When Summer Camp Trumps Missions Trip

Until recently, I would have never gone to a summer camp with students. I was all about missions trips. But after processing numerous summers of weeklong trips to impoverished communities with a team of middle school students – its not so much I think those don’t belong. But I question the health of such trips – both for our students and for those communities.

You see – I am not forsaking a weeklong trip this summer. Rather, I am rethinking how I do trips and the impact of them. But before I post on that, let me explain a few reasons summer camp trumped a weeklong missions trip to some far-off state for our students.

#1 Sometimes you need to be selfish with your students

When I say selfish – I mean that sometimes you really need to focus 100% on investing in their spiritual growth. The focus on missions weeks – which is a good focus – is to serve others. But the reality I found is most of my students needed a week not to serve but to be served. They didn’t really know Jesus yet – so trying to serve because Jesus calls us to wouldn’t really stick with them. It would be just a “good thing” they were doing. Being able to invest and have leaders invest in these students set them up to come home and do something big for God each and every day – rather than equate spiritual service to a week in a state a few hours from home.

#2 Middle Schoolers are still figuring things out

As I reevaluate how I have done ministry the past five years – I realize the middle school years are the foundation – true throughout childhood they are being built into – but this is really where they begin to move from childhood to adulthood. A weeklong trip where I can invest the basic truth of who God is into their life trumps a weeklong trip where I push them to work (because the reality is, for the most part during a middle school missions week – you push them to keep going.) I would rather take a week to hear their story, what they are struggling with, how God is tugging on their heart, deepen a relationship through fun and play, and truly invest into them – so that as we return they will be taking that step to follow God, to serve, not just once a week, but every day of their life.


Tomorrow I’ll dive in deeper – and also examine why I will always do missions weeks with middle schoolers – but how we do it different know that sets our students, and our community, up for long-term success rather than short-term impact.

Posted in Discipleship, Jesus, Middle School and tagged , , , , , .

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