Part 2: Do Summer Missions Produce Lasting Transformation?
In Part 1 I briefly discussed the idea that missions trips to produce lasting transformation.
Another reason I love missions trips is that they put you in a place where you can develop deep and lasting friendships with students. Casey is that student who's smarter than you. He's also the student who's creative with pranks. (Oh, and he used to carry around his camera all the time documenting our every move.) So I was glad when he signed up to go to Mexico in 09’. This was perfect time to get him back; I could just accidently lose his passport and he would be trapped in Mexico.
If only I could be that mean…instead during a quiet time that we had after a long hard day of work he fell asleep providing a beautiful opportunity for me to scare him. All I needed was a Nacho Libre mask and somebody to capture the moment with a video camera. So I snuck up and growled at him. At first I thought I killed him but he survived. In addition to this fun, I also believe that that trip left a lasting impact on his life. I can still vividly remember working on top of the house that we were building in the blazing heat. It was fulfilling to serve the poor with Casey, and not just talk about doing it.
Casey is now going to be a senior in college this coming fall. He continues to serve God by doing missions work. God has transformed his life and used his photography in some awesome ways. What did we do right with him?
Before I talk about what I think we did right, as a follower of Christ I have to acknowledge that our efforts are done in vain if we don’t truly believe that God is the one who really does the transformation. I love what Hebrews says:
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
God is not only the one who writes our faith, he is the one who perfects it! I also believe that we can provide pathways for students that God can use to produce lasting change. Here are a few that this student was able to participate in:
1. Small Group Integration
What are ways to incorporate the missions experience in small groups? You could have your students be responsible for giving updates before the trip to their small group, and share stories after the trip. Or, you could challenge students to pray or give towards the trip through their small group. This integration will help deepen the impact of trips.
Good debrief/follow-up=good missions experience.
The hard thing is that usually trips happen in the summer. You get back from a week that was awesome but exhausting and the last thing you want to do is to follow a debrief curriculum. Your summer vacation is coming and the start of the school year is right on your heels. For me I had to have the debrief meetings planned before the trip started
Last year we used a curriculum from SYM that had resources for before, during, and after. The curriculum is well-written and was adaptable to our group. It did help our students and adult leaders get the most out of the trip. Check it out:
3. Yearly Service Events
We had a yearly service project day in the spring that got students pumped up about the missions trip. This helped us teach our students that service first starts where you live and grows from there. We had a fantastic volunteer team that helped produce an impactful event that set the tone for our youth ministry. If you don’t have the people resources to develop your own service day check out this resource:
4. Volunteers and Parents
Don’t do missions trips by yourself. Involve parents and volunteers. Have other adults help you where they are gifted. I had volunteers help with booking flights, fundraisers, planning curriculum, developing our ministry project, hosting a pre-trip dinner, and other random tasks. Not only will involving parents and volunteers help integrate the learning of the student but they too will benefit from serving on the trip.
Hopefully that gives you some good starting points to get the most out of your trips. God does use mission trips to produce lasting change. Let me know what other ideas you have on this subject.