3 Ways to Do Short-Term Missions Without Leaving Your Home
For many youth groups, summer short term mission trips are a highlight of what they do each summer. The months-long process from sign-ups, preparation, and going and returning from these mission trips builds spiritual growth and youth group unity, as well as provides a fantastic opportunity to serve. While there have been some valid critiques of short term missions over the years, when done “correctly,” they can be a powerful tool to serve and bless others, as well as bless those who are part of these trips.
The pandemic has changed all of this in many ways. For our church, last summer (2020), our church cancelled all summer mission trips (our youth group does 4 different trips each summer). This was a big shock to our youth ministry because it is such a huge part of the ministry our students and parents look forward to. But we knew it was for the best. This summer (2021), our church leadership again cancelled all our summer mission trips. Again, this was very disappointing for many students and families. Despite this, one motto our youth ministry has about short term mission trips is that “the mission work really starts when you arrive back home.” We promote this idea because we hope one value our students learn is that missions is a lifelong endeavor. Missions are not just about a place you are going, but year around and all around us everywhere. Missions are a lifestyle and not just a season.
In the midst of last summer’s (2020) short term mission trips being canceled, while also promoting a “life-style” of mission work, our youth group found ways to do a “missions” project each month. Some failed, some were exciting, and we had to explore and experiment. Out of the many, we found 3 ways to do “missions” without leaving our “homes.” We found these to be effective and enjoyable.
While our youth group each summer goes and serves with churches in our urban communities, we realized through the pandemic, as we thought about ways to do “missions,” that there were many things to do at our own church. As we asked our church leadership and custodial staff, we found painting projects, cleaning and maintenance work, and projects in our church playground and parking lot. It was amazing how much the church had to do for us and were excited to have this “free” labor when we asked. It was also a good way to foster the relationship between our church and youth ministry.
During this pandemic, our students’ middle and high school teachers were working hard, many endeavoring in online and hybrid teaching formats, and working extra hours to adapt during this time. They also needed encouragement. While often forgotten, our youth group found a great way to serve their teachers by providing care packages. We heard back from many teachers words of thanks for the gifts we made for them. Often, we might overlook the work of teachers to our youth ministry students, but the pandemic gave our youth ministry a great way to serve and love them.
Our youth ministry found two ministries that were asking for encouragement letters for their constituents. One was a food and meal distribution center which included encouragement cards to those receiving boxes of their food. Another ministry was for orphans who often did not receive messages of hope and encouragement. Our youth group enjoyed serving these ministries through writing encouragement cards. In addition, it was a great way to do a mission project during the pandemic. We bought big boxes of blank cards and mailed or delivered them to students, they wrote them at home and brought them back to church.
Overall, the pandemic has changed so much about youth ministry. Yet, while some things like summer camps and mission trips are returning to some youth groups, many youth groups are having to re-evaluate their youth ministries. Short-term missions trips are that for us. And while for last summer and this summer, our church leadership did not permit us to travel away from home to do mission work, the re-evaluating was a blessing for us. We found new ways to do mission work and to do them more consistently throughout the year, to promote missions as a lifestyle and not just a season.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.