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 first post in this series be sure to go back and read it. Below is a few thoughts from another student who went on this trip named Abby Camara.
“This summer I took on one of the most challenging adventures of my life, I accomplished a mission trip to Siguatepeque, Honduras. I learned many new things on this trip which God taught me and I would have never been able to learn in the states. God also helped me take many new risks as His follower. When I was on this trip the team quickly became my family and we were as close as could be. During this trip I shared my testimony out loud for the very first time. This was a huge step in my life because some things that are in my testimony I don’t feel comfortable sharing with everyone. Although on this trip I felt like I belonged with everyone on my team in Honduras. I learned many different things throughout the week as I started to tell my story to others, I learned that you cannot be a superhero all by yourself. You cannot change the world, only God can do that. You cannot be your own superhero, God is your superhero. Sometimes you have to totally rely and trust in God, while I found myself only giving some parts of my life to God, I needed to start giving it all to him. I could trust my Savior with anything I needed in my life and he would take my trials and make something good out of them. I also realized on this trip that God will use many situations that he gives you in mysterious ways to help you and others throughout your life. As I shared my testimony with my peers and leaders I ended up helping other people as it proved to others that if you worship the Lord, you can get truly get through anything. All you need is the constant love of the Lord and you can make it happen. God gave me so many blessings on this trip by meeting amazing people such as a women named Elsy, a mother of 6 orphans who lives at La Providencia with her family. Elsy inspired me not only as an incredible mother but in her walk with God, there was a language barrier between me and Elsy but you could see Jesus shining through her wherever she was. She is an inspiration to me as I grow older and want to adopt my own children. Another person who I was completely blessed to meet on my trip to Honduras was JG. JG was my LeaderTreks leader who lived in Honduras and did trips all summer. He changed my way of looking at many situations. As I started to share my testimony and open up more throughout the week he non- stop showed his compassion and love for me. Whenever I needed help he was always there for me, and constantly challenged me to grow spiritually. He saw parts of me that I couldn’t see, such as my ability to be a leader even when I would get stressed very easily and want to give up. Thank you JG for not only changing my perspective on the role of God in my life, but also on myself and how I affect a team. In Honduras I learned a lot, but mostly I learned that I need to sometimes give it to God. Where a problem that I will be keeping for myself to try and figure out, I need to give it to God and have him help me through it. Which made all of the difference of my trip.”
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 first post in this series be sure to go back and read it. Below is a few thoughts from another student who went on this trip named Laura Dudones.
“God’s timing is so perfect. This fact is the biggest thing I saw during my week in Honduras. I have seen how much I have grow, and the way God used everything I have been through to help me serve Him. On the second day, I was challenged to share my testimony in front of some team members I didn’t know very well, and a few strangers from a different team who was there, and it was one of the most difficult things for me to do, but I knew I could do it, and I knew there was a reason I had been challenged. This lead to forming deeper relationships with my team members, and even lead to an amazing opportunity to share with one of my team members who is going through some very similar issues as I did. God put it in her heart to share a bit of her life that she was struggling with, and placed me exactly where he needed me to be at that time (physically and mentally). God showed me the love and joy He gives to those who follow Him, and all the wonderful things He is capable of doing with ordinary people. I saw God overcome language barriers through love, and I saw the amazing work He is doing in Honduras at La Providencia. Our team faced many challenges and struggles as the week went on, and it became very difficult to keep spirits up, but we pushed through and found joy and strength in each other. This team truly loved each other deeply, and we knew how to come together and focus on serving God. We prayed before everything, and we spent quality time having intentional conversations about God and our devotionals. The way God can move through a group of kids from an average town in Ohio, showed how truly powerful He is. I feel eternally blessed to have experienced this amazing week with a team of people I can honestly call my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that God placed me on this team for a reason, and I know that He has big plans for the people in my team. I cannot wait to see all He has planned for my future, and to watch His perfect timing in action.”
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.
“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!”
Some of my best student ministry volunteers are former students. For many years I overlooked former students and never recruited them to come back and be volunteers in our ministry. However, in the past few years I’ve leaned into this group and seen more and more of my former students come back to serve as volunteers.
We do have a policy that former students must be a year removed from high school before they can serve in our high school ministry. Because of this many of my former students start out serving in our middle school ministry.
I’m convinced that former students have the potential to be your best volunteers. Here are three simple reasons why I believe that.
1. You know them. One of the great things about using former students as volunteers is the simple fact that you know them. You have probably spent a few years getting to know them, pouring into them, and seeing them grow. You have a decent grip on their strengths and weaknesses. You know their personality and how they operate. Usually when you recruit a new volunteer you know next to nothing about them. All you know is what they shared in their application or when you met with them a few times. However, former students you know and this will help you put them in the right spot within your ministry.
2. They know you and your ministry. Not only do you know them but they know you. In addition to knowing you they also know your ministry. They probably have a good understanding of what you want your ministry to look like and be about. They know the culture and vibe of your ministry. This will save them much time and energy as they set out to be volunteers in your ministry. Sure there will be some things they don’t know. It will be new for them to be on the “leader side” of the ministry. However, they will know more than the normal new volunteer so that’s a plus.
3. They want to give back. The reason most former students come back to be volunteers is so they can give back to the ministry. Usually these are students who God impacted in huge ways through your ministry. Because of this they want to come back and be a part of God doing that for other students. This is the main reason they make great volunteers – they have experienced God through your ministry and they now want to help other students experience the same thing. That’s awesome!
Don’t overlook your former students when you think about volunteers for your ministry. Reach out to them and get them plugged in. They will make great volunteers in your ministry.
If you’re in student ministry the next few weeks brings a major shift for you and your ministry. The school year is coming to a close and your program is probably about to change a bit. In our ministry we take a break from weekly gatherings and just do a handful of events and activities where the priority is building relationships with our students and their friends. With this change of pace brings the opportunity to focus on a few things that may have been pushed to the side during the busy school year. Below are a few things students pastors should focus on this summer. They are broken into two categories: ministry and personal.
In regards to your ministry, focus on…
Getting out of your office and spend time with students. Let’s face it, spending time with students during the school year outside of your programs isn’t easy. Their in school most of the day and your busy writing talks and planning the next big event. Now that summer is here you and your students should be more free to hangout. Take advantage of it. One of things we are doing this summer is having a weekly time for girls to get together and a time for guys to get together. The girls are going to meet at a local park for a picnic and to go hiking while the guys will meet at the church to play basketball. Here is a deeper look into what our ministry looks like during the summer months. Spend less time in the office this summer (be sure you tell your pastor you’re not just sleeping in or taking the summer off) and more time hanging out with students.
Planning for next school year. By now you should have a rough idea of what your student ministry calendar looks like for next school year. The summer is when you want to nail that calendar down. Get dates and major details for your events locked in. In addition to events be sure to plan out your teaching schedule as well. Strive to put together a solid teaching schedule that will get you through the upcoming school year.
Recruiting new leaders. The summer gives you some extra time to find new leaders. You probably will loose some after the school year so every summer comes the challenge of finding a few new ones. Spend time recruiting new leaders and meeting with them. Find out what their skills and passions are. Strive to get them plugged in and ready to go for the upcoming school year. I recently wrote a post about some things to remember when you recruit new volunteers.
In regards to yourself personally, focus on…
Reading. Hopefully you find time to read even during the busy school year. However, the summer months should open up some extra time for reading. As a side note, I put this under the “personal” section but don’t forget reading should be a part of your job as a pastor too. Either way, find some time this summer to read. Read ministry books. Read theology books. Read fiction books. Read biographies. Read books by people you agree with. Read books by people you disagree with. Read for your growth as a follower of Christ. Read for your growth as a leader. Just read as much as you can.
Getting a good vacation. Don’t let the summer go by without getting in a solid vacation. If you have a family, plan a family vacation that allows you and your family time to kick back and relax. You need this more than you probably realize. Wayne Cordeiro says, “Those who’s vocation is all about giving out are wearing out.” As student pastors we “give out” a lot. Throughout the school year we are constantly giving. That’s why we need to take a break and rest. Summer is a great time for this. Be sure to take a summer vacation and get some much needed rest. By the way, take some books on your vacation. Vacation is a great time for reading.
I’d like to end this post with making a statement some may agree with while others may not – your summer months should look different than the months during the school year. That doesn’t mean your job as a student pastors gets easier and you all of a sudden get extra hours you somehow lost during the school year. However, it does mean you don’t have to have a weekly program. You don’t have to be writing talks. You don’t have to be planning event after event. Take a break from the programs and talks. Spend time with students and build relationships. Plan for the upcoming year. Most of all, focus on growing as a person and a leader while getting some extra time to refresh yourself before the busyness hits again in late August.