I just got back from one of our best, if not the best, youth mission trip we have ever done at Cedar Run. I saw God do some amazing things as He pushed and challenged our students in their faith, in how they view others and the blessings they have been given. And, I saw Him bring together students who did not know each other well. It was a great experience.
As I have posted before, mission trips are just one of the 4 different types of summer camping: outreach, discipleship, mission trips and high adventure trips. I believe that there is no right or wrong choice; it just depends on what your intention is and where you want to take your students. The bigger question that we need to ask ourselves comes after you get back from the trip. That question is how do you capitalize on what God did during that trip? No matter what kind of trip you go on, you usually come back with students who grew in their faith and are now in closer community with each other. So, what do you do with them so that you can build off of the momentum and encourage them in Christ while inspiring others to do likewise? Here are a few suggestions that came to mind.
How do you capitalize?
For starters, you could do a Post-Trip Gathering. Young Life does a great job with this. After every summer camp they go to, within 3 weeks, they do a Post-Trip Gathering in which they have invite everyone who went (and their parents) to a dessert or cook. Then, they show a slide show or video of the trip and then have a few students share about how that experience changed their life. It is a fantastic way to reinvigorate the students as they reflect on the memories they made and hear about how real life change happened during that time away. This can be the perfect prelude to introducing a summer time Bible study or inviting the to come back to Church to hear about your latest message sequence.
Another idea is to create a month long Discipleship Follow Up. Often times, students come back from trips on a spiritual high, but return to the realities of the world where they can be spiritually discouraged and crushed – a clear momentum killer. When they return from a trip, even though they are on these highs, many times they are not equipped or prepared for the realities of the world. A great way to counter this is to have something already planned out where you can continue to bring the students together and unite and encourage them in Christ. There are many different ways you can go about this. Some examples are to invite them to Church, a small group Bible Study, a study designed just for those who are coming back from camp, etc. By doing this, students can stay on fire for the Lord by getting spiritually fed. Even though the realities of their lives will impact them to some degree, they will know that there is Truth waiting for them just right around the corner.
You could also build off of the momentum and excitement of the camp trip by spending time at each Sunday morning or at your evening program talking about it. For instance, you can have 1 person each week for a month share about their experience and how it impacted their life. This way you are indirectly promoting your trip for next year by showing others that life change does happen and that those who didn’t go on the trip missed out on a unique experience. It also keeps the memories and experiences fresh in their minds and encourages everyone that they can impact and help others for Christ in the local community.
The last and maybe most important key here is to include everyone. This past year, I was very pleased to take 22 students with us on our mission trip. Although that is a solid number, that represents just about 25% of our total youth program. If you truly want to capitalize on a powerful experience, you have to include everyone in your group and make them feel that they are still important and can contribute to the youth program in some way.
TAKE A MINUTE and…
- Recall past post-camp experiences. What made that time a success in building off the camp trip and what were some misses that prevented you from in building from your experience?
- What can you do this summer to help capitalize and build upon so this coming year can be one of your best trips ever?
Know this, it’s not too late! Even if you already did you trip earlier in the summer, you can still capitalize on this trip. If you don’t have a follow up strategy for your trip already, come up with one so you can build upon this and bring more students into a more mature relationship with Christ.
Questions, thoughts or experiences? Feel free to post them so we can be encouraging each other.