Teens & Faith: Hard questions about youth ministry

It's not easy to work with youth in the church, but some are gifted for it. We all need to share our experience and work together for the success of the Church.

My Photo
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States

Seeking to follow where God leads, and thankful that grace covers my multitude of errors.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The mission mountaintop

Our group just returned from the annual mission trip almost two weeks ago. It was a profound experience for many of us from our congregation and our partner church. Three of my senior high men had powerful insights for their faith and the world around them. It was "the mountaintop" we all seek to reach. The opportunities that the trip gave them during the week worked on them in amazing ways; each receiving exactly what they needed from the Lord.

Two things to think about: As leaders, we certainly were interested in all the youth considering what they had seen and done, and what God had done through them, during the week. There was no altar call, however. The call was to reflect and share with the group as they saw fit. As the leader of the three young men from my church, I spoke with each of them on the journey home about what they would like to do to follow up on God's insights and leadings. I will continue to follow up with these guys because I don't want the "mountaintop" to become a "valley" simply because they didn't know how to process the experience.

I am by no means a perfect, or even ideal, youth leader. If you know me, you know this to be true. I have, however, (hopefully) learned from my mistakes of the past. Mission trips are great for many reasons. Teens learn the joy of service. They learn more about being God's hands and feet to those in need. They begin to see God working in their lives. They meet new people and are broadened by all they see and hear. I have decided that a mission trip without follow up is unhelpful; follow up that includes continued service in some form and a chance to process what they learned. If they are due to see "the mountaintop," then God will take them there, I don't need to push them up the hill. And if they do get there, then it's partly my job to walk with them afterwards and share the joys and frustrations that follow it.

How many of us miss the opportunities that a mission trip could really offer our teens? How many of us allow the follow up to get lost in the fall planning or whatever comes after the trip? God is providing us with powerful tools for our ministries and powerfully faithful Christian teens to lead to great things. Let's pray that we put them to use.