by Brian Bierenga

Take a minute and recall your last youth leaders’ meeting. Perhaps someone suggested, “We should really help our students develop a heart for serving others.” Your group agreed and assigned people to investigate service options, check calendars with kids and parents, gather supplies and arrange transportation. Once that was done, your leadership team worked hard to publicize and promote a one-day event, tout it at several youth meetings and recruit as many students as possible. After the event, your team agrees that several service days over the summer would be better, but that when it is so much work to schedule one, planning several will never be an option.

Or perhaps, at your last youth leaders’ meeting, someone said, “We really just need to build community within our group. We have some great worship, service and discipleship elements for our students, but they just aren’t gelling as a community.” So your group proceeds to brainstorm about creative ways to bring the group together, mix them up, break down barriers, have fun and build trust. And since this sort of thing takes time, your team agrees to program a youth group event every other week for the next month, which means all of you will have to work together to organize, promote and run each of these events. Lots of fun, but also lots of work.

Or let’s say that your group is thriving and your students love serving others and just being with each other. At your meeting, a fellow leader says, “I love the events we do, and things are going great, but wouldn’t it be cool to really go deeper? Wouldn’t it be powerful if we had a special Koinonia service, or even celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a group?”

Suddenly, your whole team is inspired as they envision that experience: your whole team except for your youth director. She says, “I love the vision for this, but honestly, we only meet for one hour. I’m not sure how we can move kids from opening games, silly-string fights and high-energy music into a place of vulnerability and quiet reflection with God and one another in such a short time. I’d love to see this work, but I’m just not sure our regular format lends itself to such a deep worship experience.”

So many great ideas, but so many logistical hurdles to work through. Certainly, there must be an easier way!

What if there was a way to cover several huge ministry goals at once?

Take a minute to reconsider the idea of a service-learning trip for your group. A successful mission trip for teens can accomplish several big goals in a short but intensive amount of time. With good planning and God’s blessing, a one-week service-learning trip can produce more life change and impact in a student than an entire year of Sunday night meetings.

Imagine your students being immersed in the discipline of service as they work alongside others for several days in a row. Imagine the conversations and community created from doing life together for a week – and yes, even from the 16-hour van ride. Imagine how God’s Spirit can move through several nights in a row of worship, teaching and small group discussion. Imagine how God could use a whole week to work in the heart of a far-from-God-student and change their life trajectory.

These are things that happen at SERVE, five to seven-day high school mission trips that sends middle or high school age students out to care for and restore their world in an environment where they’ll encounter the concepts of justice and missional living. More than just a short trip, SERVE is a faith-forming experience where the communities, congregations and students involved all experience lasting transformation.

If the idea of a service-learning trip hasn’t been suggested recently at a youth leaders meeting, maybe you want to bring it up at your next one.

For more information, visit our SERVE Site Locations page.