Helping Short-Term Missions Have a Long-Term Impact, Part 2


Shawn Kiger


One of my favorite things in youth ministry is short-term mission trips. I love planning them, getting students excited about going, and leading them. I love the Christian community we create within our group while we are on the trip: serving together, cooking and eating together, playing together, and basically doing life together has a huge impact on us as a group. The other day (in part 1 of this article), I wrote about some of my preparation steps. Now let’s talk about the trip itself.

My favorite part of youth ministry is the time I spend with youth on mission trips. I love to see plans come together; but more importantly than that, I love getting to spend so much time with my students and getting to see them stretched and growing. During the trip, we constantly talk about why we’re doing this and how we can do this in our everyday lives. We have worship each evening where we share scripture verses on loving others. We talk about our day and where we saw God at work. Then I connect it to something they can do at home.

I also try to plan for them to meet people that live their lives serving others. I point out to them the people that run the soup kitchen and ask them to share why they do it with our group. I pull in college interns from the organizations we partner with, so my students begin to see that they could do the same thing when they’re in college. We ask the food bank director to share why they do what they do. This enables the students to see real people who have chosen to be in service to others as their career. Over and over, we’re asking “why?” so that my teenagers wrestle with their own motives, connecting the dots with their beliefs.

Once we get home, the work doesn’t end. Follow-up is always hard in the summer. The students are going on vacations and working summer jobs. So I try to plan a couple of days during the summer to do something in our community that was similar to what we did on our mission trip. This summer we are working with the homeless in Washington, D.C., and I have planned to work with some of our local homeless after the trip. That way the students can see that they can serve and love others like Jesus talked about, not just once a week somewhere else, but they can really do this everyday of their lives. And if they choose to do so, they can even make a career out of it!

And all of this we connect to our experience of the 30 Hour Famine, before, during and after the trip, as well as connecting back to the trip when we’re in the middle our Famine. What I’ve seen is that this sort of intentionality helps students connect both the missions trip and the Famine experience with their everyday lives in deeper ways.