NOTE: This article/blog was originally written by me for youthworkers.net (click here to read it there).
I’ve read some amazing stories on blogs and Facebook of the things God has done at camps, retreats and on mission trips this summer! I believe youth ministry is alive and kicking and God is at work, but was it just there (on the trip) that the Lord moved? Of course not, but for some reason growth and change there seems more obvious, practical and tangible. I’d love to see these things here (at home) become just as evident.
Imagine with me some of the first century Tweets we might have read had the technology existed then …
From Luke: As @saulpaul was preaching I saw a snoozing teen @eutychusrocks fall from 2nd floor 2 his death! PTL the dude was healed and now lives! #paulkeptpreaching
A ReTweet: RT @weddingcrasher Just saw the strangest thing, Mary’s son Jesus changes water into the best wine I ever tasted! #whoisthisguy
Of course a status update didn’t happen in real time back then, but rest assured, news did travel quickly. Praise God for people like Luke and John who recorded these amazing acts.
The wonderful reports of what took place on your mission trip have landed on the hearts and ears of parents and friends back home. Students have Tweeted about how great the camp was and they have become fast-Facebook friends with those they met at the retreat. But is that it?
How are you handling the transition off of the trip and into the next 51 weeks? This is a question I grappled with as a youth pastor. I got tired of students living for the “camp high” or the “mission trip great feeling.” But the bottom line is that those feelings produced are the things that often bring kudos from parents, other pastors and/or the board.
I believe a plan is needed to merge your students onto the freeway of life that has been flowing back home. We can help students navigate from commitment there to commitment here.
Three Tips for Merging Back Home
- Give them a Practical Way to Remain In The Word! I believe God’s Word and God’s Spirit were key in the things that took place there. Hopefully your group was consistent in God’s Word on your mission trips; the Bible was teaching and challenging students, life was lived together in fellowship, service and witness; and students were responding to the Spirit in obedience: crucial components for life-change were merging together in amazing ways. And it doesn’t have to stop when your kids come home! Give them a practical way to remain the Word. I’ve seen it work, through our MERGE resources for returning home from the mission, retreat or camp (or other experiences). Of course I’d love to see you use our resource, but at minimum, give them a one or two week outline of passages to study, journaling questions and some practical questions to go through as they merge back home.
- Throw a Better Than A Reunion Party! There’s nothing that can kill a youth group faster than a holy huddle. Because your students who were at camp together came home with great inside jokes and other shared memories they usually think that these stories are funny to all, but we all know THEY AREN’T! As the leader, you should throw a “Summer End Celebration” to celebrate all that God did in and through the ministry as a whole, not just one specific event. Give ample opportunity for stories from those who went to sports camp (rather than the youth group camp), or those who shared Jesus at their summer jobs, for instance. Invite them to share their stories of what God did in and through them, in their varied settings. This can be organized with specific testimonies chosen so that all participants can see and hear the collective work of God through the summer!
- Invite them to the next Mission! A body of water like a lake or pond becomes toxic when it becomes stagnant. So it is with a body of believers. The camp, retreat and mission were exciting and active because there was movement! The mission-high ceases to exist if the mission is complete. Help students to know that there is a new mission ahead as they return to their campus, engage in their clubs and reinvest in the community! This is something we at Youthmark coined Mission51–the 51 weeks beyond the mission or camp!
As summer comes to a close, perhaps you already sense that the momentum has been lost, but I urge you to jump back in now, it’s not too late! Your students are cause-oriented, give them a cause greater than reliving memories. Challenge them to get back (and stay) in the Word through something like MERGE, reunite them so they can testify and remember His faithfulness, and above all, invite them to fully invest in their new mission field at home!