Sunday, April 18, 2004

Students and Local Ministry
From the YPNation News Network, a topic suggestion close to my heart - Succesful ways you've gotten students involved in local community ministry...
I thought I would outline the big winners we did this year with our students. Before that, I thought I would share a little background:
- Our ministry did not have a missions/community service component to it prior to this year. Most if not all of that was up to individual small group leaders. That's good and bad. Good because they know the kids and if you get a leader to do it, you probably get most of their kids. Bad because it's a lot to put on a small group leader. I think, and lots of other people agree, that our small group leaders probably put in the most time across all the volunteers in the whole church. Sunday worship, a Bible study every week, contact time with kids, every other Friday night outreaches... It's a lot. Who's got time for community service, and don't even think about a summer missions trip. And forget about the leader's family, if they have one, or a full time job. At best, it makes for a very hectic and busy lifestyle; at worst, we setup leaders for a habit of ministry overload and all that comes with it. So one of our goals was to provide these service opportunites that leaders could just show up to.
- We have kids that have a heart for service and missions. They came out of the cracks when we started this. I suspect you do too. In fact, I think we are dealing with a different generation. When I was a high schooler in the 80's, all I wanted to do was watch MTV. The students we have these days are different.
- I spent the prior 4 years being a small group leader, so I saw the gap of what I wanted to do, and any attention the overall ministry was giving to it. So, I had a lot of input into this piece, so much so, now I am one of the leaders for it. Nice, huh?
- Our kids worship like whoa. I suspect you probably have kids like that too, but these kids worship like nobody's business. I can't understand it at all, but it's inspiring. A natural outflow of worship should be action. Hence, I felt like the engagement of a service/missions aspect of students was ready for prime time. If any students could be engaged to do something like this, it would have been our students purely on the critieria that worship was an intense experience. However, I think we are seeing a generation that worships like no other.
- We wanted to see our community service be strategic, well thought-out, smart. We would not do any old community service just because someone suggested it or thought it was a great idea. For example, Toys for Tots - great community service. But not for us for a variety of reasions.
- Tried to find ones that had a potential for relational impact as well as community impact. Keeping in mind the principle of cultivate, plant, reap, some do any one of those things, we wanted to do things where kids could talk to people. Not always possible, but a goal.
Ok, wow. So here are some areas of community service we pulled off this year, and some thinking behind them:
1 - Feeding the homeless.
Students arrived with their bag lunch. We had stuff there to make more lunches. They made them. We left and went to DC, where each kid had 2 lunches. We sat in a park and ate lunch with homeless people, getting to know them, conversing with them, etc. Spent about 90 minutes there. Saw three other churches come through and just served, delivered food. The kids saw something different and cool about the way we did it.
Then went to a food bank to help pack, stock, sort food. Nice complement with the two events.
The thinking -
In the year 2025, there will be over 4B people that live in cities. The urban slum inhabitants will number 1.5B people. If we don't talk to our suburban kids about reaching the cities for Christ now, we are making a mistake. Additionally, it's a pretty well documented fact that there is plenty of food for the whole world. The problem is in food distribution. Add to that some statistics about the number of children that die everyday from hunger and preventable diseases (34000, that's 24 a minute), homelessness and the related issues should be one of the ways we impact the community with our students.
2 - Raking Leaves
This idea was not mine - but driving around a neighborhood in a school bus, and then stopping at specific (or nonspecific) houses and all the kids getting out and raking the leaves up, bagging them, and moving on. We took the idea and ran with it though, and it was so cool. Really. We had neighbors getting out and looking to see what was going on, one lady took pictures of us.
The thinking -
The idea was based around strategic thinking. We talked to the kids about what it was like to think about these people for a few weeks, knowing what we were doing today. And that's how God thinks of us. He's got us in His mind all the time. And how that translates to their lives, when they ponder the people around them, how they can impact them, etc. We did 7 houses, it lasted all day, and we fed them pizza for lunch in the middle.
3 - Pro-Life
Around January, we decided to do something based on pro-life. We had a guest speaker come who had had an abortion when she was 16, got pregnant again when she was 24, became a Christian during that pregnancy, and was raising her daughter as a single mother. The idea of giving up a child once and no way in doing it again - wow, that was intense. As she spoke, some of our kids were listening with their jaws open. She really made an impact. After that, we made and delivered some meals to people in the church that had babies recently. Then we went over to a local pregnancy center and sorted clothes, packed baby bags, etc. That was a lot of fun too.
The thinking -
Of course, the abortion issue is a huge issue in our country. Pregnancy centers almost always need help. It's perfect and easy. One thing that I see with this area, is setting up a partnership of some sorts. Part of that idea is still swimming around in my head, but it has to do with partnering with local ministries. Same with the homeless idea. You can feed homeless people yourself, but what would it look like to team up with someone who's full time job is to minister to the homeless. It's a better investment, you make more of an impact, you are working on a team.
In my mind, the jury's still out on whether there is more impact to the kids or the community. My hope is that these kids think in a different manner after going on one of these things. That's why we won't just do a service project that is off the top of our heads. We want the service to be a catalyst for discipleship, a mission minded heart, a student that is transformed into a Christ follower.
Wow, I've written a lot. One more thing - for each of these, we teach before we start. We debrief when we end. They go hand in hand with the service activity. Don't underestimate the value and investment of each of these pieces.
I'm not going to write the same kind of thing on summer missions quite yet. I want to see how it goes after the teams go out, come back, debrief, etc.

No comments:

Post a Comment