Inviting Gen Z to SERVE

By Amanda Roozeboom, SERVE Director

Many believe that short-term missions trips cause more harm than good to the people and communities where they occur. All too often, this is true, but better models exist. ThereforeGo Ministries is a short-term missions organization rooted in long-term partnerships. We believe short-term missions trips remain an important way to foster young people into belonging, believing, and being welcomed into missions.

We’ve created a unique short-term mission model, called SERVE. This one-week domestic mission trip for teens in the U.S. or Canada introduces students in grades 7-12 to spreading the gospel through missional living and confronting justice issues. Unlike other short-term mission trips for teens, all ThereforeGo SERVE sites are hosted by a local church.

We believe short-term missions works best when it happens through the local church. We want to empower local churches to live missionally to reflect Christ’s love. This helps show young adults how a church should and can be alive and living outside its walls. Finally, this philosophy ensures that when groups leave, the people being served are not left behind; the local church remains to continue the relationships.

I recently spoke with Beth Seversen, author of Not Done Yet, and discussed what qualities local churches’ have that have teens and emerging adults as a significant part of the congregation. Her research shows that members of Gen Z want to be invited to serve – in meaningful ways – and contribute to the life of the church without the typical strings attached. 

Faith communities that allow teens and emerging adults to belong before they believe and contribute before they commit, see this demographic stay and embrace the Christian faith. In a time when so many churches lament the departure of Gen Z-ers and Millennials, this is no small accomplishment.

Something similar happens when a participant attends a SERVE trip. The students are not second-tier volunteers. Each day, they contribute in meaningful ways. They are seen as people who belong and have a significant role within this temporary community. Yes, the adults drive the vans, facilitate evening small group discussions, and ensure safety on all worksites.

However, the students are in charge of completing the tasks at the worksites and building relationships with those receiving assistance. Through active engagement and learning the stories of others, the root causes of inequality become visible, and participants grow in their biblical justice conduct and consciousness. As participants discover a broader answer to, ‘What does your/the church do?’ we pray they can connect the dots and respectfully engage with their local church leadership to serve at home the rest of the year.

SERVE is a unique blend of community outreach and discipleship, with spiritual transformation as the goal at every level. With relationships at the heart of everything we do, we have seen this brief experience become a significant part of the lives of all who participate. Most importantly, the SERVE model provides spaces for Gen Z to belong and come to believe in their own time and place. Because SERVE is connected to the local church, when critical faith questions or doubts are expressed, Christian mentors are available to point them to Jesus each step of the way.

Teens are searching for security, significance, and strength. Throughout the SERVE week, teen participants ask themselves: am I okay outside my comfort zone, do I make a difference, can I make it through challenging experiences?

Members of Gen Z are searching for open doors and safe spaces to answer these questions. The local church has the extraordinary opportunity to welcome and walk alongside them as they make their way towards a faith commitment through acts of service and a sense of belonging. Jean Vanier, Founder of L’Arche Communities, believes,

“To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value, to say to them through our attitude: ‘You are beautiful. You are important. I trust you. You can trust yourself.’ We all know well that we can do things for others and in the process crush them, making them feel that they are incapable of doing things by themselves. To love someone is to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them.”

Too often, people of faith are quick to exclude others. Gen Z is waiting for an invitation. Welcoming them in and giving them meaningful work to do can be risky. However, missions have always been a little dangerous. Fully embrace the risk. The relationships formed and the transformation experienced are worth it.

Originally published by EMQ a Missio Nexus publication in 2022.

Hope & Collaboration

By Rick Zomer, Executive Director of ThereforeGo Ministries

Earlier this month, I was a part of a group of 35 individuals invited by the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) to come to Pasadena, CA to discuss findings from their most recent research initiative. Their project is focused on discipleship initiatives with young adults, and FYI’s goal for the event was to share initial findings with church, denominational, non-profit, and young adults from different contexts. I was honored to be included in this event as it clearly aligns with ThereforeGo’s mission statement to help “churches challenge youth and emerging adults to commit their lives to Jesus Christ and transform this world for him.” 

I’ve been in my role with ThereforeGo for 5+ years and in that time, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with hundreds of church leaders across the United States and Canada. While each interaction is unique, I can say without hesitation that there are two shared themes that have emerged from these conversations. The first is that many churches are struggling to maintain and/or build connections with emerging adults in their congregational contexts and the second is that many churches feel alone or isolated in this process. 

While I believe that FYI’s research is important, upon reflection I would say hearing their findings wasn’t my biggest takeaway from the event in Pasadena. My learning can best be summed up by two words: “hope” and “collaboration.” By showing up, the leaders who gathered in Pasadena demonstrated hope that the church can be a place where emerging adults and their gifts are welcomed. By gathering with others, they demonstrated that learning happens best through collaboration as it gives the opportunity to hear and learn from others. 

I encourage you to spend a few moments reviewing our website for ways your congregation might collaborate with ThereforeGo and other churches in our shared ministry to youth and emerging adults. We’d be happy to connect to answer questions or talk about next steps.

Intergenerational Ingenuity

By Will Southard, a pastor in Lynden, Washington

Even before COVID, Gen Z was the loneliest generation on record. But now, in the aftermath of the pandemic, the need for connection and belonging is greater than ever. This is especially true for the emerging adults in our churches. We have a tremendous opportunity before us, to speak to that need. In Christ, we belong; we are fully known and fully loved. And we experience that belonging that we have in him as we gather with his people.

One of the ways that my church, Third CRC Lynden, has been seeking to further embrace our emerging adults is through a renewed focus on intergenerational gatherings. We’ve found that, especially after COVID, that’s what our church craves. We’re hungering to be in community together, so we’ve made space for that to happen through regular events, called “Family Fun Nights,” that the entire church is invited to. We’ve had pumpkin carving contests, trivia nights, and talent shows. At each of these events, we’ve experienced the beauty of fellowship.

Our emerging adults in particular have expressed how these events have helped integrate them into the life of the church and helped them get to know members of their faith family better. That has encouraged us as we continue moving forward with our long-term goal: cultivating deeper, more intentional relationships between generations. We’re seeking to do that in two new ways this year – through Faith Forward, and through Generation Spark.

Faith Forward was an idea that our Family Ministry Team developed while participating in a mentorship network last year, led by ThereforeGo Ministries and Faith Formation Ministries. We surveyed our church to see what some of our common interests are and created small groups to help gather them around those interests. We started with four – reading, cooking and baking, worship, and games – and have invited anyone who is interested, regardless of their age, to come and participate. Our hope is that, as we gather in these smaller groups, relationships will continue to develop and deepen in an organic way.

Faith Forward is helping us build a bridge to Generation Spark which is a collaboration between the CRC and RCA that is focused on cultivating intergenerational mentoring in churches. When we begin Generation Spark later this year, our emerging adults will have the opportunity to meet regularly with members of our faith family they’ve already gotten to know through Faith Forward or other intergenerational gatherings. They’ll spend time working on spiritual formation and continue to share and experience life together.

Ultimately these are the kinds of relationships that we want to see formed in our church. We want our emerging adults to experience what it’s like to be named and known, loved, and embraced. We want them to experience what it’s like to belong, as members of our faith family, learning and growing together. In many ways, we’re already doing that. We want to recognize that and encourage people to lean into what they’re already doing and invest in the next generation.

Stepping into intergenerational ministry can be uncomfortable – even scary. But, as my church has experienced, the best way to do it is by simply trying something. Create an opportunity for all ages to gather around something they enjoy. It will look different based on your context, and that’s the point! The more you know your people, the more you’ll know what will bring them together. Find that thing, and use it as your starting point. The desire for belonging is there. So try something together and, as you do that, you’ll begin building a foundation for lasting, intergenerational relationships to form.


Will is the Pastor of Family and Youth at Third Christian Reformed Church in Lynden, WA. He first got connected with ThereforeGo Ministries through their mentorship network, which he and a team from Third participated in last year and would highly recommend (especially if you can get Rick Zomer to be your coach).

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

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 

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.


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.


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