Have the fundraisers begun for your youth mission trip yet? Every summer they come – New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans if they’re nearby, overseas if they’re not – trips to engage youth in reaching others for the gospel. Churches and denominations spend thousands on sending teens on road trips and flights to wherever the perceived spiritual and practical need lays.
CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME
Unfortunately, in their eagerness to provide this experience for youth, too many churches are missing a HUGE mission field right here in our midst. Christian youth are engaging in hit-and-run ministry as they trip over the needy right in their midst. And while, those trips can be transformative, so might be a lock-in for a week that opens teens’ eyes to those around them who are desperately in need of the hope of Christ.
With the way the “R-word” is thrown around by teens as a pejorative in today’s culture, there are some enormous lessons to be learned. Spending a week helping youth to reframe the way they view the most vulnerable in their community could change the world! Lasting change that would make the Christian community “pleasantly peculiar” could be birthed from an experience like this.
God instructs us to start with our own, so why aren’t we?
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10, NIV)
BUT THEY NEED US MORE
There is a mindset that tells us that we are so incredibly privileged right here at home. While that is not untrue, there are always people at the margins, even in affluent communities. Has your youth ministry sought to identify them? Or is it just easier and flashier to go on the trip? What if all of those dollars spent traveling and lodging could be used to create a more inclusive culture right in your own community? Non-church-goers would surely take notice of that!
In her bold article 7 Reasons Why Your Two Week Trip To Haiti Doesn’t Matter: Calling Bull on “Service Trips,” Michelle L Staton actually demonstrates how we can actually do more harm than good with some of our well-intended outreach. While I may not agree with everything in her piece, I do appreciate that she shares with readers alternatives that can leave a more lasting impact.
What I would tell churches is that families living with disability, a rare disease, chronic illness, or special needs feel incredibly isolated. Just stepping into our more complex lives makes such an enormous difference. The ministry of presence is one of the simplest, yet greatest gifts you can give to families like ours. Including us, hanging out with us, treating us with human dignity could be the outcome of your most effective summer mission project to date!
I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t take the youth on a mission trip this year. However, I am suggesting that you could also begin making a powerful impact right here at home. It may sound daunting at first, but Key Ministry and several others are here to help make it manageable. What are you waiting for?