By Toby Rowe / Group Mission Trips / Loveland, Colorado
Every youth leader at some time and in some way asks these two very important questions: What does Jesus want from our student ministry? What do students want and need from our student ministry?
You may phrase those questions differently, or think about them a different way. But the big idea remains the same: is your student ministry headed in the right direction? Are you doing the right things to get it there?
The one thing that can bring all those needs together is – missions and service.
That’s not just a guess on our part. Our friends at Group Magazine have done some major research to determine what events and activities yield the greatest spiritual growth for students, and this is what they found. Aside from parents, missions/service trips, and retreats are the student ministry components that have the greatest long-term impact on spiritual growth. It’s why hundreds of thousands of teens (and their youth leaders) serve people on a summer mission trip every year. Missions and service hold the key to both transforming your students into Christ-followers, and growing your ministry in ways you could never imagine.
So why missions and service? Because, unlike most of the other things that we “do” or “program” in our ministries, missions teaches students how to be the hands and feet of Jesus and feel His heart and compassion for people. Those two milestones are transformational in a person’s life. You can teach a hundred Bible studies and preach a thousand sermons about Jesus being a servant and having compassion for people. Or you can integrate missions and service into your youth ministry and watch as your students are transformed into Christ-followers by responding to the real needs of real people.
That’s what Jesus did – He encountered people in need and met their needs. And the disciples became world-changing Christians as they experienced that kind of lifestyle. Your students can become the same. And while they’re serving and loving people, your group will be building unbreakable bonds with each other. As their personal ministry grows, your youth ministry will grow as well, drawing in other students who can begin their own personal relationship with the Savior.
That’s how our ministry at Group mission trips started in 1977. A broken dam and ensuing flood in Colorado displaced hundreds of people; some lives were lost as well. In a simple response of Christian love and service, the employees of Group Publishing gathered some local churches and their youth groups, and headed up the Thompson Canyon to help. People in need were served in Jesus’ name. Lives were transformed. That was the beginning of Group Workcamps and Group Week of Hope. Since then, nearly 300,000 people have served people in need through one of our summer mission trips.
We hope that you’ll make missions and service a regular part of your youth ministry. Your students, your ministry, and everyone you serve will never be the same.
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