One of the highlights of any youth ministry year is often the summer mission trip. But why limit it to summer? How about a weekend mission trip on one of those 3-day weekend students get throughout the school year? If such an idea appeals to you and you lack the time to plan a short-term trip, I'd suggest The Center for Student Missions. CSM is a Christian ministry anchored in major inner-city areas across the United States (and in Toronto) providing week-long or weekend-long mission trips for youth, college or adult groups. Their staff will set-up volunteer opportunities for your group, provide a host (usually a college or post-college young person) to navigate you around the city (which is great if you're like me and you can't read a map!) and accompany you to all work sites. Additionally, they provide your living space for the week and all meals (dinner is most often a trip to a local ethnic restaurant so that your group can sample the diversity of the city). Your "host" is also available to help your group debrief the day's experiences. Check out a sample CSM week-long schedule here. The great thing about CSM handling all the planning and logistics is that it allows you to just relax and focus on your youth and their experience and spiritual guidance.--Brian
My most recent trip with CSM was to their Nashville site a few weeks ago. In addition to setting up mission opportunities for us with an inner city day camp program, women's shelter, men's shelter and at a Feed the Children site, they hosted a "homeless" simulation, worship night, prayer tour of the city, and inner-city scavenger hunt for the group.
CSM is located in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Toronto (I've been to mission trips at six of their sites). Cost is $61 a person per night (or $51 if it's a college group) and this includes your living space, food, and the CSM staff person that accompanies you during the mission trip. No, I don't own stock in CSM. I just think they do good work and they offer an affordable way to provide youth with an experience of inner city ministry.