Thursday, September 17, 2015

"We do mission trips instead of camp."

I don’t have a problem with doing mission trip instead of camp.  I have had youth leaders and even students use the phrase, “We do mission trips instead of camp.” in hyper-spiritual way.  I personally think mission trips and summer camp have two entirely different purposes and goals. 

Summer camp’s focus should be on spiritual growth and bringing lost students to know Christ.  As I posted earlier, camp is a great time to help a student grow spiritually.  The focus is on teaching and worship.  I have even heard “Summer camp is focused on the student” in a negative way.  Yes!  Camp does focus on the individual student.  It’s called focusing on discipleship and spiritual growth.  It’s important and camp is great tool for accomplishing that purpose.

Mission trips teach students to reach out to the lost, to focus on individuals in need, move students out of their comfort zone.  We hope teaching students to come back home with a vision to reach the lost in their own community.   A totally different purpose from summer camp.  Of course when this happens spiritual growth can occur as well.

Why do one over the other?

The volunteer youth leader may say, “I don’t have enough vacation time to do both.”  If your passion is missions find another volunteer(s) in the church to take your group to camp or find a camp where your group can go without the need of staffing the camp yourselves.

“We don’t have the money.”  Yes, camps and mission trips can add up financially.  I have been amazed by the small churches that don’t have an abundance of funds trying to pay the way for all their kids to go to camp.  I understand scholarships, I understand helping off set the cost.  I also know that most parents will invest in their kid’s life if possible.  On average most Christian camps are far less expensive from sports camps.  I’ve seen parents drop a boat load of money to send their kid to football or soccer camp.  Our students pay for their own camp experience.  We have scholarship fund in place to help students.  I also designate some money in our student ministry budget towards camp.

Funding mission trips teaches students about the connection between finances and reaching the lost.  Our church budgets an amount to help fund mission trips but our students have to raise the bulk of their funds.  Last spring we took a mission team of 15 on a trip, the budget was around $29,000.00 for the trip, the church gave $6000 from the budget and $2000 in a love offering.  The other $21,000 was raised by individuals on the team.  Biblically when you look at the mission trips of the new testament the missionaries were backed financially by the church.

One idea I want to use this year in funding our mission trip for next spring is for students who are not going to become part of the team by helping by giving financially out of their own pocket and by sending out support letters.  
I firmly believe that where God guides he provides. 

I’m sold on doing a separate mission trip and camp experience.  Some students need that time to focus on their own spiritual walk that camp gives.  They need the camp experience to challenge them to grow and move to the next level.  Not every student is ready for a mission trip. (we take only mature eighth graders through seniors and they have to fill out an application to join the mission team)  Some students are ready for a mission trip and need that experience in their life to move them to their next level of growth and can be used to build leadership into your youth ministry.

Is doing a mission trip instead of camp wrong?  I don’t think so.  Is doing a combined camp and mission trip wrong?  I don’t think so.  But I would like to challenge us to think about the impact of doing the two separately can have.  The two have different purposes and goals so consider doing them separately.

If you are looking for a cool combination camp/mission trip check out LeaderTreks.

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