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.
Sticky Faith Service Guide
Anyone who serves teenagers today knows that more and more young people are eager to make a difference in the world. When students participate in short-term missions, service, and justice causes, parents and youth leaders hope these experiences will lead to real transformation. But research shows that our efforts don’t always stick.
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. The sessions in this Guide will 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 Journal is also available to boost the potential for personal application throughout the journey.
Step Into My Shoes
Step Into My Shoes is a resource for groups and entire churches to encounter kids, families, and churches who are part of God’s community across the globe—no passports required. Specifically, we want to help young people and families take a next step to help release children globally from extreme poverty, in Jesus’ name. We also want to raise young people’s awareness of the needs around the corner, in our own towns.
A selection of articles, blog posts, and podcasts from the FYI archives to help you think about and do service, justice, and short-term missions more faithfully.
Articles and blog posts
High School Service Trips, Part 1: Navigating transitions from one experience to another
High School Service Trips, Part 2: Innovating and executing the new service trip
High School Service Trips, Part 3: Reflecting on the experience
Justice hits close to home: A roundtable panel on inviting parents into our service
Cultural Intelligence: Improving your CQ to engage the world
A tale of two poverties: Engaging students across the resource divide
Podcasts and Videos
John Perkins Interview on the both/and of being reconciled to God and to one another
Jim Wallis Interview on helping young people serve out of grace, not guilt
Shane Claiborne Interview on helping young people discover, “Who is my neighbor?”
Tony Campolo Interview on doing kingdom tasks vs being kingdom people
Alexie Torres-Fleming Interview on seeking justice across class lines in our communities
Lina Thompson Interview on better conversations with young people about race
Eric Iverson Interview: Doing better short-term mission trips
Brenda Salter McNeil on Being Witnesses
Fuller programs for further study in issues related to justice, service, and high-risk youth:
Fuller’s Children at Risk programs draw from global experts to train leaders with a deeper understanding of the problems marginalized children and youth face in today’s world and how Christians globally are responding.
How can we be peacemakers in a violent world? At Fuller we pursue answers to this question passionately, and we look to the triune God, in particular the peacemaking way of Jesus, for guidance. This focus asks that we think beyond the conventional dichotomy between just war and pacifism to see that Just Peacemaking is about the everyday lives of disciples, guided by the power of the Spirit, and the initiatives we should take to address all kinds of human conflict. Our faculty—innovators in the fields of peacemaking, ministries of reconciliation, and interfaith work—in conjunction with the Just Peacemaking Initiative will help you engage difficult questions biblically, theologically, and practically.