How to maximise your summer:
- Mission is more than a summer
The summer provides many of us with an increased capacity to be involved in short term mission. Whether at home or abroad, there are a multitude of ways to serve, which is incredible! Always remember, however, that as Christians, we are never not engaged in mission! So you’re just as engaged in God’s mission at home as you are on your team overseas.
- Share your story
We love to hear people’s stories. God has given you a unique opportunity by providing you with a unique story, so share it! Whether that is sharing your story with people you meet ‘on mission’, or sharing your story when you return to your everyday mission field.
Challenge: Why not challenge each of the young people to tell their story to someone who isn’t yet a Christian?
- Learn as you go
Use the summer, and the experiences you’re provided with, to learn as much as you can. Whether that’s from a mentor, a team leader, a great book or a podcast, soak in as much as you can through the opportunities you’re presented with. God could teach you something that would profoundly change your life!
Tip: Buy your team a journal in which they can write their experiences during the mission and see how God has been working.
- Mission is multi-generational
Participation in a well-run mission trip with young people helps to form deep, real relationships with adults. This will be helpful to young people as they encounter the developmental struggles and deep questions that arise through older adolescence. Make space for young people to engage with adults as well as each other.
- Communicate your core values.
Teach your young people the value and worth of every individual. Help them to understand the truth that every human being is made in the image of God and is significant in God’s family. This will help build teams in which everyone’s gifts are recognised and will encourage teams to partner with local Christians in humility rather than swooping into a local community with all the answers. When teams go into a community and do things which the locals can already do for themselves, people can feel disempowered and patronised.
In preparing your team, here are some useful questions to help you agree upon a set of values to which you will hold one another to account:
How will we be…
- Towards the local church?
- Towards those we meet?
- With one another?
- With God?
- Celebrate God moving
There are so many God uses summer mission: both big and small. Take time to celebrate the mini break-throughs and the miracles God does in and through your group. Give God the glory!
- Vision leaks: restate it often
Your team can start well but slowly it can lose momentum as time passes, people lose priorities, get tired and get distracted. So everyday re-state the vision, what you’re trying to achieve and the DNA your team should carry. Encourage other leaders and young people to also restate this vision at different times to strengthen the groups understanding and resolve to work towards this shared vision.
- Unscheduled discipleship
Hopefully your programme has built in quiet times and group Bible study in which you can disciple the group. But don’t overlook the very real, unscheduled, informal opportunities; a car journey can turn into a small group discussion, a walk to the shop can be a mentoring time or doing dishes can be a way to model servant leadership. Disciple-making is a lifestyle of taking ordinary moments to influence and grow young people.
Challenge: Get your team to pray for someone else outside organised ‘ministry time’.
- Look after your team and yourself!
Make sure you and your team get enough food, water and sleep – looking after everyone physically is one of the best ways to ensure you give of your best to the team. Make sure you’re hydrated, fed, and have enough sleep. As much as you love team, don’t stay up until 3am talking. Best case scenario: you’ll rob the young people of your best the following day and worst: you’ll burn out or get sick.
- Be an advocate for the local church
You will work with young people from different backgrounds and understandings of church. Speak well of the local church and encourage the young people to be committed to their local church family. Also when working cross-culturally, work closely with a local church and local believers; a short term team’s role is to partner with ongoing work and be an encouragement to local ministry. It should establish a pattern of ongoing dependency in a local community.
- Have a strong follow-up
Research advice points to debriefing participants after a trip as at least as important as briefing them for it. When it comes to fixing memories and establishing life-changing principles learned from experiences on team, verbalising and putting some work into framing thoughts properly is invaluable.
Here are some key questions which will help a young person to succinctly explain key elements of their expedition:
- Tell me a story of something profound, or hard that you experienced?
- What were the most important lessons the people you met and the experience you have had taught you?
- What was going on between you and God?
- Why do you wish you were back there?
- Plan to improve
What do your hosts think of you? Can you get some independent feedback maybe through a third party on how you have come across to enable you to shape what you do in future more positively from your partners’ perspective. What was good, what can be improved and what will be the long term fruit of this ministry? Next summer make sure you implement the lessons which stand out from this summer!
Edited by David Gilkinson & Esther Boreland: Exodus
Drew Steele: Scripture Union
John Fudge: Urban Saints
Barbara McDade: Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Jim Brown & David Gilkinson: Exodus