Mission trips are great! But as leaders of teenagers, we continually help them realize that their mission in the world is far bigger than a trip. As you consider what elements to include in your fall schedule, think about how you can tie in what happened on your mission trip with what is happening in students’ everyday lives.
Here are 5 ways you can incorporate your mission trip experience into the fall schedule.
- Teach it. As you plan your curriculum for this fall, consider repeating some of what students heard during their mission trip. Certainly those themes you talked through during your trip will take on new life as you help students apply service to their everyday contexts.
And if you went on a YouthWorks trip this past summer, we’ve already put together a great resource for you to tie in this past summer’s theme. To find it, log in to your YouthWorks account, go to the Trip Resources tab, click on Youth Trips, select After-Trip Resources and download the 2015 Upside-Down Kingdom Back Home resource.
- Stay connected. Meaningful missions include ongoing relationships. Ask your students how they want to stay connected to the community you served this summer. Consider writing encouraging letters, seeing about supporting a worthy cause, or even coordinating a return visit during the school year. If nothing else, make praying for the people you came across this summer an intentional part of your gatherings this fall. And as you think about where you’ll go on next year’s mission trip, strongly consider going back to the same community to strengthen relationships and deepen students’ understanding of ongoing service.
- Incorporate service. Helping meet needs in another community can be an incredible way to alter perspectives, ignite passions, expose possibilities and jumpstart worthy pursuits in students’ lives. But consistently meeting needs of neighbors in your own community will help equip students for a lifestyle of service. Think through how you can help connect teenagers with local organizations and people who have ongoing needs. Schedule a Saturday of service, work it into your weekend retreat or even educate students on ministry options in their own backyard. Don’t leave students with the idea that service is reserved for a few days of a summer trip.
- Keep processing. Repetition is helpful in any learning process. Plus, sometimes it takes people a long time to think through and understand a meaningful experience. Even if you’ve already asked students all about their trip, bring it up again. Meet as a team and ask questions about how their trip is meaningful months after. Ask them what they’ll always remember. Wonder with them how they’re different for what they’ve experienced… or how they’d like to be different. And if you can’t quite gather the whole team, grab some coffee and sit across the table from one or two teenagers who just might have some more processing to do.
- Keep sharing stories. You have students who experienced something meaningful this summer. Give them the stage time to share their stories. Figure out how you can incorporate what they’ve learned into your Wednesday-night lesson or ask a student to promote next summer’s trip by sharing about last summer’s meaningful missions experience. Sharing stories aids students in making meaning of what they experienced and promotes the way God is at work in and through students’ lives.
Whatever you do, do something! If mission trips are a meaningful part of your summer calendar, extend that significance into your fall schedule.
Sam Townsend helps write training, programming and marketing materials for YouthWorks mission trips. When he isn’t hanging around teenagers at church or digging into seminary homework, he is generally looking for a good conversation and a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to have it in. Sam still considers his first couple summers working for YouthWorks in Virginia and Pennsylvania communities some of the most transformative times of his life.