We have recently completed 2 mission trips as a Student Ministry in the past month taking our High School students to Washington, DC and our Middle School students to Chattanooga, TN. We also have a week of local service coming up as part of our church’s ECHO week in which our entire church body commits to “echoing” God’s grace in our community through local service and outreach projects. As I shared in a previous post about summer mission trips I love these intentional weeks of service but I never want to communicate to the students I lead that we have accomplished our responsibility for evangelism and service because we went on a short term mission trip.
Now that we are home from our out-of-town mission trips I find myself asking, “What Now?”
I love the spiritual high that my students experience while serving God by serving the least and the lost of our world. It is inspiring to see how God accelerates their spiritual growth in the context of a mission trip. But frustration sets in when only a few weeks after these trips there doesn’t appear to be the existence of any tangible, deep-rooted change in the life of my students.
So I’ll ask it again, “What Now?”
While I can’t own their faith development, I want to be as earnest as I can be in encouraging and guiding them toward spiritual growth. What I’m realizing in the midst of this summer is the role that I need to play (for me as a responsible leader of youth and for them and the sake of their maturing in Christ). If I take my teens on a week long mission trip in which God open’s their hearts and minds to the impact they can have on this world I need to be just as diligent in seeking out and setting up similar and regular opportunities throughout the year when we are back home.
Our church’s ECHO is providing the first step in that process since it is a week of service our whole church is a part of. We have our students slated to own 2 projects that have never been done before as part of this week:
- serving at Science Hill High School (our city’s high school campus that 70% of our High School students attend)
- hosting a backyard Bible club for a Mountain View Elementary School community (Mountain View is the most underfunded and underprivileged elementary school in our city that our church has adopted)
- But again, the goal is to get our students thinking beyond a weeklong serving opportunity. In addition to what we are doing for ECHO, here are a few ideas we are pursuing to keep service and outreach at the forefront of our Student Ministry’s mission and to provide teens with regular opportunities to serve and share:
- providing meals for the Melting Pot (local soup kitchen)
- volunteering as servers or dish washers at the Melting Pot
- volunteering at Good Samaritan (a local ministry that provides for those in need through education, mentoring, and social services)
- volunteering at Rise Up (a local mentoring ministry to students at Mountain View Elementary)
The goal in serving these organizations goes beyond feeling good about ourselves. It is very strategic and missional. I want students to understand that opportunities to serve the least and the lost are all around us and can be done on any given day of the year. Students who serve on our trips and through these local opportunities are trained and equipped to share their faith as well. We know that true life transformation only occurs when a person encounters the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ and puts their faith and trust in Him!
What are some opportunities that you take advantage of to serve your community? In addition to serving other organizations what have you done as a Student Ministry or through your church to love your community in tangible ways?