Embracing the Elderly

Interview with Leah, a Cadillac SERVE leader

One of the worksites that the Cadillac SERVE participants spent time at this summer was an apartment complex for low income senior citizens. The teams spent time washing windows, vacuuming, dusting, and sweeping porches.

“Most of the seniors were super appreciative, but some were uncomfortable having us in their space and having to accept our help,” said Leah, a leader from Minnesota. “It was really good for us to experience their discomfort.”

While these tasks may not have been the most exciting ones the teams completed all week, the impact they had was large. Not only did they work on tasks that might be difficult for seniors with disabilities or decreasing mobility, but they were also able to get to know the seniors as they worked.

“We were able to learn their stories and pray for them,” Leah said. “It was really impactful to see how having someone to talk to lifted their spirits.”

People that age are often very lonely and can feel secluded, especially if their physical health is declining. Assisting and, more importantly, visiting the elderly is a great way that our SERVE sites and participants engage with the community around them.

SERVE-ing as a Family

Interview with Emily, SERVE Cadillac participant

“I’ve heard so much about the amazing things that happen on SERVE,” Emily said. “So I wanted to see it for myself!”

Although she is only a freshman, Emily has heard firsthand about the impact that SERVE has on both participants and the impacted communities.

“I have three cousins who have come on SERVE before,” she said. “This year, my aunt came as one of our leaders!”

Emily’s group traveled to Cadillac, Michigan. Throughout the week, they cleaned out a river, sorted clothes at a mission-based thrift store, and built a wheelchair ramp at a Habitat for Humanity house.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have all the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
Romans 12:4-5


As impactful as it was for Emily to participate with her earthly family, it is even more exciting that our fellow believers that we meet on SERVE are part of our eternal family – The Body of Christ!

You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup

When I was asked to chaperone our group from Platte, South Dakota, I wondered what I could bring to the table for these kids? I had no experience or formal education to give them; I only knew the basic commandments and a couple fruits of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, that was enough for God to call me to SERVE.

In the midst of personal struggles I was facing, I wasn’t sure how I could encourage my team’s growth. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup! However, I was encouraged by a passage in John that talked about living water.

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37-38 NIV

On Thursday, my team helped at an equine therapy center, assisting in basic farm labor. The Holy Spirit let streams of living water flow from my heart as my group bonded over horse manure and hay bales.

On our last day, I received hugs from all three girls in my small group, each one so grateful for how I displayed God’s love for them. One hundred percent of what we did was really Christ working in them. What a marvelous lesson from SERVE at Park Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.

By Melissa Sybesma

Summer Serve

For many of us, the summer season brings the smell of hotdogs cooking, s’mores burning and the enjoyment of sipping a cold beverage on the deck. (And those of us in the north, where winter climates often prevent us from enjoying the outdoors in shorts and t-shirts, are particularly excited for summer.)

Summer also brings along excitement for teens and leaders to experience doing something we call missions. For decades, SERVE has been the name associated with just this type of experience. SERVE, (a ministry of ThereforeGo Ministries) has worked with many hosting, local churches and hundreds of sending churches over the years. Thousands of youth (aged 14-18) have been impacted by the transforming work of Jesus Christ through these events. What’s more, many of these same teens later followed the Spirit’s leading and entered ministry later in life—God is good, all the time!

And the work that He has begun in our communities is often realized through these temporary communities of grace, mercy and hope. Over the years and decades, students and leaders alike have experienced the transformative power of God when they serve. Those days are often filled with moments of:

  • Working with people who have been marginalized
  • Hearing stories of God’s redeeming work in communities
  • Worshiping together and singing with the angelic voices that Heaven produces

All done on SERVE. For the Kingdom. 

If you would like to hear more about these opportunities, please contact me at Ron@thereforego.com

If you would like to hear stories about what God is doing in this work, ask one of your students who has gone or visit thereforego.com/stories. 

If you would like to help, please pray:

  • for the hundreds of students who are going this year. 
  • for the leaders who accompany them. 
  • for the hosting communities who, coming out of COVID, are hosting for the first time in 3 years.
  • that our Lord’s transforming Glory is experienced first hand.

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!
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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