College ministry in the summer can be an interesting beast to tame. Some of our ministries aren’t really affected by the summer months; others blow up with all of our students returning; others go dormant because students go back home.
One thing is common across the country when it comes to college ministry and summer: mission trips. So, what I thought I’d do here is issue a caution, a suggestion and then a focus point for you as you prepare your teams.
Caution: Mission trips can be wonderful things for everyone involved. Our churches can be impacted, those who go on the trip certainly can be changed, and those we serve really can be helped. However, it’s important to make sure we are not teaching the wrong thing. The mission field is not somewhere other than where we live! We all live on the mission field—it’s called Earth. So, a quick word of advice as you prep your teams: Make sure they are beginning to view themselves as missionaries where they live now. The trip can be a part of that process, but we must be intentional to make sure our mindsets are correctly aligned with God on this. God is doing things all over the world, and as are other missionaries, God uses us where we live. If we don’t think God wants to use us where we currently live, we need to move.
Suggestion: Mission trips are packed with service opportunities, which is a wonderful aspect of these times; but we often miss fantastic opportunities with college age people on our mission trips: exposure. Many people, especially in America, have huge misperceptions of what it means to be a missionary. We think missionaries are people working out in the bush somewhere with people who have bones in their noses. Well, college students need to experience the truth. They should meet degreed people who are volunteering in nurseries, holding, changing and feeding babies. They should meet a computer whiz who’s running the IT for a school. They should spend time with someone who is teaching orphans the construction trade or mechanics. It would be wonderful if they met someone who has a music or art degree who’s teaching children in an orphanage.
This type of exposure is critical for college students. By being exposed in these ways, they literally can see how their field of interest potentially could be used for the benefit of someone else rather than just for themselves. This is so critical that I also would suggest doing trips with the sole purpose of exposing students in this way.
Focus Point: A critical aspect of college ministry is helping students move from only having relational connections in the student ministry world to having relational connections in the adult world. By doing so, they are exposed to older adults from whom they can learn, glean wisdom and admire—all that to say: Invite an older adult or three to go on the trip with you. Handpick a few whom you think would be great for college age people to meet and get to know. Don’t invite them to be chaperones. Invite them to join the trip as your friend and have them be a part of the team. This way, they actually can build relationships with no barriers. These types of relational connecting points have to be taken advantage of when working with college students, and time away for a week or two on a trip such as this is the prime time for lifelong relationships to start.