Planning Our Mission Trip.

If our plan works out, sometime around July we will be taking the youth group (or a select few of them) to Los Angeles with a mission organization called CSM (Center For Student Missions). A mission trip has been part of our program vision ever since I first got into this gig but I've been handling it delicately since mission trips such as these (week-long trips in really poor areas) have not really been part of our church culture. Don't get me wrong, our church is very mission and service oriented. We have just never really made it a priority to stretch our students and open their eyes to the realities of poverty and injustice. But I think that is an integral part of youth ministry. I want our students to learn compassion and to learn it from people who live and love amongst the poor on a daily basis. I want our students to learn God's heart for the poor and oppressed. And I want our students to get to know some people who are living in poverty and to begin to share with them in some way in their experience.

Now, to do this well, we're not just gonna take any kid. We are going to be very intentional about the preparation process. We are essentially going to make kids prove themselves as compassionate people before we expose them to people who are in great need of their compassion. This will not be about "fixing problems" and we are not going in as "white folks to the rescue" and we are going to make kids work to show us that they get that. We will have about 6 months to prepare (we are gonna start in January) and we are going to have "assignments" for each month. Students will have required readings and exercises for each month that will revolve around a theme. For example, we might start by simply looking at the big picture and trying to understand what systems and problems are contributing to poverty in general. So month one might be something like "The Big Picture" and month two might be something like "God and Poverty" and month three could be like "Justice and Compassion" and so on.

So what we need to figure out from here is, first of all, what will our monthly themes actually be? And secondly, what exactly will the readings and exercises be? So I'm on the lookout for good accessible articles and ideas. And I'm open to suggestions.

We also want to be intentional about the reflective process during the trip and the debriefing afterward.
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