At YouthWorks, we talk a lot about “life-changing mission trips,” and for good reason! Every year we see teenagers whose eyes have been opened to a deeper definition of faith, to an understanding of God’s purpose for their life and to issues of poverty, justice and servanthood. We see the beginning of life-change!
But by definition, life-change can’t only begin. It has to continue! So, while it may be easy to simply put this trip in the books and move on to what’s next, we hope you will join us in believing that the most important part of the mission trip is still ahead.
As you continue to love and serve your teenagers this coming school year, consider these four practical applications to help your youth maximize their mission trip after it’s over.
1. PROCESS IT.
Imagine buying a book and only looking at the pictures. It’s a lot easier than reading, but you don’t really get what the plot is all about. The same is true with your teenagers’ mission trip. If they don’t take time to “read into it” – or think through it – they’ll miss a lot. Help them process by writing, praying or talking about the experiences they had. A month or two – or three! – after the trip, take them out for coffee and ask them how the trip looks in hindsight. Help them see the bigger story of what God is doing in their lives.
2. SHARE IT.
Sharing the good things God has done is one great way to worship. It’s why we love sharing Yea God’s at YouthWorks! Plus, people want to hear what students did on their mission trip.
You can help students continue to process their trip by giving them opportunities to share meaningful moments. Help your students find creative outlets for their stories. Spend time sharing as a group, get some students in front of the congregation on Sunday morning or have students write a couple paragraphs about what was most meaningful on their trip. As a new school year approaches, consider with students how they can share their story with this new audience – perhaps through something as simple as thinking through how to share a meaningful 30-second story about their mission trip.
Sharing the good news of what Jesus is doing is a powerful expression that you can invite your teenagers into.
3. CONTINUE IT.
One of the great dangers of missions is that students will think their service, love and impact is a one-week event that happens somewhere far from home. Don’t let your students buy into this misconception. Instead, remind them that those hands that hugged children, swept a paintbrush across the side of a house or sorted clothing were their hands! And (we hope) they brought those hands home with them!
As their youth leader, you can help students realize that their service and love for others can happen in their everyday life. Talk about it with your group. Plan service initiatives in your home community. Draw connections between service in a distant community and service at home.
4. DEEPEN IT.
You know what’s crazy? The God of the entire universe – the one who rules every hurricane and every housefly – has a purpose and plan for each of your students’ lives. During their mission trip, students were challenged with the ideas that “You Are Here” to love, worship, invest, unite, serve and go. Your teenagers had time each day to spend alone with God, to sing together, to recognize some “Yea God” moments and to think deeply about Jesus.
As you plan this upcoming year, consider how a holistic message of faith connected with action can be encouraged in your students’ lives. Connect the messages and practices from the mission trip with their lives at home. Help students deepen their service with a strong, ongoing relationship with Jesus.
ONE LAST THING.
As you consider how to follow up with students, don’t overlook what you need after a mission trip. It’s likely that you experienced the trip a little differently than your students, but these same steps might be helpful for your post-mission trip experience as well. As you keep serving and loving your students, don’t miss the opportunity to process, share, continue and deepen the incredible things God is doing in your own life.