your church and the largest number of people in your youth group.
  2. Location: Do you want to drive? Are you willing to fly? Transportation can be one of the most complex factors to a mission trip so it is important to factor in how far and by which method you are willing to travel.
  3. Capacity: If you have a large group (more than 15 people) we recommend that you look for a SERVE site that has a capacity of 60 or more. We have found that SERVE sites are more successful if we can place 3 or more different churches at any one site.

Browse trip locations here »

5 Ways to Pray for Your Upcoming Mission Trip

Mission trips are often a life-changing experience. When planning to attend a mission trip there is more to the preparation than making sure your bag is packed with enough clean clothes for the week. You also want to prepare through prayer for all that you will experience.

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:

Are you planning a youth
mission trip for High school students?

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!
Get The Free eBook

Youth Mission Trip Planning E-Book

How to Plan a Mission Trip

7 Things to Do When Planning a Mission Trip for Teens

How to plan a mission trip with youthIf 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.

  • Consider distance and destination.

How far do you want to travel? Will a long road trip build your group unity for the rest of the year? Does it fit the budget? How does the host church/community fit into the progression or rhythm of your mission strategy? Are you looking to move your students outside their typical environment (rural, urban, suburban, ethnicity, etc.) or teach them how others in a very similar environment love their community? Check out this list of mission trip locations for teens in the US and Canada or this list of 5 different types of impactful teen mission trips.

  • Budget carefully.

Budget for a mission trip to help everyone enjoy their timeIf 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.

Check into it before you even start promoting. There is a planning timeline, a parents’ letter, pastors’ letter and promotional items to help you cast the vision.

Find Mission Trip Locations for Youth Groups
Get Help Planning Your Youth Group’s Mission Trip

  • 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.

Youth Group Mission Trip PlanningWhether 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:

A progression:

  • 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.

Local Mission TripThen, 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.

For more help on planning a specific trip, contact us or feel free to call our office (1-616-241-5616).

A rhythm:

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.

Find Mission Trip Locations for Youth Groups
Get Help Planning Your Youth Group’s Mission Trip

Your teaching:

Preparation for a mission trip begins with teachingYour 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!

Get the FREE eBook

 

For help on planning a specific trip, contact us or feel free to call our office (1-616-241-5616).


SlideShare Version

This post is an edited excerpt from the Youth Unlimited Magazine (Fall 2015).

FAQs

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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 hereIt is strongly recommended that the letter is notarized.

There are numerous resources for your church to use in the planning and preparation for your trip. Visit our online Resource Box!

Keep Seeking

by Travis Deur

Nearly ten years ago, I heard the testimony of a man who had come to faith later in his life. He shared with me how surprised he was to find out so many Christians he talked to as a new believer were not reading their Bibles on a daily basis. I shrank deep into my chair. I was playing the part of a Christian. I was at church every week, going through the motions and outwardly doing the right things, but I honestly wasn’t doing much in the way of seeking God.

“Keep seeking!” seems to answer many of the faith questions I’m regularly asked or asking myself. Not sure about this whole God thing? Keep seeking! Bought in, but you don’t feel very close to him at the moment? Keep seeking! Stewing in uncertainty and doubt? Keep seeking!

The more consistently I read and the deeper I dug after that conversation, the more the dots connected. It was amazing how many times my daily devotions, the Sunday sermon, my Bible study group’s weekly lesson and the song that caught my attention on the radio were all saying the same thing to me. More seeking lead to more seeing. More time encountering God and discussing the Word in more places fed my faith in ways it never thrived in the decades before. I was participating in my faith journey instead of following along.

The road to and through faith has also been more meaningful as I surround myself with a larger and more diverse group of seekers. New life is breathed into the same conversation topics when you connect them to other people’s stories and the moments they’ve encountered God. You hear about their struggles, their questions, their lightbulb moments and see your personal reflections in a new light. You also begin to wonder if other people, who have not yet found God, feel the same way.

The testimonies of other believers coupled with examples from faith-based books have shaped my understanding of others whose faith journey follows a different map than mine. Someone in my youth group, my church or my neighborhood may not connect with my personal story, but can I connect them to God through someone else’s. And then there are the moments you hear about someone’s walk with the Lord and you realize, “That’s me!” and you find clarity for your own struggles and shortcomings.

I believe each of us has a story tailor-made for reaching certain people, and the more stories I collect the more opportunities I have to borrow from one experience to build up another. God starts to find you in all the places you’re living if you just keep seeking.

Travis is the Director of Youth Ministries at Faith CRC in New Brighton, MN
[This is an excerpt from the Fall 2018 Magazine. To read more stories CLICK HERE]

Middle School: A Key Age

Interview with Scott Post

“I would say youth who have participated in SERVE go on to be more regularly involved in local service opportunities, both while they are in high school and beyond.”

In a cultural climate which tells us our youth are leaving the church and faith in God is declining, Scott believes middle school is a key age to engage students in faith formation.

During the year, Scott encourages his middle schoolers to go past just reading their Bibles and praying every day. “We’ve spent a lot of time in the context of our community intentionally building spiritual practices that help us live out the gospel.” SERVE, for his group, becomes an extension of that goal. “SERVE is a spiritual practice of trying on, for a short period of time, what it means to live out the gospel. Because they had a good feeling or a good experience serving people in these other contexts, they have an easier time thinking, oh, maybe it would be ok to spend my time and my life serving people here, right where I live.”

The students on these trips cannot always see for themselves the impact SERVE has. “[If this is their first time signing up], they are expecting this is going to be an enjoyable trip, most likely with their friends, where they are going to meet new people, learn about God, serve some people and probably have a lot of fun. In the process of reflection [after the trip], they start to see how the experience of SERVE is deeply connected to what they believe about God or what we believe about Jesus or what it means to live out the gospel story.”

There is no doubt in Scott’s mind that bringing both middle schoolers and high schoolers on SERVE is valuable and worth it. He encourages others to “trust the results” and says, “Our church has seen the fruit of [SERVE] play out in these kids’ lives and years down the road. Easily.”

Scott is the Youth Pastor at CrossPoint CRC in Brampton, ON
[This is an excerpt from the Fall 2018 Magazine. To read more stories CLICK HERE.]

Engaging Youth

by Kevin VanderVeen

As a youth pastor, I find myself praying for young people in the church often. I pray young people will discover the depth of God’s love for them and know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. I pray they will take joy in God as the greatest treasure of their life. I pray they will become increasingly aware of how God has uniquely gifted them to serve in his kingdom. I pray the young people in the church may experience a sense of urgency to use and develop their gifts for God’s glory.

At Covenant, we are blessed with young people of all ages, and we’re learning how to approach our ministry to young people in a way that is strategic and developmentally appropriate. As we wonder about what this looks like, we find ourselves asking questions like:

How do we engage young people meaningfully so they will grow and develop spiritually? And what congregational practices lead to spiritual maturity in our young people? In my experience, we are not alone in wrestling with questions like these. The fact is, ministering to young people is an area of concern for the church, and we are all trying to learn how to do this well.

Each ministry context is different, which means ministry will take a different shape in each of our church communities. I would like to suggest, though, that there are some things we can do, regardless of context, to strengthen our ministry to young people. Strengthening our programs or making programmatic changes is not one of those things. If we are going minister to young people in the church effectively, then we need to think bigger; we need to begin thinking about the culture within our church communities. Young people want to feel as though they are a part of the church, and they want to be embraced by the church as a valued part of the body of Christ. To me, that suggests that we, as churches, need to enfold young people into the life of the church.

What would that look like?

Fuller Youth Institute put together a list of common characteristics that are present in churches engaging young people effectively. Here are four of those characteristics:

Cultivating authentic community through peer and intergenerational relationships.

Relationship is key, but youth need both peer and intergenerational relationships. Many churches offer opportunities for peer relationships but struggle with intergenerational relationships. I wonder what it would look like for us to get together, intergenerationally, to share our faith stories. We encourage young people to reflect on their faith stories, but do we ever share our stories with them? I have been blessed by hearing stories from the older members in our community. We have all experienced God in different ways, and sharing those experiences helps build relationships.

Treating parents as active partners in discipleship.

Youth ministry is always youth and family ministry. As churches, we need to find meaningful ways to encourage and equip parents as they partner with us in discipleship. Many parents want to be a part of their children’s spiritual growth, but they’re not sure how, so they hand off the responsibility to church leaders. We need to find ways to give parents the tools they need to partner with us in discipleship.

Intentional engagement with wider culture with a redemptive focus.

Perhaps the greatest gift that we, as churches, can give to young people is the capacity to think critically and theologically about the world around them. Our approach must be twofold: first laying a theological foundation, and second, engaging with broader culture with a redemptive focus.

Corporate worship that is both engaging and intergenerational.

In our context, one of the most celebrated times is corporate worship, and young people love being involved. We have young people leading worship, reading scripture and running our technology. Our young people love having leadership in worship, and the Covenant community has been blessed by their leadership. When worship leading and planning is intergenerational, young people are drawn in and engaged.

As a pastor, I pray for the young people in the church today, but I also pray for the church. I pray God may lead and guide us forward as we seek to be faithful to his calling for us. I pray the church may foster intergenerational relationships, partner with parents, engage the world well and worship in inclusive and meaningful ways.

When the church engages young people meaningfully, church ministry thrives. We are on a journey of learning how to engage young people effectively, let us learn together.

 

Kevin is part of the Niagara, ON Host Team as well as the Pastor Of Community at Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, ON.
[This is an excerpt from the Fall 2017 Magazine. To read more stories CLICK HERE]