This curriculum sample is taken from Deep Justice Journeys: 50 Activities to Move from Mission Trips to Missional Living, co-authored by Kara Powell and Brad Griffin and released May 2009 through Youth Specialties.
For many youth ministries, the sum total of the church’s support of your justice journey is to patiently listen to a few student testimonies and then murmur, “Isn’t that sweet…?” Moving beyond this shallow (and somewhat patronizing) level of church engagement takes thought, perseverance, and a bit of diplomacy on your part. While we realize that your church’s exposure to your justice work is somewhat beyond your control (we don’t know too many churches in which the youth pastor calls the shots), here are some ideas to catapult you and your students into a deeper relationship with your congregation.
- Meet with your church’s missions committee so its members understand the goals of your service. You may want to invite a few students to attend the meeting with you.
- Ask your senior pastor if you can invite the church to pray for you and your students. Provide a list of specific prayer requests and pictures of your students in your church bulletin.
- Find out about any missionaries or leaders your church already supports in the region you’re serving so you can connect with them before and during your justice work.
- Figure out creative ways to invite the congregation to support your trip financially. Some churches have started selling $25 or $50 “shares” congregation members can buy as a way to invest in students’ transformation.
- Ask the pastor who works most closely with the children in your church if your students can pair up with one or more children and ask those children to pray for them. Make sure your high school students bring a small gift back for those children.
- Meet with your senior adult ministry and do the same thing.
- Invite a pastor from the community in which you’re serving to come to your church and give a five-minute profile, or even an entire sermon, on their community.
- Ask your church or specific Sunday school classes to volunteer to mentor your students.
- Any Sunday you’re gone, give some sort of report at church services through phone calls, video conference calls, update videos, or e-mails (depending on the technology available).
- Ask adult classes and small groups to spend a few minutes praying for your justice ministry. (When you get back, be sure to let them know how God answered their prayers!)
- At any church gatherings or services while you’re gone, see if the parents of one or two of your students can lead your congregation in prayer.
- Find out any prayer gatherings occurring during your service experience and ask the leaders to pray specifically for your students.
- Make sure you report the work God did in and through your students to the entire church. When you share, be sure to highlight what you learned from the people in the community where you served.
- Teach your church any worship songs you learned from the locals.
- Invite the locals you served to share (in person or by video) how God is working in their community and how your group participated in God’s work.
- Give the locals cameras and ask them to take pictures of the impact of your service work and share those with your entire congregation.
- Invite adults who can help your students become justice advocates back home to meet with your students. There might be a city council member or community leader in your church; if not, someone in your church is likely to know that type of leader.
- Set up a meeting in which the students and adults who participated in the trip can discuss the experience with your church missions committee. Make sure the agenda includes discussing next steps for the church’s participation in this or other justice work.
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