Honduras In Review (Lexi)

Recently I went to Honduras with a group of our high school students. I have been using my site as a place for them to write about their experience. If you missed the previous three posts in this series be sure to go back and read them. Below is a few thoughts from another student who went on this trip named Lexi Gray.

20158027_1929662380381150_6825769665715468304_o“Purpose. When our missions trip group went to Honduras, we stayed at a place called La Providencia. La Providencia is an organization that wants to give the orphans and widows the best, not the leftovers. Our team got to be apart of helping these people for the week. I really wanted to go on this trip to build my relationship with God, my team, and the kids in Honduras. God has allowed me to do all three of these things.

Prayer. Prayer played a very important part during the week. Before our team would start on our worksite each day, we would pray. Also after every water break our groups would come together to pray. This taught me that I can pray in any situation at anytime.

Effort. Extra effort was required in order to accomplish what God had already prepared for us to do. Our team gave 110% to everything we did. Also we encouraged one another and stayed positive throughout the highs and lows of the trip. This has shown me that I need to give all of my effort and energy to everything I do because it is all for God. In addition, God has shown me that I need to complain less because this is God’s plan for my life, and he is in control.

Connect. I connected really well with the kids at the VBS we set up. One girl specifically stood out to me, her name was Alma. Alma loved making bracelets with me during the free time at VBS. Also she could speak a lot of English, so it was easier to communicate with her. One time I asked Alma who her best friend was. She said that I was. This showed me how much our group meant to each of these Kids and how much they loved us. Another thing that stood out to me was how happy and grateful these kids were for all the things they had. Several kids would come up to me to say thank you for the VBS. This has helped me to understand how much more thankful I need to be, because these kids do not have much.

Protection. God showed how much he really protects me while I was on this trip. One specific time was when I got extremely sick on the bus ride home from our adventure day. Once I began throwing up, I started to hyperventilate. I can’t move my hands or my feet, and the rest of my body gets tingly. I get stuck breathing in short breaths. But during the whole time God helped me to remember that he is always with me. Also God has given me an amazing brother to be right by my side. I am so thankful for a brother to be there when I need him, and to help calm me down. Also God has blessed me with Crystal McCann to help take care of me and help me know that everything is going to be ok. God has showed me how much he loves me and help me know that he will not give me anymore than I can handle.”

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Honduras In Review (Wes)

This summer our high school ministry partnered with LeaderTreks for a short-term mission trip to Honduras. It was an incredible week that allowed our students to serve and grow in big ways! I wanted to give a few of the students a place to share what they learned and how they grew. Wes Gray is a rising senior in our high school ministry. He has been on a few trips with us in the past but this was his first international trip. Read his thoughts below as he shares about his experience in Honduras.

20229857_1929660103714711_5823704956355675678_o“My first missions trip out of the country is definitely one that I will not forget. There is so much that God did through the team during the week. We stayed at La Providencia, which is an organization who cares for widows and orphans. They have taken James 1:27 to heart: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” They don’t give them the leftovers like most cultures do but they put their needs first.

Our team got to be apart of this through manual labor on a worksite and caring for the kids by having a VBS (Vacation Bible School) for them. On the worksite we were hauling dirt to a section to eventually make it the right height to make it into a patio. Also there was a giant trench we had to dig around this area where we would eventually put supports in. On a normal day we would spend 4-5 hours on the worksite. There were so many awesome team bonding moments on the worksite as well. Like when we would try and get everyone excited to go back to work and we would all scream and do something crazy. Also there were great conversations going on as we shared with each other what God was teaching each of us as well. Prayer was a very important part of our days as we very nearly did it before we did anything. This was a key takeaway for me, just how important prayer is and how it is something I should regularly be doing during each day. We saw so much progress throughout the week on the worksite as well which is a big encouragement especially as this was some of the most physically straining work I have ever done. My legs cramped up on a couple different occasions but with encouragement from the team and God given strength I was able to push through.

The VBS was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. Everyday as soon as we were done on the worksite we would leave to go to a church about 20 minutes away to hangout with 30 kids. We played soccer with them, jumped rope, colored, made bracelets, and played tag. After a while we would call everyone in and give them a snack and perform a skit for them. Our skits were on the life of Jesus. You would think the language barrier would have been a lot more of a problem than it was; however, we had several team members who could speak spanish quite fluently. The kids were such a joy to be around; even when they didn’t have much they were still overflowing with happiness and that really hit home.

So I have talked about all of the encouraging and positive ways God had connected with me during my trip… Now for the not as fun ways. Three days before we were supposed to leave ⅓ of our team got sick some worse than others. I happened to be one of them. Thankfully I didn’t throw up like some of the other team members but I had other side-effects that we do not need to get into. Lol. Anyway I did not feel my best but when I woke up the next day I was feeling better to some degree and did not have a fever anymore. I was able to work my hardest on the last day on the worksite before we had our day of fun ziplining and going through a waterfall. By the end of the day our team was wiped, but we still finished strong. On our day into the city Lexi (my sister) started feeling awful on our way back and she started throwing up. Then she started hyperventilating. She did it once before when we got rearended together. What happens is her hands clamp up and she loses feeling there and her whole body gets really tingly. The only way to fix it is for her to focus on taking deep breathes but it is hard to do that when you are freaking out. Luckily a US doctor was close by so we were able to load her into a van and take her back to La Providencia. She threw up two more times as well on the way back. Eventually we got her back and she was feeling again and was done thoughing up but she was really tired so she went to bed. Then we both weren’t feeling good on the plane ride back as well. So it seems like I’m just going on a really long rant about why I’m never going to go on a trip like this again, but really it is quite the opposite. God taught me this lesson through it all: He is going to give me strength when I need it and rest when I need it as well, but it is all according to his plan with his mission coming first. So that is the hard lesson I learned, but it was a very important one!”

How Our Student Ministry Changes During the Summer

friends-summer-teens-sunset-Favim.com-464114_largeStudent ministry tends to look different in the summer than it does during the school year. It varies from ministry to ministry, but most student ministries change things up for the summer. Our ministry, both for middle and high school students, looks totally different during the summer than it does during the school year. Our weekly mid-week gatherings stop, our small groups stop meeting, and we only do a few large group events. However, we still do effective ministry. We still build relationships and introduce students to Jesus. During the summer we don’t stop our ministry, we just do it differently. Here are a few things we do during the summer to change things up.

Mission trips are the big thing. The main thing we do during summer is mission trips. My campus, Stow, is only doing one this year. Next year we are planning on doing two, one for high school and one for middle school. Other campuses, such as our Hudson campus, is doing around eight mission trips. Mission trips are a great way to get students out of their normal surrounding and into a new context for a short time to serve others and share with them the Gospel. Do whatever you can to plan some type of mission trip, whether that’s overs seas or in your own community, during the summer.

Building relationships become the focus. The reason I love doing student ministry in the summer is because it makes building relationships with your students super easy. Let’s face it, students are bored during the summer. They just want to get out of the house, hangout with friends, and have a good time. Capitalize on that by meeting up with them a few days each week for lunch, doing a cookout, going to the park, or planning an activity where they can all get together and just hangout. Don’t worry about making it fancy and “programmed,” just hangout with them and build stronger relationships. Also, doing this during the summer is a great way to save money for your ministry. Building relationships with your students is also a great way to save money for your ministry during the summer!

Preparing for the new school year. Another thing we do during the summer months is plan and prepare for the upcoming school year. For example, we are having worship band auditions next month and then starting band practice in August. Not having weekly meetings and a ton of events allows our worship band to practice and get ready for the next school year. Also, the summer gives me time to read and study for upcoming teaching series during the next school year. We have our teaching planned out enough that by the summer I know what topics and books of the Bible (or certain passages) to study and read up on.

Volunteers get the summer off. Another thing we do different during the summer is we don’t rely to heavily on adult volunteers. They have already given us the school year and they deserve a break. I intentionally try and say “thank you” to our volunteers at the end of the school year then tell them they have the summer off. If they want to help and be a part of some of the stuff we do during the summer they can, but they are not expected to. Make sure to go out of your way to let your volunteers know they have been appreciated, but you also expect them to take a step back and enjoy their summer with their friends and family. Then when the next school year starts they will be more likely to come back to volunteer again and be recharged to start serving.

These are just a few ways our student ministry changes during the summer. How does your ministry look different during the summer than it does during the school year?

Preparing Students For a Mission Trip

world-mapSummer is just a few short weeks away which means many student pastors are gearing up for a mission trip sometime this summer with their students. In the busyness of handling all the details of the trip we must not forget that the most important thing we need to be doing is preparing the students for the trip. We cannot just take students on a mission trip and hope they figure it out as they go. We must take time to prepare them individually and as a team for the what they will be doing for God’s Kingdom on the trip. Here are some practical ways you can prepare students for a missions trip.

Team Meetings. I’m not suggesting just a quick meeting a week before the trip to tell them what to bring and what not to bring. I’m suggesting regular meetings as a team leading up to the trip. For our high school mission trip we have been having monthly team meetings since March. We will continue to meet until July, the month of our trip. These meetings give the students an opportunity to build community with each other, the opportunity for me to share important trip details with them, and an opportunity to plan together for what we hope to accomplish on the trip. In my opinion team meetings with your students leading up to the trip is a MUST!

Team Building Activities. Another thing you can do to prepare students for a mission trip is team building activities. We have been doing these as part of our monthly team meetings. Team building activities are a great way to get your students working together and growing in their leadership skills even before the trip. These activities also build closeness with your students as they listen to each other and are forced to work together as a team.

Fundraising. This may seem like a weird thing to put in this list, but I do think fundraising plays a vital part in preparing a student for a mission trip. I suggest doing at least one fundraiser together as a team. For example, we are doing a car wash next month with our team of students. Doing a team fundraiser will help your students work together much like team building activities. Not only team fundraisers, but individual fundraising by each student is a great way to prepare them. We intentionally shy away from doing too many team fundraisers for the sake of teaching students to do it on their own. We provide them the tools needed to send out support letters so they can raise money themselves for the trip. Students will get more out of the trip if they work to get there.

God’s Word. Of course the most important way to prepare students for a mission trip is teaching them and getting them into God’s Word. They can do all the team building activities they want and a fundraiser everyday, but being in God’s Word is the BEST way for them to prepare for the trip. We have done this two different ways. First, we study God’s Word together during our team meetings. We have been going through the book of Nehemiah together. Second, we provided them with 100 day devotional journals that they can use leading up to the trip. Be creative, but find ways to get your students in the Word of God before the mission trip.

Preparing your students is the most important thing you can do leading up to a mission trip. Don’t neglect doing whatever it takes to make sure your students are ready to serve others and share with them the life changing truth of the Gospel.

Freebie: Helping Parents Connect eBook

Screen shot 2013-04-17 at 2.11.48 PMAre you doing a mission trip with your students this summer? If so, I have a great free resource to share with you from LeaderTreks. One of the most important things a student pastor can do is connect parents to what they are doing in their ministry. This is a helpful tool that helps student pastors connect the parents to what their student is doing before, during, and after the mission trip.

This is what LeaderTreks says about this resource, “In Helping Parents Connect, Doug Franklin outlines how parents can be involved in their students’ mission trips before, during, and after the trip. This tool is designed to get you involved from the beginning and to help you grow with your kids through this experience.”

I am taking our high school students on a mission trip this summer and I have downloaded this ebook in hopes to connect my parents to this trip. I’d encourage you to download it and check it out for yourself. What do you have to loose, it’s free!

Click Here to Download this Free eBook