Several days ago I introduced the topic of Us/Them in my post “Their Needs vs. Our Wants.”  In it I essentially ask the question of youth leaders and churches: should we look to do mission trips to areas that best serve our purposes and meet what we want next for our group, or should we plan a trip by responding to needs that have been presented?

It’s something that I’ve certainly been wrestling with at Youthmark and it has influenced the way we market our Youthmark Mission Ventures to churches here in the states.  On one hand I fully recognize that a Youth Pastor really should be assessing his/her youth ministry and considering what it will take to get them moving forward. The “cool” factor of going to a “destination” may get more participants involved (and on that path).  This was certainly a major consideration I had when I was a Youth Pastor.

In 1998 I pitched a mission trip concept to our church elders.  Knowing that my students were not confident (nor active) in sharing their faith, the concept of taking a “mission trip” seemed a little silly.  I really wanted my students to be missionaries at home before we took them “over there” to do missions.  So, my choices were: (A) do a “service” trip; one that emphasized working with our hands or (B) properly prepare and train our students to be missionaries wherever God may have us go.  Because I decided on the latter and then designed a discipleship program to train and equip the students I knew that our “destination” should be one that had the “cool” factor as well.  I simply wanted as many students trained and equipped for mission at home and I’d use the mission trip as the motivating factor!  IT WORKED!

We ended up taking five teams of with about 12 people each to five rural communities.  In most of these communities we did some sort of children’s ministry by day (VBS), service projects in the afternoon and then Youth Outreach at the local ball field/park at night.  Youth came out of the woodwork in these rural communities!  Our students became bold in their sharing, were blessed by meeting practical physical needs and gained great experience by serving the children as well.  Because we had 5 teams, the trip itself served as a great training ground for my volunteers as well; because I could only be in one place I learned to trust my leadership with the other four towns served.

My motivation was certainly what I wanted for our group! I wanted to see them grown in their “at home” witness by training them for an “over there” trip.  But we did it with wisdom.  There was no language barrier, there weren’t the huge financial burdens  yet there was still the “destination” motivations.  Our students returned with a passion for their lost friends at home.  Students began boldly proclaiming Christ… at home!

This summer Youthmark has some trips to similar “destination” places.  Let me tell you about “Their Needs.”

Alaska: We’ve now served in 7 different locations in Alaska.  Each has unique needs.  Let me relay some “facts” from last year about one of these places:

  • Before the Trip: The Pastor was hesitant about a team coming, he said, “we have 3-4 youth we ever see, so don’t come with expectations that a lot of teens will be reached.”
  • After the Trip: The Pastor was praising God for the work done through our Youthmark team. “There was one night we had about 50 people at the beach Brian, several students trusted in Christ, it was nothing short of a miracle!”

Hawaii: The most common statement I hear when I announce we have “Hawaii” as a mission location is, “Oooh, I bet that’s tough (sarcasm)? Sign me up, I’ll do a mission to Hawaii!”  Well, the bottom line, we’ve had ONE team “sign up” and go to Hawaii so far.  Unfortunately, church leadership teams, parents and others don’t see Hawaii as anything other than a “vacation” destination.

Let me tell you about Anahola.  Anahola is where we served two years ago.  1200 people call this village home (most are native Hawaiians).  In the 10 months before our team arrived the community experienced three teen suicides.  It has been the toughest place I have ever been to in terms of a mission trip.  There are true NEEDS in this place, the biggest need is the Gospel to be presented so that the people can know the grace of God is present!  They need hope!

In addition to the great ministry, our teams got to experience some awesome “stuff” in both states (typically with the teens we ministered with/to). Meeting the needs of a community and the wants for your group is entirely possible.  Maybe you know of a group still considering what to do this summer?  It may not be Alaska or Hawaii they are looking for; perhaps a different state so they can save on flights; or perhaps Canada, Mexico or Costa Rica? Additionally, you may know of teams simply looking to enhance their training for a mission. Youthmark would love to help equip them for Mission51– not just the mission, but the 51 weeks beyond the mission as well. Please have them contact us at 800.455.1450 and we can talk specifics (or pass on the brochure here)!

Consider passing this post on to Youth Leaders, Pastors and churches you think of that could/should consider partnering with Youthmark!



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