Planning Intergenerational Mission Trips
Every year, summer comes sooner than expected in youth ministry. Summer also brings things that our students expect us to plan like fun camps and life-changing mission trips. What if your next mission trip not only showed your students how to serve others outside of the church but helped them to learn to serve with those inside of your church? On a mission trip of any length or to any location, our students can learn valuable life lessons that will change their worldview for the rest of their life.
I don’t need to argue the value of missions or teaching our students to live their life with mission, my challenge to you is to include many generations in on a valuable trip to serve others. While this may mean more background checks on your part, it will have a lasting impact on your students as they will have new opportunities to grow and learn from Christ followers from all walks of life. Why should you consider taking an intergenerational mission trip?
Valuable Opportunities to Lead
Just because the mission trip includes multiple generations doesn’t mean that the students have to step aside in terms of leadership! I often encourage my students to spend time in prayer and plan the trip on their own before we open up registration to parents and other adults. This allows students the ownership and the leadership of their own mission trip. They are then able to have a central role in the promotion of the mission trip, raising the funds to attend, and the creative aspects of the work that we will get to accomplish when we arrive. Your students might just surprise you with the things that they would be willing to do on a mission trip and the passion that they will bring to the project, why not let them lead their elders to do the same?
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Many parents and older people have been guilty of this phrase. Honestly, life is easier when we expect others to learn from our mistakes but modeling plays a central role in intergenerational activities. Students will not only hear the stories and the faith narratives of those they are serving alongside, they will see their parents’ and other trusted adults’ faith be put to the test right before their very eyes. They will see their elders get out of their comfort zone to physically love their neighbors and spiritually they will understand what it sounds like to listen to some of the best prayer warriors in your church pray for individuals that you have all just met. It is one thing to explain to your students what a great relationship with God looks like but this gives them the opportunity to see faith in action in some of the adults that they see each week.
Becoming a Productive Member of Society
Not only will your students have a change of heart about your older attendees, but your older attendees might just see your teen group as something more than the troublemakers who are always too loud in church. If you want to help your church see your teens as productive members of the church, have your youth serve alongside some of the most hardworking members. Sometimes, not being able to make the transition from child to adult is why my college students leave the church that they grew up in. Providing opportunities for the youth to serve alongside the adults will not only strengthen your teens, it will bring a new hope to the church as a whole.
While everyone’s group is a little bit different, Christ calls us all to the great commission. We all share this common charge and many people are willing to cross generational divides to further God’s Kingdom. Help your students and adults serve together, help them to learn together, and they will hopefully be able to share their journeys together. We are stronger when we are the whole body of Christ.
Jen Willard is a full time youth pastor in Charlotte, NC where she lives with her husband, Bryan. She is currently attending Nazarene Theological Seminary to obtain a Masters of Divinity. Jen is a coffee snob, beach addict, and travel enthusiast who loves walking with teenagers toward Jesus! Find me on INSTAGRAM and TWITTER as @DUCKJD.
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.