Infusing Missions into your Ministry’s DNA
How was your summer? If it was like mine, it was a crazy roller coaster of high-attendance and low-attendance, water wars and at least one mission trip. Now you are (hopefully) riding that really awesome momentum swing as we get into the thick of the school year, and everybody is back from vacation. It’s during this time we get to do what we love to do as student pastors, and that is get into the social sphere of our students on campus or at the stadium. It is one of my absolute favorite times of the year because I can get out of the office and build on current relationships and establish new ones.
The other thing that comes with this time of the year is planning for the next year, and now that you are through the summer, it is time to plan for next summer. For many student ministries, that means that we begin thinking through short-term missions and any projects that we will bring students together in service. You will be weighing the pros and cons of this past summer’s retreat, plus you are probably getting all of the “try us out” mail from every other retreat, conference and convention.
Sure, you can do a randomly selected short-term trip, taking students to a place that they have never been to. There is merit in that. I love seeing students experience a variety of cultural contexts during their tenure in the student ministry, improving their cultural intelligence. Also, there is quite a lot to be gained from a worship retreat. I have seen students step onto a beach for the very first time ever, and that is a really cool moment. Plus, you normally get amazing worship as well as incredible teaching during those types of retreats.
What I would like to submit is that you can free yourself up from worrying about that “one thing” that you need to do for the summer, by integrating missions into the very DNA of who you are as a ministry.
Steps to making missions a part of your DNA
1) Same people, same place
I would suggest choosing a specific ministry, agency or organization to work with in a very specific place in the world that you can consistently work with throughout the year. Maybe your first experience is a short-term trip, but you are already planning on coming to that place again, and that allows you to connect year-round by resourcing and praying for those people that your students already know.
One of the most eye-opening experiences was when I began as a student going year-after-year to one particular place to serve (mostly because it was close to us), and establishing relationships that I really did not even realize were forming. This place, in particular, was a Boy’s and Girl’s Club in a rough, inner-city area. I took off about 1-2 years while in college, but got the opportunity to lead a group of students to that same place. Even after a couple of years, there were older kids there that remembered me and the ministry that I had done there years before. It was awesome.
That is what I am suggesting we create in our ministries. This helps you plan specifically, pray specifically and build something that will last in the lives of those who you are serving, as well as your students who are going.
2) Annually, Quarterly, Monthly, Weekly, Daily
Utilize the consistency of calendar to have your students move from trying to do some missions projects to doing so without even having to think about it. Eventually, for the students who buy in, they go from trying it out to making it a priority to making it a subconscious action. The win becomes that moment when a student begins seeing the world around them in an intentional and missional way. Students constantly come back from short-term annual trips fired up and ready to keep it going, but are we setting them up for success? For a long time, my answer to that question was no. I would just wait until the next year’s short-term trip.
3) Every opportunity, not every student
Know that not every student is going to engage with every opportunity, and that is ok. There will be many who are early adopters, but many will wait and see who’s doing it, and then they will decide based upon their level of FOMO. There will be opportunities that take a while to gain traction, but promote it and get some champions to back it. You cannot be as worried about the numbers as the shift in your students’ thinking. This is an entire cultural shift for many ministries, and it doesn’t come easy.
4) Let them find their ministry
Do you have a student leadership team? If not a full “team”, do you have a few students who are the go-getters and leaders? Listen to their hearts. Find out where they want to serve, where their passions lay and what their particular skills are. When students create the ministries, they are much more likely to serve in them, and they are much more likely to bring others along because they believe in it. Allow God to bring up and grow this new generation of world changers. It might simply be a weekly trip over to the nursing home to sing and play dominos, but that could multiply and end up being a team of students that regularly go to Costa Rica to serve a church year after year, even after they leave the student ministry.
The end goal is to free yourself up to get creative in your ministry without having to worry about that one short-term mission trip that you have to take in order to check that box for the year. More than that, the big win is when your students begin developing missions and executing them with little to no help from you.
Joseph Fowler has a passion for leading the next generation of the Church, and reaching those who are far from God. He’s a sports fanatic, outdoorsman, pop culture connoisseur, and gamer. Find Joseph on Twitter @THEJOSEPHFOWLER, FACEBOOK, and INSTAGRAM.
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.