One of the biggest temptations I face as a youth pastor is to allow my work to become routine. My calendar is filled with staff meetings, outreach events, retreats, Bible studies, youth group and school events. Any free time is filled with office hours. Not only that, I’m also a vital member of the church, so it’s important that I take part in other aspects of my church community outside of youth ministry.
Whether you are a full-time youth worker, a bivocational pastor like me or a volunteer leader, I think you can relate with me here: Life is busy. When planning a mission trip, being busy can translate into checking off all the to-dos required for a successful mission trip. However, we can easily forget to check where our heart is along the way.
Oftentimes when I speak to youth leaders in the weeks leading up to their mission trips, I hear them say, “Everything is ready to go, but I am personally not prepared for this trip.” Mission trips are life-changing events that have the ability to change the way teenagers interact with the world for the kingdom of God.
As a trip leader we encourage you to prepare your hearts well in advance of your mission trip. Your youth and the community you are serving needs leaders that have prepared hearts for missions. A ready heart will transform your perspective, allowing you to view your mission trip as less of another thing on the youth ministry calendar and instead as what it really is: a God-breathed, Kingdom-come experience.
At YouthWorks we believe that it is incredibly important to prepare your heart for ministry. One of the first training activities our new summer staff members experience is an exercise called: Pause. Reflect. Engage. Spend some time practicing this exercise a few times leading up to your YouthWorks trip.
One of my most memorable moments in college was when my professor was teaching us how to write an exegesis paper. He said, “Step 1”. He closed his eyes, said a silent prayer, and opened his eyes. We stared back at him a little dumbfounded while he said, “I’m serious! Your first step is to pray.”
It’s pretty simple advice, yet we often get right to work without speaking to God about it first. So, take the time to pause and pray first, using these steps as your guide:
Pause. Stop doing. Still your motion. It doesn’t have to be long, only about 10 minutes. Take a posture of prayer. Bring your mind, soul and spirit to God’s presence. Breathe in. Breathe out. Pray for your youth, adult leaders, YouthWorks staff and the community you will be serving. Ask God to speak to you about what He is doing in your life this season.
Process what you are thinking and feeling. Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal. Be mindful of your thoughts, keeping them focused on reflection rather than planning or problem-solving.
Dig deep into some of the following questions:
- What is God wanting to happen in my youth ministry through this mission trip?
- Where have I/my youth ministry struggled in years past with mission trips?
- Where have I found great joy on mission trips?
- Where have I seen great despair?
- Where in my youth ministry can I speak more about the lifestyle of service?
- How can I prepare my students to serve leading up to our mission trip?
- What are things that I selfishly want out of this mission trip? Ask for forgiveness for things that are not in God’s sight.
Continue with your day-to-day mission trip preparations.
Along the way take some time to read through blogs about mission trips on these websites:
Read books about mission trips. Here are some of my recommended titles:
Take the time to pause, reflect and engage. It will make a world of difference as you embrace your mission trip preparations and serve alongside your youth this summer.
—Jeff Suos, YouthWorks staff member