The following post was written by Dave MacNeill, Strategist for P2 Missions and World Changers
I was at a Student Ministry Mission discussion group recently. After a couple hours of talking missions, I was a little shocked when I heard that the most significant take away from our time was “Intentionality of Missions”. The common response was that they had never really thought about an intentional missions strategy. They were going, they were doing, but they had no strategy or intentionality of missions.
Be Intentional, be intentional, and be intentional.
Intentional in Purpose:
Going is good, but knowing WHY you go is best. How does the week away from home serving others fit into your overall discipleship strategy? For the 26 years I lead student ministry in the local church, I grew into a strategy to expose students to serving others in order to develop their heart for sharing the gospel. I knew that most students would not grow up to be carpenters, painters, VBS practitioners or door-to-door evangelists. However, I knew that taking them into a week long lab of serving others and sharing the gospel outside their context would develop them into life-long gospel sharers. This week-long missions project was part of a full strategy to disciple students into disciple makers. Spend time with your leadership team and discuss the why behind your going and how it fits into your student ministry philosophy and programming.
Intentional in Location:
I have heard too many student leaders state, “the students choose” where we go on missions. This tells me that those leaders do not have an intentional mission strategy. Where you go is so important. The exposure to different experiences and people groups is how you develop students to see outside their context so they start to develop empathy for others unlike themselves. Empathy leads to loving and when students love beyond their context they know why they need to share the gospel. Your location is critical in this student development process. Serve locally, in your state, in your country and outside your country. Make sure you pick locations that step across lines of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geography. If you live in the south, serve in the north or west. If you live in the west, expose your students to the south. If you live in the United States, serve internationally. My strategy was to do local projects year round. Summer short term projects for the middle school/Jr. High stayed in the state and high school students rotated between domestic and international every other year. This gave a student in their 6 years many opportunities to step out of their context to develop their heart for serving others and sharing the gospel.
Intentional in Partnership:
Move from the philosophy of participating in a missions project to partnership in a broader missions strategy. Many of the places you will serve should have a specific purpose for you serving in that community. You are not there to just fulfill your own purpose, you are there to fit into a local intentional strategy to reach the lost. Weather it is through construction or church planting, hopefully the goal is to share the gospel and build God’s kingdom. If not, why would you go? (Reread Intentional Purpose and Location if necessary). Partnering with a local strategy may mean stretching your group to do outreach efforts they are not comfortable with. That is the point. Partnering may also mean year over year participation at that specific location. There are many benefits of attending the same location each year. One benefit is building relationships with those you are serving and demonstrating that you are so concerned with their spiritual needs you will be back. Also, it takes less time for your students to acclimate. It gives students the opportunity to recruit their friends to attend a location they know. Most importantly, they will get to see the impact of their efforts year after year.
Intentional in Organization:
Make sure you are aware of the strategy, intentionality and purpose of the organization with which you choose to align your missions strategy. It is true that you want to partner with an organization that does the type of work you want your students to experience. But it goes beyond just the type of work they are doing. Are they intentional about serving you as a leader and developing student hearts for serving others and sharing the gospel? As the leader of World Changers and P2 Missions, I can guarantee that we are here to serve you and develop your students through training and our gospel-sharing emphasis at each project.
The bottom line is, if you use an organization or plan your own, make sure you are intentional.