Thursday, July 07, 2011

    5 Reasons To Take Your Youth on a Local Mission Trip

    Unless you are an even bigger procrastinator than I am, you've already made all the plans for your summer youth mission trip.  But it's not too late to add a local mission "trip" to your schedule, too!  That's what our youth group did this summer as we decided to serve right in our own backyard.

    Each day of the week we gathered at the church and then went out to serve in food pantries, ministries reaching out to low-income families, a local charter school for inner-city kids, and an opportunity to pass out water to homeless persons. True - it wasn't as exotic as a trip to Mexico, but the ministry we did together was just as impactful.

    Now, let there be no doubt: I'm a fan of long-distance mission trips (and even heard my first call to ministry with children and youth during a mission trip when I was 18), but there are some great reasons to consider a local mission experience for your youth:

    Cost!   It's simple math: a local mission experience, organized thoughtfully, can be a model of responsible stewardship. You sleep on your own church floor instead of renting motel rooms. You save gas money with less driving.  You could even save money on food by inviting church members to help supply meals. 

    Time!  Since you aren't spending several days driving to and from your destination, you have more time to devote to the mission work itself.

    Context!  When travelling to a new place, it takes time to get your bearings and understand the needs of the setting. When you stay in your own backyard, you are already part of the context and can better understand the real needs of those in the community.

    Flexibility! Road trips require everything to be planned out in advance in detail. Failing to do so can end in disaster.  Local mission experiences are much more forgiving.  Leave something behind? Just run back to the church and get it.  Car trouble? Call the senior pastor to come to the rescue.  Teens' schedules too full to attend the whole mission experience? Why not let them just drop in and out of the work schedule as their time permits?

    Future!  On typical mission trips, you might work at a site once or perhaps several times but eventually you head home and leave that ministry behind. On a local mission experience, you have the chance not only to sample ministry sites in your own town but you can then commit as a group to continue to partner with that organization throughout the year, sharing your talents monthly or even weekly as missionaries to your own community. 

    What other advantages might there be to a local mission experience? 


    Trazy Lyn said...

    We actually just did a "Stay Mission Trip." Every day, we met at the church for breakfast at 7a, had devotions, packed sack lunches and then rode public transportation to our work-site for the day. Around 3p, we finished, changed and then spent time discovering our city.

    Personally, I would do it every year. My favorite part? sleeping in my own bed every night - it was great not only for rest reasons, but also because the kids got to go home and talk to their parents about it EVERY NIGHT instead of giving them the entire week overview. It allows parents to have more involvement, too.

    Brian Kirk said...

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Trazy. We also went home at the end of each day (except for one!). There is a real benefit to getting a good night's sleep each night without having to wrestle with the youth to get them to go to bed. I too think a stay mission trip would be great every summer..or fall..or spring. I'd encourage youth leaders to at least alternate, with a road trip one year and a local mission trip the next.

    Marv Nelson said...

    I think not doing these has resulted in a sad definition of missions for teens. Many teens I bring back from an away trip don't connect the lessons to their own community because they haven't seen it done in that context, as you mentioned. I think as you do I'm sure that teens would do better to learn how to live a life of mission rather than just how to do mission once a year. Great topic! Thanks for all your encouraging words

    samwise said...

    great post. we just finished a week serving in a community about 20 minutes from our town...we're about 2,700 pop...and went to a city of 55k. i would add "community" to your list. the ongoing comments and conversations face to face and on the interwebs has been "wow." this was our third year doing this event. it was cool to hear how students drive their parents and friends past the sites we worked on. on 8th grader told me...this was the most amazing week of my life."

    Brian Kirk said...

    Marv and Samwise, thanks for the comments. It's encouraging to know that this idea is catching on for a variety of reasons. Another thought: given the current state of the economy, this might be the most affordable for churches to continue to offer intense mission experiences without having to break the budget or increase the fundraising activities (which often can take time and energy away from more important ministry).

    dev said...

    In these trying times the needs are also greater. Staying at home may be an even bigger boost to the local community whose funding is down and demands are up.

    Adam Rodriguez said...

    As I do agree that helping out in your local community is very very very important, I do see the positives in going out of your own town or even state for a mission trip.
    1.) They get to get out of their hometown, sometimes, as you know and probably remember, kids need time away from their parents, it is apart of adolescence.
    2.) There is something to taking your kids away from their own community to serve.
    3.) There are communities out there that are dying and actually need a lot more help than your suburbanized area that your church might be in. A good example of one of these towns is Steubenville, Ohio. A town hit hard by the closing of the steel mills, people struggling every day to put food on the table for their kids.

    So I think if you paired one of these mission trips with a "Stay Mission Trip" I think you would get the best of both worlds. You would then have them in their own community doing what the learned at their mission trip out of their community. They are putting into practice what they learned and seeing that yeah, people actually do this in my town as well.


    ch3rri said...

    I really like what you said about using a mission trip to plan for the future. We did an away trip this summer and really want to take the awareness we gained and use it to plug into serving in our own community long term. An at home trip would give our youth team a way to know what exists in our community and plug into missions locally. Certainly, we need to do both types of trips in our youth groups, as much as is possible, but we so easily discount "local" as being less exciting. I pray that we can be just as strategic about missions in our own cities as we are about planning a yearly
    long term project. Matt. 25: 34-40

    ch3rri said...

    I like your comment about planning for the future. Our youth took an away trip this summer, and with a new understanding of needs and ways to minister to others, we are currently seeking how to meet the needs in our own community on a long term basis. A stay local missions trip would actually give our youth team a better understanding of what currently exists in our community and how our various abilities fit with local missions. In my opinion, out youth groups should be doing as much missions living as possible, and we should be doing both away and at home trips. I pray that we will learn how to make local missions a part of our monthly, weekly, and daily living. Matt. 25: 34-40