Archives For Youth Ministry

#Thankful

November 29, 2016

15300656_10153925608076993_1561035477_nI’m thankful that I have so many things for which to be thankful. I could start a list and never find an end, probably.

Since it is Tuesday, however, I am especially thankful for a specific group of people. Every Tuesday for nearly 16 years, I have met regularly with a group of youth ministers, serving various Henderson churches.

We’ve had a variety of meeting spots and meeting times. Back in the day, when the Henderson McDonalds were trying out their McDiner concept, we met there for breakfast after most of us went to the local middle and high schools to meet with students. We met for 11 a.m.  prayer at our various churches for a good span of time. We transitioned to lunch a few years back, and then made the switch back to breakfast/coffee. Today we met at Donut Bank, but next week, we’ll be at Eastgate Restaurant, and then at Planters downtown the following week.

When we meet, we share stories from our lives, seek advice or prayer for various life or ministry circumstances, and we pray together. We don’t meet for official business or planning, although occasionally we do attempt to tackle a project together. We meet because we love each other and we understand some common struggles and we have committed to praying for each other, ministry and personal lives alike. These people have prayed with me on my hardest, darkest days, and they have celebrated with me on my best ones. When times have been hard or when times have been good, at work or with family, I know I can tell them like it is and they will mourn or laugh with me appropriately and I know that they will always care about either thing and pray with me through it. We love to meet students who belong to each other’s churches so we can tell them how we know their youth minister.

Our callings are unique, our church doctrines differ in small ways or big ways, our gifts are varied, and we are all at different points in our lives or our ministries. I wouldn’t know how to do any of this without them, and I’m so thankful for them.

The cups today belonged to Charlie, Steve, and Doug, but there were some cups missing. And there are some friends I miss because they have moved on, either to another type of work or another location.

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. –Philippians 1:3-11

This photo (from four years ago) features the very first year Young Lives girls. We threw an art party that gave girls and leaders the opportunity to experiment with their creative sides!

This photo (from four years ago) features the very first year Young Lives girls. We threw an art party that gave girls and leaders the opportunity to experiment with their creative sides!

When I moved to Henderson, KY fifteen years ago, the first person also in youth ministry to contact me to take me to lunch was one of the Young Life leaders here in town. She and I went to the high school together, spent an hour or so in the cafeteria, took a brief tour of the high school, and then went and ate lunch at Arbys. There was a church connection who suggested she contact me, and I was grateful because I was having a hard time figuring out my new job, and the prospect of ever talking to anyone outside of the church seemed kind of remote at that point. I appreciated the effort she made and that she took me to the high school for the first time (ice I was having trouble breaking on my own).

When she and her husband moved away, the new YL leader was a friend from college, someone I already admired and liked, and someone who valued the network of youth ministers that by this time I was meeting with on a monthly basis. Before his tenure was over, he was someone who regularly stopped by my office, someone who was not afraid to question my motives or ask hard questions of me, and someone who prayed for and with me on a weekly basis as we gathered with other Youth Ministers in town each Tuesday.

Currently, Henderson Young Life is being directed by another friend of mine, someone who is humble and kind and who cares deeply about middle and high school kids. When I met Steve, he regularly hosted cookouts at our local skate park, feeding students who spent their afternoons there, skateboarding or hanging out. He’s recently accepted this new position directing Henderson’s Young Life programming, but his commitment to kids that others might forget about or write off has not wavered since I met him. He now oversees the ministries of Young Life (high school), Wyldlife (Middle School) and Young Lives (see below), and Henderson Young Life is poised for greatness under his leadership.

Our church is the site for the monthly Young Lives meetings. Young Lives is a ministry to teenage moms and moms-to-be. Monthly, leaders (many women who have children themselves) gather with a group of young ladies for a meal, games, and worship, all while their babies are cared for by additional volunteers in our church nursery. Every summer, these young ladies and their babies have an opportunity to go to Young Lives camp for a week. Here’s a brave video that tells the story of one of our Young Lives participants:

Pregnant teenagers and teenage moms will always be welcome to come to the youth group activities I lead for the Presbyterian Church…but I understand why they usually do not. Whether it’s that they feel uncomfortable being in such a different place than the other students who attend regularly, or because they feel ashamed or are scared that they will be rejected, or simply because they do not have time to attend or childcare available, I understand.

I’m so grateful that the ministry of Young Lives exists for this reason. I’m glad that young moms have this resource and this community available.

I am a regular supporter of Young Life ministries in our community. Young Life is not a competitor of the church I serve, but rather, Young Life makes our community stronger. I hope you’ll consider supporting the work of this organization in Henderson! To give a one time gift or become a regular supporter, click here!

cscl2 070I’ve been doing youth ministry full time for almost fourteen years. Here are 10 resources that have stood the test of time around here.

1. The “Play It” books written by Wayne Rice and Mike Yaconelli.

2. “Power Play” powerpoint games from Simply Youth Ministry (I know–dated medium, but the games are always good!)

3. Every Picture Tells A Story available now from The Youth Cartel. (I have the original version, the Cartel has the updated version)

4. thesourcefym.com (Right now, I’m on the lookout for their great Super Bowl Prediction Quiz that I adapt for our group every year, but they’re my go-to for games and last minute ideas.)

5. “Affirming Faith,” a Confirmation Curriculum from the United Church of Christ.

6. Electronic Catchphrase (not a resource, really,but we use it a lot!)

7. Several of “The Ideas Library” books from Youth Specialties (Games Series, Drama Series, Fundraising)

8. “The Way” Bible available from The Youth Cartel.

9. “Would You Rather” from Youth Specialties–a great discussion starting book that you can use in the youth room or on the road.

10. “More Than Dodgeball” site from Simply Youth Ministry

Are you in Youth MInistry? What resources do you use over and over?

This year, we are trying prayer stations in the Church Fellowship Hall on Sunday mornings that worshipers are invited to explore before or after (or during, I suppose) church services.

Find Prayer Stations for Advent Week 1 HERE.

Here are the prayer stations we used today, December 8.

Station #1 Make and Take Ornaments

This idea came via Theresa Cho’s blog.

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I used ornaments that I was able to buy at Hobby Lobby for 50% off. They are glass. I do know that there have been times I’ve been able to find plastic ornaments. Those are preferable.

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In the art room, I found little gold and silver bells, tons of glitter in various colors, confetti, pom poms, small shells and buttons. Anything that will fit into the opening of the ornament will work.

Also needed are slips of paper. I used leftover strips from a Christmas colored chain we used a couple of weeks ago.

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Ornaments are used to decorate a Christmas tree. Sometimes an ornament has special meaning or symbols to tell a story. Choose an ornament. Write or draw a Christmas wish that you have. Put it in the ornament. Fill the ornament with whatever additional decorations you’d like. Take it home and hang it on your tree.

As you hang it on your tree year after year, you can remember this Advent season.

Prayer: God of hope and peace, as we continue to prepare for Christmas, we are anxious and hopeful about what will be. Help us to wait and trust in you. Amen.

Station #2 Distraction Box

I found and adapted this idea from the aptly named site “Steal Our Stuff.”

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Set Up: A box with a lid that can be taken off and put back on repeatedly. Markers and slips of paper.

Objective: Leave your distractions behind by writing them down, praying for God’s help and leaving them in the box.

Isaiah 2:2-5

2   In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3        Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4   He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

5   O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

During this season, it can be hard to remember the reason we are celebrating. When you’re ready, make a list of the things that distract you from celebrating Jesus’ birth in ways that are simple, joyful, generous and reflective. Pray for God’s help and leave your list in the wrapped box. No names necessary, of course! This is between you and God.

Prayer: Lord, keep me from distractions and help me to celebrate your coming in ways that reflect your humility and kindness.

Station #3 Words About Peace

 

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Objective: Place peaceful words, phrases, sentences on the metal surfaces.

PSALM 72:1-7, 18-19       

1   Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2   May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
3   May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
4   May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
5   May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6   May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
7   In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

18   Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19   Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.

Prayer: God of all who pray and long for peace in the world and in their own hearts, this Advent season, we need you. Amen.

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Station #4 Read About The Season

(This is also adapted from an idea on Theresa Cho’s blog.)

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Ahead of Time: Gather a variety of books about the Nativity Story.

Objective: look through and/or read the books provided and consider the story from various points of view.

There are many present in the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. The shepherds. The angels. The Magi. Mary and Joseph. The animals.

Take time to look through the books about the birth of Jesus, sharing and remembering the story of the birth of the one called Emmanuel.

Prayer: God, your story is amazing! Help us to learn it and to know you through it. Amen.

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This year, we are trying prayer stations in the Church Fellowship Hall on Sunday mornings that worshipers are invited to explore before or after (or during, I suppose) church services.

Here are the stations from Week 1 (December 1)

Station #1 Bubble Wrap Advent Calendars

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Note: I borrowed this idea from Theresa Cho’s blog.

This is a great interactive station for families to do together. The objective: make a bubble wrap Advent calendar!

Ahead of time, I cut trees out of Bubble Wrap:

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I also held onto the scraps and put them in baskets on the table because it can be hard for kids and adults to resist popping bubble wrap and I wanted the trees to be safe. Providing an alternative to popping the trees worked out well.

The instructions:

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent starts today, December 1, and begins a period of time when we wait for Jesus to be born. Children all over the world will count down the days until December 25.

1. Take a tree-shaped piece of Bubble Wrap from the bowl.

2. Choose a sheet of circle stickers and write 1-24 on each sticker.

3. Stick a circle sticker on each bubble (in order or mix them up!).

4. Hang it in your house and each day, pop a bubble!

Prayer: Lord, waiting is hard! Help us to celebrate each day because it is a gift from you. Amen.

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Prayer Station #2 Read About Advent

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Ahead of Time: Gather a variety of books about the Nativity Story.

Objective: look through and/or read the books provided and consider the story from various points of view.

There are many present in the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. The shepherds. The angels. The Magi. Mary and Joseph. The animals.

Take time to look through the books about the birth of Jesus, sharing and remembering the story of the birth of the one called Emmanuel.

Prayer: God, your story is amazing! Help us to learn it and to know you through it. Amen.

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Station #3 Darkness To Light

I borrowed this station from my minister friend, Rev. AnnMarie Montgomery.

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Set up: Blindfolds (bandanas) and tea light candles (I used battery candles)

Objective: Experience darkness. Celebrate the light that is coming into the world through God’s Son, Jesus.

Romans 13:11-14

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Our Advent journey begins in almost complete darkness. Darkness can come in the forms of depression, discouragement, loneliness, addiction, disappointment, broken relationships, grief, regret, sin, failure, or…

When you are ready, put on a blindfold. (If you don’t want to wear a blindfold, close your eyes and put your hands over them.)  Think about the limitations of darkness. Sit in the darkness, even if it makes you uncomfortable, and consider what a gift light is. When you are ready, open up your eyes and welcome back the light and the ability to see.

Light a candle. The candle reminds us that Christ is our hope. We hope, we believe, we trust in God’s saving grace through Christ Jesus. Sit with the light as long as you like.

Prayer: Lord, let this candle be a reminder today of my hope in your coming. Amen.

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Station #4 Words About Hope

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Set up: I have a set of magnetic poetry, so I used that. And then I searched the kitchen for metal surfaces that were magnetic. These toasters were my find of the day!

Objective: Place hopeful words, phrases and sentences on the metal surfaces.

Psalm 122:1-9

I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgement were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

Prayer: God of all who hope and long to hope again, this Advent season, we need you. Amen.

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These four stations made a great start to our Advent season.

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loucon2 023I’m blessed to be part of a wonderfully creative group of ministers and youth directors in the Presbytery of Western Kentucky. This year, David Muffett (The Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, KY), Katie Todd (MOTA at Murray State University), Mason Todd (First Presbyterian Church of Mayfield, KY), Rob Wilson (First Presbyterian Church of Madisonville, KY) and I (Becky Durham, Presbyterian Church of Henderson, KY) put together instructions and materials for eleven prayer stations based on themes from The Game Of Life board game. These were designed for our middle and high school youth at our annual Fall Retreat at Camp Loucon. (You can find instructions for last year’s prayer stations here and here.)

Students were let into the large space in groups of ten or so. They were able to rotate through and visit the stations at their own speed in their own order. The idea of this night of prayer/worship/mission/community is that kids will be able to pray and meet God in ways that are new and in ways that fit their own gifts and callings.

You can find part 1 (stations 1-5) here.

Station #6: Speed Bumps

At this station, students wrote letters to prisoners at a prison local to one of our churches. That church is doing a Great Banquet weekend at that prison and will have the letters written by the kids to give out that weekend. Supplies: Paper, pens, sample letters.

GOL SpeedBumps

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Station #7: Investments

Students added songs to a list on Spotify, which we played over a speaker that could be heard throughout the whole room, at every station. Supplies: Laptop, spotify account, adult who knows music enough to monitor.

GOL Investment

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Station #8: Payday

In a “pay it forward” station, students create candy cane crafts for kids in ministries local to our churches. They attached a story to candy canes with ribbon. Supplies: Stories on red and green paper, candy canes, ribbon, hole punch

GOL Payday

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Station #9: Retirement

This was simply a station that allowed for students to rest, to pray, to meditate, to sit quietly. They were invited to light battery operated tea-light candles before they left the station. Supplies: Bibles, tea light candles, glitter meditation bottles and mirrors (optional)

GOL Retirement

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Stations 10 and 11: Losing and Winning

The last two stations are connected to each other. At the losing station, each student was able to take a 3 x 3 piece of tile, write about a loss on it (a perceived failure, a regret, a horrible thing that had happened). Then they took it outside and smashed it with a hammer. Supplies: tile squares, sharpies, hammers, cloth bags to keep tile from flying around.

GOL Losing

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At the winning station, students took their smashed tile and glued it to a wooden frame designed to look like a stained glass window. Supplies: Frame (see our example in a picture below), hot glue guns and hot glue sticks.

GOL Winning

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These eleven stations created a meaningful night of community and encountering God in new, sometimes unexpected, ways.

loucon2 023I’m blessed to be part of a wonderfully creative group of ministers and youth directors in the Presbytery of Western Kentucky. This year, David Muffett (The Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, KY), Katie Todd (MOTA at Murray State University), Mason Todd (First Presbyterian Church of Mayfield, KY), Rob Wilson (First Presbyterian Church of Madisonville, KY) and I (Becky Durham, Presbyterian Church of Henderson, KY) put together instructions and materials for eleven prayer stations based on themes from The Game Of Life board game. These were designed for our middle and high school youth at our annual Fall Retreat at Camp Loucon. (You can find instructions for last year’s prayer stations here and here.)

Students were let into the large space in groups of ten or so. They were able to rotate through and visit the stations at their own speed in their own order. The idea of this night of prayer/worship/mission/community is that kids will be able to pray and meet God in ways that are new and in ways that fit their own gifts and callings.

Station #1: School

At this station, students made bookmarks for their Bibles. Katie provided pre-printed card stock cut into bookmark. The verses on the bookmarks were verses relevant to our retreat theme. Supplies: pre-printed bookmarks; markers

GOL School

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Station #2: Career

We used this station to think about vocation and how our gifts and talents and interests can turn into careers that will bless the Kingdom of God. Supplies: 8 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ sheets of paper; markers
GOL Career

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Now, I’m not going to tell you that all of our students really embraced the vocation thing. We did get some pretty interesting career cards out of the deal: .

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Station #3: Insurance

At the Insurance Station, we had an opportunity to discuss life events that require hard choices. What are your options? What would you do? Why would handle it that way? Supplies: Game of Life wheel; scenarios prepared for students to read and discuss.

 

GOL Insurance

 

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Station #4: Relationships

At this station, students had a chance to affirm their friends, old or new. Each student had selected a silhouette earlier in the day. They wrote a word that they would use to describe themselves on the back and then taped it to the wall. During the course of the session that night, students could select word tiles that described their friends and glue them to the silhouettes. Supplies: Silhouette choices; glue sticks; word tiles (we used cardstock and the tiles were about an inch long).

GOL Relationships

 

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Session #5: Speeding

In this session, we asked kids to record their life stories in 6 seconds using Vine. Supplies: An iPad and a Vine account.

GOL Speeding

 

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There are six other stations that were part of this rotation! Find part 2 (stations 6-11) here!

Arnold and his friend talk about being afraid of "The Gooch." ("Diff'rent Strokes")

Arnold and his friend talk about being afraid of “The Gooch.” (“Diff’rent Strokes”)

Last week, the news was full of stories about Rebecca Sedwick, a twelve year-old girl who jumped to her death after she was bullied by classmates.

It’s reported (by dosomething.org) that approximately 160,000 teens skip school daily because of bullying and that 90% of 4th -8th graders report to be victims of bullying. Whenever I talk to young people of almost any age about bullying, they have a lot to say about it. There are stories upon stories of things that they have seen, things they have witnessed and even about how they have bullied others. As an adult, I remember clearly several instances from my own childhood and teenager years when I was the victim of cruel words or actions.

I asked my sixth grade Girl Scout troop why they think people bully other people last week. This is an important question, really. If we can help young people understand what it is that motivates people to bully others, we might be able to teach them better ways to deal with their own impulses to bully others or help them understand how they can react when others bully them.

Here’s what seven sixth grade girls shared about why they think people bully others:

1. They think they are better than everyone else.

2. They are jealous.

3. They were bullied by someone else.

4. It’s how they are treated at home.

5. They feel badly about themselves and want others to feel the same way they do.

6. They want attention.

7. They don’t like how a situation is going and they want to put the focus on something/someone else.

8. They think no one loves them.

9. Their parents treat other people that way and they learned by watching them.

10. They think it’s fun to hurt other people.

Visit websites like dosomething.org or stopbullying.gov for more information about bullying and what adults and caregivers can do to stop this trend!

cscl2 036I’m in the middle of mission trip season. I’m not an expert, but I certainly lead enough of these trips. Here are ten ways to have a great mission trip for middle schoolers or high schoolers:

1. Communicate well with the participants and parents about expectations and preparations. We have meetings and I send out any new info I get ahead of time. Don’t hide information that will be important because you’re afraid students will drop out if they know it (no air conditioning, can’t take cell phones, etc). Make sure students and parents understand if the work will be physically taxing or emotionally difficult. Make sure students understand how you expect them to act and respond to others.

2. Commission students and adults who will be serving, helping them prepare to serve God during the mission. You might do this ahead of time, but we usually just do it at the beginning of our trip, praying over and blessing their hands that will serve. Since the closing worship setting during our trips often ends with foot washing, this makes for nice bookends.

3. Schedule for enough sleep and enforce lights out to ensure a team that is as well-rested as possible. Rested students are safer at worksites, better able to serve others well and more emotionally able to handle the stresses of the mission environment. The Youth Cartel has an interesting piece this week on lack of sleep in teenagers. Read it here!

4. Bring snacks for the drive. It allows you to stretch out stops a little more and it keeps everyone happy. If possible, find a church member who can pack goody bags for the students with treats and surprises to keep them busy along the way. Try to provide some healthy options alongside the more traditional choices of candy or cookies.

5. Work from a budget when you’re dealing with money. Make sure you’ve raised/asked for as much as you’ll need plus a little cushion for unexpected events. Make sure the money you need during the trip is accessible

6. Invite parents and church members to write notes to the students going on the trip. I usually collect these ahead of time and deliver them throughout the week, saving letters from their parents for midweek or the second to last day of work, when we all need a morale boost.

7. Give students a chance to debrief their days, allowing them to tell stories, reflect on what went right or wrong, and talk about where they saw God at work or where they were aware that God was working through their offerings of time and talents. This is where students begin to understand what mission work is really about and how God might be calling them to serve others every day.

8. Thank the people who backed your team financially or in other ways. Sign cards or take a picture of the group during the trip that can be turned into a postcard.

9. Be patient and grace-filled. No one’s perfect. Not students serving in new arenas. Not adults working beside you. Not the people you are serving. Not trip coordinators. Not the leadership of big missions organizations. There will be mistakes on various levels of leadership, students will act hastily or in ways you wish they would not, some of the people you serve may not respond like you were hoping they would, Know that Jesus knows all about this and be willing to allow people to grow where they are.

10. Be flexible and willing to make changes. No amount of organization and prep work can save you from the things will pop up unexpectedly or just go completely wrong. Schedules and plans can usually be adjusted but leaders have to be willing to adjust them for the sake of the group!

Mission trips are great opportunities to serve others, share the Gospel, experience a different culture or community, confront stereotypes and to learn and grow as followers of Jesus.

Is your church sending students on a mission trip this summer? Where are they going and what will they do there?

I went without my laptop for four days and didn’t have a chance to update my photo a day project. The first two days were spent at City Sights, City Lights (our annual middle school mission experience). Here are two of my favorite pictures from that adventure:

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Upper elementary aged kids at the Boys and Girls club of Christian County, along with 9 of our middle school kids, gather with Mr. Terrance who is refereeing a big dodge ball game on June 26. Half of our group volunteered at the club that afternoon.

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On June 27, Catherine (Hopkinsville), Katie (Henderson), Ben (Owensboro) and Wiliam (Hopkinsville) swing at Ruff Park in Hopkinsville and perfectly represent one of the best things about City Sights, City LIghts–kids from different churches serving, playing and becoming the Body of Christ together.