Service & Justice that Stick
Your summer mission trip to Mexico is four months away.
Your Saturday breakfast for families who are homeless is four weeks away.
Your talk on the importance of service is four days away.
We’ve been there with you.
If you’re like most youth workers, you want your students to get a taste of service that leaves them hungering for more. Because you know service changes people, your ministry calendar offers a buffet of opportunities—a short-term mission trip here and a half-day convalescent home visit there. But if you’re honest with yourself, you sometimes wonder if your students are feasting on all God offers or merely scraping up the crumbs.
You’re not alone.
About one third of US congregations sponsor international mission trips each year, sending over 1.6 million churchgoers overseas. But does the impact of these trips stick? Recent research suggests service trips and experiences might not produce the spiritual and relational “bang” we expect—at least not in the long term.
As we come to terms with the bad news that our service is less transformative than we would hope, we become more eager for tools that help us make a deeper impact on our students and our world. We have been addressing this need for the past decade at the Fuller Youth Institute. A few years back, our FYI team collaborated with David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center and Terry Linhart of Bethel College (Indiana) to convene two summits with short-term mission and youth ministry experts. Building on our exploration of deep theological and sociological questions of the role of justice in our faith and ministry practices, we set out to answer tough questions like:
- How do we move service beyond spiritual tourism?
- How can our service work be part of God’s kingdom justice?
- What are the most important theological threads that should weave their way through our service?
- How does service contribute to teenagers’ identity development?
- What does it look like to transform rhetoric into true reciprocal partnership with those we’re serving?
Together we wrestled with those questions and tried to pin down at least a few answers. Those answers were translated into a host of learning activities that were field-tested by youth leaders and their students across the country and originally published as Deep Justice Journeys.
What’s more, we simultaneously have been working for nearly a decade on a research initiative that morphed into a movement called Sticky Faith. We explored why one out of every two youth group graduates walks away from faith after high school, and what families and congregations can do to turn that tide. One of our discoveries is that service—both locally and away from home—is correlated with lasting faith in young people.
If we truly want short-term work to translate into long-term change, leaders and students must spend more time before, during, and after service projects preparing for and processing their experiences.
Our new Sticky Faith Service Guide takes the best of both projects and brings you a fully updated manual designed to help you create experiences that stick—both for the students you take and the communities you serve. This guidebook offers a host of practical and field-tested exercises for each phase of your experience, whether it’s a half-day local service project or a two-week trip overseas.
Participants will engage in hands-on experiences to gain new insights about themselves, their relationship with God, their teammates, and the world we’re called to love and serve. Each of these steps is a catalyst in helping students apply what they have learned in the field to their own lives back at home. Also included are ideas to help get parents and the whole church engaged in service together. A companion Student Guide is also available to boost the potential for personal application throughout the journey.