Mission Recipients Get Way More Than Those Who Serve

Encouragement, Joy, Hope, and Appreciation

By Eric Iverson / YouthWorks!, Inc. / Minneapolis, Minnesota

Let the Truth Be Told: I have been involved in U.S. Short-Term Missions (STM) all my life and been a part of every aspect of missions during that time. I grew up and currently live in a Host Community, have participated and led STM experiences as a Goer-Guest, and serve at a Sending Organization. The two most overheard statements coming from guests are, “They were so happy with so little” and “I got way more than I gave.” The truth is, hosts are the recipients of the majority of the benefits and positive impact that come from STM efforts within the North American context.

Because of the selfless service of thousands of short-term missionaries (Guests) in economically challenged communities each summer, the people in those communities (Hosts), especially the local churches, benefit most in four ways: through a tremendous amount of encouragement, a healthy portion of joy, a renewed sense of hope, and an increased amount of appreciation of the Cross-centered Gospel. Those outcomes would not be available to us, in the ways I describe, without the annual ministry of STM in our communities.


To teach others – As Hosts partner with Guests, they spend a lot of time teaching others about their cultural context, history, values, and how they live out their faith in their own community every day. Hosts use a voice they have not been allowed to use before, and it encourages them in developing and using their voice. I know of one community where a Host has taught so much that he has started an STM organization bringing students into his community each year to serve alongside him, learn from him, and live out the Gospel with his local church.

To be proud of their identity in Christ – There is satisfaction in being a part of a community where people come to build relationships, grow in their faith, and leave with a deeper and closer relationship with Christ than when they came.

To share the Gospel in their own Jerusalem – Each summer, as Host communities see hundreds of members of the “great cloud of witnesses” come into their community, they feel supported and encouraged to preach the Good News after the Guests have left.


When they see Guests impacted – Hosts receive joy in knowing they played a part in equipping Guests each year to live out the Gospel, not just talk about it. Hosts take joy in knowing that Guests gained a better understanding of how to live the Gospel so that they can live it out where it really matters; back at home.


In being “Christ” to Guests – Hosts in the “Church That Stays” love to express Christ’s love to the Guest from “The Church That Pays.” There is joy in helping a Guest discover that the same Jesus who is loved, worshiped, and glorified in the Guest’s community is living and transforming lives in the Host’s community as well.


That people can change – With more Guests returning to the same community, Hosts have the opportunity to see the same people each year and observe the changes in them. Some have learned to prepare for their trips by doing research about the community, or by committing to growing together as a group before they come. Hosts see people who were too focused on “doing” come back with a heart that has changed and is now focused on learning and on building relationships.

That the Hosts are considered as a part of the Body too – Hosts are gaining hope that Guests are reading the same verses in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 as they are. There is hope that Guests are beginning to see that “those parts of the Body that seem weaker are indispensable…” (v.22). This hope comes as spiritually thirsty Guests come back to a well far from home, are meeting Jesus there, and being satisfied.

Appreciation of the Cross-Centered Gospel

Host too often can view the harm, embarrassment, and shame that have been brought by a few self-righteous and prideful short-term missionaries to communities as an argument against salvation for some. These ideas set limits on God’s grace when it applies to those who do harm in Jesus’ name, and can be found just below the surface for many Hosts. This type of thinking takes the Cross out of the center of the Gospel and places it elsewhere, but not in the center of the good news of Christ’s atonement for all our sins on the Cross.

Short-Term Mission trips build relationships that allow Hosts to see the Guests as sisters and brothers who are washed clean by the same blood that Christ shed. Those relationships help Hosts to see Guests as included in the group of believers Paul describes in Romans 3:22 when he said, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”

So, keep serving in the STM field of North America. We are giving a lot more than we think!


Youth Leaders Only members get a collection of these practical articles with their membership. You really should become a member!

Life Lessons from the Border

Four Things I've Learned From Mission Trips

By Jeff Bachman / Mariner’s Church / Mission Viejo, California

I am not a missionary, but I do go on mission trips. Since I spend as much time traveling to and from the mission field than actually being on the mission field, I thought I would share some lessons that I’ve learned from crossing borders.

  1. Everything is negotiable. When we were coming home from a ministry trip to Mexico, we were all on a mission trip high. The students were proud of the work they had done. Our final task was to wait in line to get back into the United States. While we were in our vehicle and waiting, many Mexican vendors were trying to sell us their wares. (Did you know you could get a goat taco brought right to your car?) Whether the item for sale was food, velvet paintings, or ceramic statues of Spiderman, the original asking price was not what we paid. This may not change your life, but I often ask more questions in those situations. Don’t be cantankerous, but what you see is not always what you get. There is always an option “B” – or at least a better price on option “A.”
    • Lesson 1B is: Goat tacos cause VIOLENT vomiting.
  2. The mission field is wherever you are. Nothing takes longer than getting out of a country that you had to fill out paperwork to get into. The authorities want to make sure that everything that was in their country when you started your trip is still there (minus a goat taco or two.) Some of the best conversations with teenagers can happen while waiting in line of cars to declare that you have nothing to declare. You have a captive audience! If your students don’t sit quietly, they may end up singing a new national anthem as their own. Engage them in conversation. What excites them about the upcoming adventures? Why are they going? What did they learn? One of the richest reasons for these trips is the fellowship dynamics that come from time in a car together. The border provides that for you.
  3. Are you going on the trip to serve, or to shock? Sadly, many of my early trips were for the shock and awe of going to a third world country; not for the love and compassion of seeing others introduced to Christ. I often found myself taking a sick delight, as we waited to enter Mexico, of looking in my rearview mirror at the faces of the first-timers. There has to be a balance. In the process of this being a life-changing experience for your own group, make sure you never loose sight of the people you are ministering to.
  4. Is this the best use of your time? The last trip that I went on had a profound impact on my view of mission trips. We were doing the typical line crawl where we rolled a car length every five-to-eighty minutes. We were enjoying the local food and sights, and we were interacting with each other and the people in the country as we left from a great mission trip. As I sat there, fighting the temptation to order another goat taco, I realized that I had just spent more time traveling in a van to minister to people that I have very little contact with for another 51 weeks of the year. My neighbor doesn’t know Christ, and yet I have just spent the last four months preparing for this trip. I would never discount the value of mission trips, but each one should be approached with care and caution. Ask yourself why you are doing this trip. Are you empowering the locals, including long-term missionaries, to not count on your traveling once-a-year show? This is not the “Don’t Go” part, but it is a begging from youth pastor to youth pastor to make sure you are using what God has given you to the best of your ability.

There is much to be learned during the actual trips, but don’t sell short the time spent coming and going from the mission field. There is wisdom in this time that could change your life.


Youth Leaders Only members get a collection of these practical articles with their membership. You really should become a member!

The Un-Mission Trip

Get More Kingdom Bang For Your Fundraising Buck

By Rick Bundschuh / Kauai Christian Fellowship / Kauai, Hawaii

Let me assure you that taking students to third-world countries for exposure to missions is a very valuable idea on several levels. The trips get them fired up about missions in general, and make them very appreciative (at least for awhile) of all the things they take for granted at home. A mission project infuses the kids with a sense of responsibility for the poor that they will never shake and often brings a wonder sense of purposefulness and comradeship.

There are lots and lots of great reasons for going on mission trips – which is why I take a group of kids to Tijuana ever year.

But seldom – very, very, seldom – are mission trips truly effective in reaching those in far-off lands for Christ. Yes, by our presence and efforts we may be supporting a ministry that is active in evangelism, but let’s get really honest with each other here; mission trips usually do far more good (in the short run) for our kids than they do for those in foreign countries we visit for a week or two.

Oh, I know that sometimes, after the skit or presentation (if you do that kind of thing), lots of hands went up or people came forward. But, most of the time we have no idea if the locals are just being nice to the Yankee kids, or if they have a culture that responds in this way to every invitation. (No, I am not denying that God can move, but as one who has lots of friends in foreign missions who host youth groups, lets just say I am aware that all is not always as it seems.)

And then, there is the money.

Usually, thousands of dollars per student are spent to go to a place – where the money spent by our youth group to get to this place could feed and fuel the economy of an entire village for a year.  Most of us are aware of the huge discrepancy between wages in poor countries and the USA. Many of us have, sitting in the midst of poverty, felt acute embarrassment at our own over-the-top wealth and careless spending habits when just a few less luxuries at home could put the village kid we were playing soccer with through school.

So here is an idea: this year, don’t go. Don’t have a mission trip at all; have an Un-mission Trip.

Do your fundraisers, get the bucks together, make a goal that is exactly the same as if your crew were jumping on a plane or doing the road trip to Mexico on the bus. And then send all the money to the mission that you were going to work with. The money can be used to hire a local evangelist, to feed a family, to buy Bibles, to pay bills, to send a hardworking local missionary couple on a surprise weekend trip to the big city and their first-ever stay in a hotel with some spending money in their pocket. Or, bring someone from the mission you visited last year to your town. Help them get their visitor visas, buy them Wal-Mart or even Macy’s gift cards and let them go nuts. Give them the vacation of their lifetime. Let them try to minister to your church this year.

True, some kids will not be motivated by this idea. (You may have better luck with kids who have already had their eyes opened in prior mission trips) Some are only willing to work hard if they benefit from it. But it won’t take much in the way of math or graphs to make the case that perhaps this year, unlike other years, the goal of your mission efforts is to get as much Kingdom bang for the buck; and that by staying home, working hard, and sending the cash (okay, okay, pick one kid who worked super hard and send him or her down with a staff person to present the gift), the good things that can be done are multiplied.

And we all can still have fun working toward that purpose.

Youth Leaders Only members get a collection of these practical articles with their membership. You really should become a member!

2017 Grammy Awards Usher In The Future

By Allen Weed | interlínc | Franklin, Tennessee | allenweed@interlinc-online.com

This insightful guest blog is from one of our long-time industry friends Keith Stancil. His book “Monsters” (a great resource for aspiring young musicians in your ministry) was included in YLO 103.
The 2017 Grammy Awards ushered in the future last night. Another year of music, another year of trend setters and another year of an evolving industry.

There were a few performance highlights for me this year. The Weekend showed the world that he can seriously sing! While I miss his sculpted hair, I’m glad it proved not to be his source of stardom. Ed Sheeran showed us how to perform solo but sound like a band without it feeling like karaoke. Side musicians could be in trouble? I was super impressed with Lukas Graham and Kelsea Ballerini. Lukas immediately earned space on my Spotify playlist. Guy Clark Jr and William Bell owned the night with their performance of “Born Under A Bad Sign!” It was great seeing Morris Day and The Time as they reminded everyone where Bruno Mars draws much of his musical inspiration. And speaking of Bruno Mars, he absolutely slayed the Prince tribute performance of “Purple Rain.” The Lady Gaga Metallica pairing was brilliant and added serious rockdom to the evening. But the most memorable 2017 Grammy performance moment will be when Adele stopped mid-performance, let a few explicit words fly, and re-started her George Michael tribute in the correct key. While I’m glad she found the right key, it felt somewhat like the redo I grabbed during my first piano recital at six years old. Sans the explicit lyrics of course.

The one big take away for me from this year’s Grammy Awards is that independent artists can find their way to the top of the music industry food chain. Chance The Rapper walked away with three Grammys without the backing of a record label. To top it off, his winning album Coloring Book is a streaming-only release. And that my friends signals a seismic shift in the music industry. That future we have been hearing about for the last few years just arrived.




3 Reasons Youth Leaders Only Makes So Much Sense In The Changing Youth Culture World

By Allen Weed | interlínc | Franklin, Tennessee | allenweed@interlinc-online.com

We all know that kids love music. To be effective in student ministry we have to stay on top of the entertainment media that our kids swim in 9 hours everyday.

So…what are the BIG 3?

ACCESS – Everything moves SO fast… how does a youthworker keep up with the youth culture world? We keep you informed about and give you “insider” ACCESS to the artists, their upcoming music, videos, concerts.  With little expense of time or money we do the work to take you behind the scenes and introduce you to the best and newest Christian music, worship music and mainstream music.

GROUP RESOURCES  – We don’t stop with just giving you ACCESS.  We equip you with tools that allow you to use the artist and their music in your youth group meetings – Video Loop-YouTube Playlists, Bible Studies, Thematic Listings Of Songs, Mainstream Discussion Starters. Worship Band Resources and more.

MUSIC TO EARBUDS RESOURCES – TThis is where the student ministry impact explodes! What if you could get songs that tie to your weekly teaching time into your kids’ earbuds and grab some of that 9 hours of every day entertainment media? This is where we really help. Old school was a CD Lending Library (remember that resource??)…. Now it’s 100 times better! A Spotify or Apple playlist link that you can send directly to your students’ phones… Now we’re talking!

With the big changes in the way music is consumed by students (90% of high school students listen to their music through a streaming service)…  we have the greatest opportunity ever to get Christ-honoring music into kids’ earbuds….

interlinc and YLO are continuing to evolve from 1.0 (CDs and physical) to 2.0 (downloads) and now to 3.0 (a hybrid of downloads and streaming). The good news is…

You are getting the tools for ACCESS, GROUP RESOURCES, and EARBUD RESOURCES and the price keeps going down down down.

Be watching for the newer, faster, cheaper YLO 3.0!

Youth Ministry Take-Aways From The Super Bowl

By Todd Pearage | New Hanover UMC | Gilbertsville, PA | toddp@newhanoverumc.org

Tension, controversy, and questionable performances — there was also a football game.

Whether you tuned in for the game, the commercials, or the halftime show, chances are good you watched the biggest sporting event in the free world. So, what did we learn and how should we, as pastors for this next generation, interact with what we just watched?

As you undoubtedly know, Lady Gaga was the halftime entertainment, and opinions on my Facebook wall ranged from “incredibly entertaining” to “worst halftime ever.” While you won’t find a Lady Gaga song on my iPhone or any Spotify playlist, I was glad to see it was less sexualized then previous halftime shows.

I thought the commercials as a whole were disappointing. I did like the Terry Bradshaw (it may be because I’m a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan) and the “stuck” one – the kid flipped over on the big wheel made me laugh. The Melissa McCarthy “eco warrior” one was my favorite. So while they provided some great conversations in my house, I have to say the T-Mobile one sparked the most controversy. Between the marijuana jokes and inappropriate 50 Shades of Gray and S&M references, I thought they really crossed the line.

Now that the game is over and the Lombardi trophy has been given to the New England Patriots, what’s next? Let me encourage you to take advantage of the incredible opportunities we have to initiate meaningful conversations with students about things that matter most. I love football, but at the end of the day it is a game.

This year you can talk about never giving up, overcoming impossible odds, teamwork – the list goes on and on.

So don’t miss your chance to impact the lives of your students!

PS. Weren’t the hundreds of drones amazing?

What’s Expected of a Youth Leader at a Meeting?

9 Tasks You Need To Do Even If You Don't Have Anything To Do

This is a special cross-ministry “guest” blog by our Editor, Ken McCoy – the Emperor of JumpStart Ministries. He originally posted it at JumpStart’s website, and gave us permission to repost it here. Thanks, Ken!


Okay, so it’s an hour before the youth meeting is supposed to start, and you’re wondering why you should go. You don’t have any responsibilities for the program, and this has been a tough few days. You could use the time off. After all, they don’t need you there, right?


Here are nine essential tasks that MUST be accomplished BY YOU if this youth meeting is going to be effective ministry. So, get off the couch, start thinking of all the great kids you’re about to interact with, and go for it!

  1. Be in Prayer: Before you even come, pray about the meeting. Pray for the person who will be teaching, and pray that God will use you to minister to students.
  2. Be Early: The times before and after the meeting are your prime ministry opportunities. Please be at least fifteen minutes early for the meeting.
  3. Be Positive: Portray a positive and enthusiastic…

You can read the rest of the nine items here. Copy/Paste/Print and share this with your volunteers!


By Greg Stier | Dare 2 Share | Arvada, Colorado | dare2share.org


Do your teens have evangephobia? In their “live and let live” world, evangelism can seem like an antiquated idea. We shouldn’t be surprised that evangephobia has spread like an epidemic through our youth groups.

Jesus clearly stated that He came to seek and save the lost, and He’s charged us with spreading His message to those who don’t know Him. Sharing the Gospel is not optional simply because of the times in which we live. It’s something we’re commanded to be about until His return.

Get all the Evangelism Articles in YLO105 when you become a YLO Member.

So what’s a youth leader to do? I’ve identified five key reasons teens don’t share their faith. I’ve also uncovered a few insights that can help you address their evangephobia and help you mobilize them to share the Gospel with their friends.

 Reason #1: Fear – What will my friends think if I talk about Jesus? Fear of rejection looms large, but you can help your teens overcome their fear straight from the pages of Scripture. Show them that they’re not in this faith-sharing thing alone. God goes with them and promises to provide His power as they share His love and truth with others. 2 Timothy 1:7-8 assures us: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” Help your teens learn to rely on God’s power and promises. Encourage them to pray for their lost friends and to ask for God’s assistance. This can give teens the courage they need to step out bravely.

Reason #2: Lack of Urgency – What difference does it make anyway? Hell is a very unpopular concept these days. But, Jesus spoke matter-of-factly about a literal hell. Jesus used the word gehenna (“hell”) eleven of the twelve times it appears in the New Testament. He never described hell as figurative, temporary, or anything less than horrific. The Bible describes hell as “for real” and “forever.”

Sometimes, the twenty-first-century version of the Christian God is just loving instead of just and loving. The just part of God (which demands absolute justice, holiness, and perfection) has been minimized and the loving part of God (which shows mercy, grace, and forgiveness) has been emphasized. As a result, teens have begun to view God as more of a cosmic Santa Claus who caters to their every whim instead of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) By helping your teens understand the reality of hell and the hope of heaven, the urgency of the message of the Gospel comes alive. They need to see that their friends’ eternal destiny hangs in the balance.

 Reason #3: Live and Let Live – Other’s spiritual beliefs aren’t my business. Sometimes teens think evangelism is all about standing on a street corner with a bullhorn and yelling, “Repent!” They may see spiritual conversation as inappropriate or intrusive. Evangelism, however, is actually about…

For the rest of Greg’s article, go here.


Don't Make a Typical New Year's Resolution

By Ken McCoy | JumpStart Ministries | Charlotte, North Carolina


When I get to heaven, I’m really looking forward to meeting Daniel – the Daniel, the one from the Bible. That guy was a STUD for the faith! His intelligence, capabilities, and character were world class. Of all the characters in the Bible—besides Jesus, that is—Daniel is the one I admire most.

And it all started with a “New Years” resolution.

Daniel 1:8 starts out, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself…” Note that key word: resolved. He made up his mind. He was committed and determined.

If you know the story, you know that Daniel was probably a pre-teen or teenager when this happened. He was one of who knows how many wealthy and intelligent boys who were taken from their families, transported across the Fertile Crescent from Israel to Babylon, and put into a three-year crash course that would strip them of their Jewish identities and turn them into government employees.

“But Daniel resolved…”

Even though almost all the young Israeli guys were going along with the program, even though you can’t fault them for thinking that God had abandoned them, even though the price of going against the established order was high, Daniel resolved not to leave his faith back at home.

And God came through for him.

Daniel and his three roommates first asked the school Principal for permission to eat only kosher food, but he denied their request. So, they struck a deal with their homeroom teacher – a ten-day diet to prove that the teacher wouldn’t get in trouble with the authorities. I don’t know about you, but my experience with ten-day diets is that they don’t work. In this case, it did – in reverse. The four young men looked healthier than the rest of their school after the ten days were over. Plus, God gave them greater intelligence, and favor with others – and Daniel was given a supernatural ability.

And for three years, those guys were vegetarians. Three years!

So, here’s the reason I’m thinking about Daniel’s teenaged determination to remain faithful to God. It’s New Years, the time to make “resolutions” for positive change in the coming year. You know as well as I that New Years Resolutions rarely work. The reason is that they’re not resolutions. They’re hopes. They’re goals. They’re good intentions. But there is no “resolve” in those resolutions. There’s no determination.

So, this year, think about something that is so important that you can be resolved about it. Don’t make any New Years Resolutions this year – instead, become resolved to follow God with everything you have.

And then, don’t be surprised when He comes through for you!


The Real Meaning of Christmas

15 Ideas to Keep Your Students Focused on the Real Meaning of Christmas

By Dave Weiss | New Creation Fellowship | Redding, Pennsylvania


As we approach the Christmas season, our thoughts usually turn to wish lists, gifts, shopping and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s a great time of year and there’s nothing wrong with having a wish list, but Christmas has a deeper meaning — it’s the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the greatest Gift of all. How do we as youth workers turn our students’ focus from the gifts to the Giver? The answer can be found in Matthew 25:34-40. Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me.” (NIV) Since Christmas is the time we celebrate “Jesus’ birthday”, the way we give gifts to Jesus is by serving His brothers and sisters — other children of God, especially those less fortunate.

Here are some ideas to help your students participate in sharing the greatest gift of all, the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

  1. Serve Meals at your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, etc. Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.” Meeting this most basic human need is a great way to help your students appreciate God’s blessings.
  2. Caroling and visitation: Yes, caroling is old fashioned, but there are many people who feel forgotten during the holidays. Something as simple as singing a few songs for some “shut ins” from your church and including a gift like a fruit basket can be a great way to show that love and care.
  3. Angel Tree: Many retail stores and churches have “Angel Trees” that contain ornaments listing needy children in your community and their needs. Have your students…

Dave has a ton of great ideas, and you can read the rest of them here.