#YW2021 is officially over and wow – it was a great summer. I had the honor of visiting many of our sites and taking in all of the great service and fun of a YouthWorks mission trip. After missing an entire summer last year due to COVID, it felt so long overdue. While I experienced so many wonderful moments, this one really had a great impact on me….
There I was, sitting in a circle of 25 teenagers and a handful of adult leaders as they were processing their mission trip together in the basement of a church in Birmingham. The discussion was on the heels of their footwashing ceremony on the last night of their trip. The presence of God was so thick as these teenagers were sharing their hearts about what they experienced together throughout the week:
- How they met new “Neighbors” and the impact those relationships had on them
- How they were able to draw closer to God and find confidence in his love
- How they felt so fulfilled by the service that they participated in throughout the week
- How they engaged and grew closer with their youth pastor and adult leaders throughout the week.
- How they met and built relationships with our community partners who were so grateful to serve alongside them
These are all incredible things. But there was one common theme that was shared by multiple teenagers throughout this conversation that really stood out to me: Their desire to go home and keep the momentum going. They were eager to find ways to serve in their own community back home. They wanted to find ways to stay connected with each other so that they wouldn’t lose the bond that developed during the mission trip. I could just feel the sense of urgency in the conversation as the group was expressing commitment to stay connected as a group to continue the work that God has laid on their hearts.
I was so encouraged listening to them and how close they had become as a group during that week. In fact, I was dumbfounded when their Youth Pastor told me that this trip was their first time being together in person. They were a newer group of teenagers that had been meeting over Zoom because they formed right when COVID hit. After hanging out with them all week and sitting in this circle listening to their discussion, I could not believe it. Their bond was so tight – like they’ve known each other for years.
Isn’t this what it’s really all about? What greater opportunity can you give your students as a youth leader to create authentic community through your youth ministry?
As I left the circle that night and shared the joy of the moment, I was processing the conversation that I just heard. It reminded me of the heart of the YouthWorks mission. To connect middle and high school students to God, each other and communities through meaningful Christ-centered mission trips. Further, we aim to create experiences that:
- Broaden perspectives
- Ignite passions
- Expose possibilities, and;
- Inspire pursuits
After listening to that amazing group of teenagers process their trip together, their perspectives were definitely broadened. They saw things and met people that week that completely opened their minds to the world around them. Their passions we ignited as they saw the value of serving others and learned how God calls us to be neighbors to everyone. By serving in that community for the week, it exposed possibilities of serving together back home on an ongoing basis. They were definitely inspired to carry on the momentum and pursue what they had experienced on their mission trip.
Again, this really gets at the heart of our mission. Engaging in healthy missions that are centered around respectful service is our vision for what teenagers should experience on a YouthWorks mission trip. As they step out of their comfort zones and serve in a new community they not only connect deeper with God and grow in their faith, they connect with each other on a deeper level which helps your youth ministry grow tighter.
As youth ministries continue to re-gather while living through a pandemic, I believe that mission trips provide a unique opportunity for your students to step back out into the world, serve others, grow in their relationship with God, and find the authentic community they need through your youth ministry.