I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the song, “I’m going on a trip in my favorite rocket ship…” You might know that song just as well as I do if you have young kids in your home. This song comes from the popular kids show, “Little Einsteins,” which takes kids on adventures to discover music, arts, nature, & cultures.
There is something very exciting about going on a trip & just in case you didn’t realize from the title, we’re not talking about trippin’ on any kind of drug!
I don’t know if it’s the excitement that builds up to doing something out of the daily routine of life, or if it has to do with going somewhere with people you want to spend time with, or if it’s in just getting away. Maybe it’s all of those combined, but there certainly is an anticipation that takes place when you go somewhere out of the norm.
This certainly can be the case when you plan trips into the discipleship formation in your youth ministry.
Now, I’m not saying trips are everything & that they lead to fully formed disciples in the kingdom of God. But I would like to say that I believe two specific kinds of ministry trips are imperative for discipleship formation in our young people. Not only have I seen a greater consistency in teenagers who went on these types of trips continuing in their relationships with the Lord, I personally can attribute Christ’s formation in my own life through these experiences.
The first trip is the Mission Trip. Now, I’ve led mission trips where we’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly, but ultimately I have watched with my own eyes teenagers experience the power of God in ways that have stuck with them for years afterwards. I have also witnessed how Jesus has used these types of trips to bring growth to these young people.
Some of what God grows in us when we are on missions trips are things like a greater desire to be used of the Lord, a greater level of responsibility, a greater openness to receive & rely on the Lord, a greater vision for the kingdom of God, a greater level of selflessness, a greater understanding of identity, and a greater development of teamwork. I’m sure there are plenty more, but you get the point. If we are preaching to teens that God wants to use them to do greater things here on this earth for His kingdom, then we need to intentionally allow for God to do greater things in them so He can do greater things through them!
Jesus sent His disciples off on missions trips on different occasions. He instructed them and then He sent them off two by two to partake in kingdom work. Youth mission trips are a wonderful way to follow Jesus’ example of discipleship and kingdom building.
The second trip is the Youth Conference Trip. From the time I was in 6th grade to the time I was a senior in high school I must have attended a dozen or more youth conferences. I can’t remember what God did in me at every one, but I do remember as I was growing up these events became for me more than just checking out the girls, more than getting away from my parents, more than just goofing around with all my friends, but they became an essential ingredient in my development in Christ.
One of the biggest things I have not only taken away personally, but have witnessed teenagers experience from youth conferences is PASSION. Sure, we can have a passion that is just based on an emotional experience or because everyone in a room is hyped up. That is bound to happen sometimes, but I don’t believe that is all that happens.
I’ve witnessed a greater hunger for God’s presence, a greater commitment to read God’s Word, a greater hope to reach peers, a greater desire to worship the Lord, and a greater level of Christian fellowship after youth conference trips. There are plenty of things that teenagers can be passionate about these days & part of our challenge in youth ministry is to point young people to the right things to be passionate about! Another part of our role is to not only exemplify a passion for Christ in our own lives, but also give them opportunities to feed their passion for Christ. Youth conferences can be a huge part of that.
These are two types of trips that I’ve personally seen a lot of fruit from, but I know there are other types of trips that are powerful as well (i.e. - Summer Camp, Leadership Retreat to a Challenge Course, Work Project, Creation Museum Trip, Camping Trip…). If you are still looking at setting up your schedule & discipleship formation for the summer and fall, I would definitely encourage you to plan in a mission trip & bring a group of teens to the Saturate Conference in November too!
Craig Campbell is the Lead Pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church, which is located in his hometown of Lockport, NY. He has been serving the local church for more than eleven years in different capacities such as youth ministry, worship ministry, young adult ministry, and more. He and his wife Jennie have four amazing kids whose names are Leland, Hudson, Adalyn, and Lillian.