I’ve been on lots of ministry experiences with students. I believe it’s good for students to serve outside their own church building – in their communities, other regions, and around the world.
When students get together to serve and volunteer for the sake of the kingdom, they are being formed as disciples as they put into practice what they believe. At the same time, hands-on work is a witness to those around, especially to those being served.
Hands-on serving does wonders for learning and growing as a follower of Jesus. The individual student experiences God in profound and new ways. When students step out in faith, even in small ways, they experience an awakening and calling that allows the holy spirit to move through them.
We recently took our students on a one-day “mystery mission.” Part of the fun was that they had no idea where they were going or what they would be doing. After the morning mission, we had lunch together and went back home.
Here are five considerations around leading students in mission experiences, whether you are leading a one-day event or a full-blown weeklong mission trip:
1. Advance Preparation Will Make It Better
The intensity and length of your mission or ministry event will determine how much pre-planning needs to be done. For a morning of serving, you may only need a couple conversations with the mission ministry hosts to answer these questions: What supplies are needed? What projects are happening? How many people can be a part of it? What time does it begin and end? Who is our contact? How can we best help? For a mission weekend or week, you also need to ask about lodging, costs, meals, and the program.
2. Focus on the People You’re Serving
Once you arrive on the scene, the goal is to help, encourage, support, and serve people as Christ did for us. Check-in with the leaders. Make introductions. Take time to ask questions and understand the goal for the time together. Arrange beforehand to have the leader tell the story of the “why” behind your volunteer mission work. Toward the end of the day, get a group photo with those who invited you to serve.
3. Give Solid, Detailed Instructions
The guy who spends the first twenty minutes sharpening his saw will beat the guy who tries to cut down the tree immediately. In the same way, good instructions go a long way. Invest time in slow and deliberate touring of what you will be doing. Ask about the objective, process, why things are done a certain way, where to find supplies, and anything else that needs to be understood. Doing this will maximize the time you have to accomplish the work. Don’t assume you have to hurry up and jump in – take time to prepare.
4. Remember Your Goal as a Leader
The leader’s goal isn’t to accomplish the mission but to help the students engage meaningfully in accomplishing the mission. This might mean walking from person to person to make sure they understand what they’re doing and have everything they need. Leaders may find it difficult to not be doing something when they don’t have an assigned job, but connecting with your students is an important role during any student ministry event or mission trip. Of course, you as a leader shouldn’t be above stepping in to help wherever it’s needed. Remember that the ultimate goal is for students to engage and feel a sense of accomplishment. That will awaken in them something greater than simply watching all the adults doing the real work.
5. Keep Your Eye On The Clock
Schedules are important; practice being unhurried yet disciplined. As leader, you call the shots. As the ending time approaches, assess and look for the perfect bookmark ending; or push on to finish if you are close to completing the project. Help students work effectively by letting everyone know what is happening next and when. Use the clock to motivate bigger spurts of energy; for example, “ten minutes until break – let’s try and finish this section.”
Hands-on ministry and mission is a win/win for students and those being served. As a leader, you play an important role in bringing both parties together. The ultimate goal is to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. Help this happen by organizing and leading well, spending time in prayer, and being the church.