Foundations in Youth Ministry:
Making Mission Part of Your Mission
By Daniel Griswold
(This is the first copy of the article published in The Advocate, UMC Publication in the South Carolina Conference)
When first starting a ministry to youth, mission may not seem like a huge priority. There is a budget (or lack of) to wrestle with, relationships to build, schools to visit, parents to meet, programs to run, volunteers to lead, and a new pastor to get to know. That’s a small fraction of the to-do list, and wrangling a team together and convincing them to pay good money, or fundraise to travel and be inconvenienced by the unpredictability of travel seems like a hard sell. It would be far easier to do some quick local service projects, we all can feel helpful, and we sleep well at night knowing our kids can work hard.
There is a small problem though. I’ve yet to see local service projects have the same personally transforming experience that a week and a half serving others in a foreign situation can. Why is that? I think that there are a few factors that come into play that bring about a huge transformation in young people.
First, being inconvenienced and having to convince oneself that serving others is worthy my time, money and effort creates a self-sacrificing atmosphere. Youth can often be idealists, so speaking about the good that can be done and showing the people that we can serve with builds not only compassion, but camaraderie with peoples around the globe. Once the team is on the ground, they can already be an oiled team who has met the challenges of fundraising, getting passports, doing paperwork, and learning the local culture and possibly language. Once on the ground, it is assumed that the projects will be hard, that everyone will have to step beyond comfort, and because of this, everyone is stretched. It is in these situations of stress that we can learn who we all really are.
Second, young people need to see that God is alive and is working through the hearts and hands of people all across the globe. Sometimes we accidentally fall into the mentality that we, the privileged, can go and serve among the unfortunates who need our help. This is dangerous thinking because it sets us in a caste above those we serve. I’ve always been able to experience excellent teams who realize that we are going to serve with and among good hard working people, and partner with Christians and missionaries already on the ground. We become part of a continuum. We bear our own weight and don’t expect more because of our lifestyles back home, and we worship in the styles and culture of Methodists here and there. In this we begin to see a glimpse of the future multi-national, all-cultural unity of the Kingdom of God. Those who see it tend to get over some of the petty cultural battles that disengage the church from its true mission to spread the Gospel through action and love.
Throughout scripture, in the Old and New Testaments, God calls out to His people and says “Go”. “Go where?” I don’t know where God will lead you and your young people, but it is clear that it is in the midst of going out that we begin to fully understand what it must have been like for Moses to leave Midian to save his people, or for the apostles including Paul, who went out and became missionaries to all people who would listen and come alongside them. Our youth groups need someone with leadership and vision enough to take on the challenge and say, “We need to listen to God and go out.”
United Methodist Volunteers in Mission constantly run great trips. Salkehatchie, with 48 camps across the state, has been amazing for our youth group as well, and allows for in-state but still out of comfort trips uniting many churches with one mission. Talk with your church’s mission committee or to those who are passionate about mission opportunities and to ask them, “How can we get young people serving alongside you?” It may take some time to build the chain of trust with working adults and retirees, but the resulting intergenerational opportunity will break open misconceptions of all sorts and show the world that our God is not someone who segregates us by culture, race, age, geography or whatever separates us. We are all children of the same God, and we are all in need of the saving Love of Jesus Christ. Your youth group may or may not grow in numbers, but you’ll likely produce a few world changers. Pray about it and meditate a bit on the Great Commission at the end of Matthew. Jesus said, Go. Let’s get going.
Youth Director at Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC
Hilton Head Island, SC Twitter: @Dannonhill Email: DanielGriswold@Gmail.com
There are so many ways to make a difference in this world, and everyone brings different skills to the table when building groundbreaking coalitions for global unity.
Some people are gifted at raising funds, and they finance the future of philanthropy — such as Bill Gates. Others build awareness and research causes to direct people toward their personal mission fields. Invisible Children made a splash last year, and their success in building awareness of forced child militaries in some regions of the world was both celebrated and reviled worldwide. Then there are those who feel a strong calling to be the hands and feet of the mission itself. They are called to go out into the world to shake hands and hug their fellow human beings across the globe.
Last week I flew to Panama with an intergenerational team to live out that call to be among people who were once “other” and completely alien. By intergenerational, I mean we had high school youth, a college student, a mom, local business owners and some wonderful retired people who wanted to make a difference. Our church has been connected and has supported a pastor named Rhett for years, and he has spoken at our church about Panama and the work there, but we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes or placed stakes in the ground with our own hands.
It was from a desire to build stronger ties that we headed out in an initial trip in October 2011. A local team traveled to Panama with to meet with Rhett, participate in the work of the mission, meet the people whom this pastor served, and build stronger ties with Christians working faithfully apart from us. That first mission was a success. We held a Vacation Bible School led by a retired teacher in our group, and the worker bees (including myself) painted the mission building, built a retaining wall for a new soccer field and repaired insect screens on the open-air windows. We were unable to visit the Gnobe people’s villages, which is the native tribe for whom the mission served. A tree had destroyed a bridge during a flash flood. We left strong as a team, feeling the Lord’s presence. We had strengthened ties with Christians in the city of David and the village of Cienaguita, but we still felt we needed to go further.
Last week we returned. Rhett had been able to build a connection between the natives, the village, the government, some Methodist churches in the U.S., and the Methodist church in a local city. A bridge had been built, and this new team made of up of people of many different views and stages of life were able to walk across the river and mostly uphill for 38 minutes through rainforest-like conditions to build the foundations for two homes and the steel grid structure for a second. We worked hard, drinking about five bottles of water a day in heavy humidity, making concrete, drilling holes in steel plates, digging and leveling space for the foundational platforms. All this for families who worked with and among us.
As the week came to a close, one young man named Juaqin, who is the oldest of a family of 10, whose mother had carried the bricks for their home up that mountain two at a time, invited us into his home. It was probably about 16 feet by 16 feet and had two bedrooms and a main area, but he glowed as he invited our team of 15 in. He felt as if he were in a mansion. My heart was warmed, and I could feel the presence of God, who had worked through the hearts and hands of so many people to make this happen. We closed by reciting together the “Lord’s Prayer” and thanked our father in heaven.
I thought about this and realized we had experienced a sign of what heaven will be like. People of all ages and nations coming together in unity to worship and thank God for his blessings. I imagined Christ on a throne in each of our hearts, and I was overcome with joy.
My prayer is that every person of the earth will experience this joy at least one time in their lives, if not continually. Not everyone can be out in the fields of the earth, but everyone in the chain made that moment possible. Let’s be thankful that the holy spirit continues to prod us like the apostles and the early believers who shared what they had and went out to care for all people. Let’s continue to be agents of God’s love and spread God’s good news to every living soul.
Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/2013/07/03/2565552/experiencing-pure-joy-through.html#storylink=cpy
By DANIEL GRISWOLD
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gave his disciples a high calling: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The ministry of Jesus was not an easy one, and it was critically countercultural. He gave high regard to women and cared for them, revealing himself first to women after his resurrection. Unlike a worldly king, he washed the dirt from the road off the feet of his disciples — a subservient action that was meant to show a new way for mankind to be in relation to one another.
The dog-eat-dog world of advancement was to be replaced by a new way of life in the church. Being a minister would mean a life of high integrity, service to others, and, of course, baptizing new believers and teaching them how to be a follower of Jesus. He challenged human authority that lorded itself over the weak, and lived out the spirit of all law: Love God, love others.
Good pastors take this responsibility seriously. I hope you have had a pastor who warmed your soul and who has walked beside you through life’s ups and downs. I hope you have seen Christ’s love through a shepherd who took seriously the role of being a reflection of the life and ministry of Christ to you.
I also hope you have felt inspired at some point to take up the call of Jesus yourself, and that you have taken up the call to “Go” to other nations (or the next neighborhood) and bring to others the nourishment that only the spirit of God can bring.
Each person called by God brings vitality to the puzzle of ministry. To put it in a more modern way, we are called to “bring it,” according to the gifts and talents we have, in response to the love God showed in his own life and ministry. If you bake cookies, bake cookies for Jesus; if you play guitar, get out there and play those strings for God’s glory — on the streets or in your own yard.
Personally, I’ve thought about sticking a sign up in my yard that says, “Bible Study, Tuesdays, 5 p.m.” and each Tuesday I’ll just be there for anyone who walks by and is interested. I know one of God’s gifts in my life has been a love and joy for teaching. Since there are so few people who know the depths of the Bible today, I’m thinking of just offering my thoughts, prayers and knowledge to anyone who wants it — whether they’re a believer or not. I might be surprised to see the people God might bring my way. But I’ve got to do it, and it has to become more than an idea; it’s become a call to action.
Regardless of age, regardless of education level, regardless of who you think you are, God has called you. Perhaps you’re not meant to be a pastor, but you have a calling, and it is to care for the people of the earth. Maybe you saw a PBS special on India, and your heart felt compelled to make a difference there — Go! Perhaps your neighborhood has been falling apart after some tragic crime and someone needs to spark words of hope into that community at a gathering — Go! Perhaps you know you’re too comfortable and haven’t been challenged in your current setting; you need to feel needed again, and you’re not sure where to start — Go!
Begin searching and look for a place where God is saying to you, “Here are the people I’ve created. Love them like I love them.”
There are people who need you everywhere, and I hope you know you need other people too. True treasure is to be connected to God and through His love, connect to all the people of the earth. Let this be a new adventure, and remember that life from an eternal perspective never ends.
Let’s be the called, and, together, lets get moving.
Friday though Saturday March 16 – 18th, thousands of young people from across South Carolina came together at the Colonial Coliseum. To describe it in a few words: “It was BIG.” We worshipped with the Spark band, danced to hip hop with Humble T.I.P. (To Increase Praise), rocked with DecembeRadio, and were challenged to the core by Jennifer Dake concerning our discipleship and understanding our relationship with Jesus Christ.
We were created perfect, we became imperfect, we need to be perfect, Christ was perfect, Christ died to make us perfect, and we can have faith in an amazing God of grace. The challenge to discipleship, to put away sin and walk forward with Christ was amazing.
Here is a bit of the worship from The Spark:
We also had an opportunity in mission to pack bags full of protein, vegetables and rice to send to East Timor, where some of the most impoverished conditions on the planet exist. We put on hair nets and weighed 8,000 packets that were ready to ship out in the weeks from the Stop Hunger Now warehouse in North Carolina. And we also learned the game Ninja while we chilled ;D
It was truly an amazing event packed with the funniest (and most fun) Intermission Dance (see below). We had fun in Columbia getting to know each other at the hotel, while walking and driving around Columbia, and while seeing youth from last year’s Salkehatchie trip, and went deeper in devotions each evening. God did some amazing works in us, and we can pray that our hearts remain passionate and on fire. God is good.
Here is what one of the youth wrote on Facebook:
“Wow. Revolution was so amazing, The Spark was there, Demberadio, Humble T.I.P. and mrs. Jennifer. It was so amazing to see a HUGE group of teenagers get together and just praise God. Not even thinking about what the person beside them thought of them. There were tears of pure salvation and SO MANY hearts were opened to God and to letting him consume our bodies. Im never.ever. Going to forget this weekend. Even though I was sick and had NO voice, it’d come and go, it was a blast.”
Thank you Amanda and Tina for being amazing leaders, and thank you to our youth who went and soaked in God’s goodness all weekend long. You made the retreat fun for everyone.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is often the first agency on the ground in emergencies and the last to leave when the work is done. Please take a few minutes and see if you can help by going here or clicking the image above, and look into the “How to Give” tab on the right hand top corner of the page. Note the number and give specifically to the Japan quake victims through UMCOR:
Advance # 3021317
Our Prayers for Supernatural Strength go out to the people of Japan!