I remember the first time I approached the church elders about the possibility of taking the youth on a “Service/Mission Trip” – it was 1992. Their initial response was somewhat disheartening. Couldn’t we do the same thing and stay at home? This option helped to “protect” the budget. There were those who saw this as a smoke screen whose real purpose was to get the church to pay for a youth group vacation.
To be honest, these were and still are good questions. Why should we spend so much time, effort and money on the annual service trip?
- These experiences open us to the wide variety of ways in which God works in our world. I am constantly amazed and surprised with God’s complete disrespect for the boxes I want to put God in. Service trips have a way of opening our eyes to a God who is working in and through all kinds of different people, ministries and even non-faith-based groups or individuals.
- More often than not service trips provide opportunities to work with other denominations and faith traditions. Having the opportunity to work with and alongside people who come from a different faith perspective can be energizing. It develops the courage to do this at home. Learning to move beyond the walls that so easily divide the church is kingdom building.
- Service trips allow us to experiment with John 13 – washing feet. In this passage Jesus even washes Judas’ feet, his betrayer. This is not always easy; as a matter of fact it can be hard. Taking up the cross to follow may mean cleaning toilets in a homeless shelter. Living for Jesus is a lifestyle, not a week or a slogan but rather it is a value, a way of treating even our enemy.
- These experiences provide opportunities to work with people who are “different.” The difference may be with age, race, gender, orientation, physical ability, education, nationality, language, or politics. Learning how to see the other as a child of God, even when that person shares very little in common with me answers the question, “what would Jesus do?” It helps us to better understand Philippians 2 where Paul asks the church to consider others as better than themselves, looking to the interest of others.
- Service trips begin to develop a new way of seeing the world. Cities are not just bad places; they are filled with creativity and hope. The homeless are not all derelicts, shelters are not all clean, and God does not live only in suburban churches.
These are some of my reasons for taking your group on a service trip.