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The senior pastor isn’t preaching the way you would. The church should budget more for missions. The church website hasn’t been updated since 1997. Everyone is volunteering for the worship team, but no one is signing up to help with the youth ministry. You spend too much time in meetings and not enough time with students. These annoyances build and build until they’re too much to take.

I’ve met so many youth workers who are frustrated with their churches. They see hundreds of problems but very few positives. While they try to keep their frustrations to themselves, their grievances affect their attitudes, make them feel like victims, and create bitterness between them and other church leaders.

We all know the saying, “No church is perfect,” but if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we still want to go to a perfect church. As the pastor at my church likes to say, “If you don’t have a list of church members you don’t like, then you aren’t involved enough.”

Churches will always have issues. They will always be filled with people different from us. So you have to choose: will you survive or thrive? Ignoring your church’s flaws and putting up with the people who annoy you will only let you survive. If you really want to thrive, you will need a whole new attitude.
This starts with you thinking differently about church and your role in it. Don’t be a know-it-all; become a servant of all. How can you become a more positive, enthusiastic, and engaging church leader? The most popular person at church does the following:

1. Praise the church leaders

No matter where you go or who you talk to, tell stories of the great things other church leaders are doing. Treat it just like gossip—positive gossip. Start with, “Don’t tell anyone this, but Pastor               is awesome because he just did              .”

Good gossip and bad gossip take the same road—they always get back to the person the gossip is about. Negative gossip will only hurt the other church leaders and make things worse. Praise gossip will build them up and give them confidence.

2. Offer to serve 

Most of us know what it feels like to be “voluntold” (volunteered without being asked). It’s incredibly frustrating! So don’t let that become an option. Sign up to serve without others asking. We know the church needs us. We understand the technology and culture way beyond other volunteers or church leaders. Our students have energy to spare, and we know how to make stuff fun. So don’t wait—volunteer to serve, help, teach, and fix stuff.

3. Be teachable 

Humility is the most attractive quality a leader can have. It’s unexpected, and it reflects Christ in us. The only likable know-it-alls are cartoon characters. In real life, you will only come across as arrogant. Ask people to teach you things. Show curiosity in what others are doing. Be the first to apologize. These qualities will make you a magnet.

Remember what Jesus said: “Take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place’” (Luke 14:10).

4. Serve the seniors 

Seniors need help, want help, and love students. Organize your students to serve a Valentines Day dinner or to rake leaves. Give the seniors nicknames and let them tell stories from the past. You can have so much fun serving seniors, and your students will think it’s awesome.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of complaining about church. Pity parties make us feel good for a short period of time, but at some point they begin to destroy your relationship with God. So change your perspective: instead of focusing on problem prevention, focus on serving always.

CC Image courtesy Dale C on Flickr.

The post How to Be Popular at Church appeared first on LeaderTreks Youth Ministry.

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The youth ministry that you led with 10 students is very different than the ministry you’ll lead with 25 students.

When you have 10 students you can almost do everything. You can run the games, you can do the teaching, and you can counsel students that need it. You can even run the snack shack when it’s needed.

“The very actions that made you successful with 10 students may actually hurt your ministry of 25.”

But if you try to do the same thing with 25 students, you’re in for a rude awakening. The very actions that made you successful with 10 students may actually hurt your ministry of 25.

So what changes do you need to make when your youth ministry reaches 25 students?

Step 1: Grow your volunteer team (and train them!)

First things first, you’ll need to grow your adult volunteer team. Growing an adult volunteer team is different from getting a few volunteers to help you. You’re not just looking for people to do a few things to help you get by; you’re looking for people that will build deep and transformational relationships with students.

There are lots of folks that will cook burgers, flip pancakes, and drive the church van, but it takes another level of commitment to dive into students’ lives and walk the discipleship road with them. And most adults will need to be trained to fill the roles of discipler or mentor.

So before you head out to recruit, start making your training plan. The best way to do this is to (1) create a list of volunteer roles, (2) write a job description that outlines their responsibilities, (3) and determine three skills that they’ll need to fulfill that role. The three skills then become the basis of your training plan. It should be your goal to train these new adult volunteers to work in the youth ministry using these three skills. Remember, just because an adult wants to work with students doesn’t mean they know how to build a relationship, teach God’s word or help students make life applications.

Step 2: Delegate (Don’t try to do everything yourself)

Second, you’ll need to resist the temptation to do everything yourself. Delegation is one of those words that sound so great, like our own youth ministry silver bullet guaranteed to save time and alleviate stress. But I find that most leaders don’t know how to delegate. I see most leaders do their work while others stand around watching, and they can’t figure out why they’re not getting the help that they need. This lack of delegation leads to some very overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted youth workers.

Delegation starts with coming up with the plan of which responsibilities you want to give away. To do this right you need to look at your team and identify their spiritual gifts and their passions. Then you can allow them to lead or have ownership in the areas that they care most about. In these areas they will do their very best work.

At LeaderTreks we’ve created a tool called the Sweet Spot. It’s a collection of three assessments designed to help you identify your volunteers’ passions, burdens, and heart for impact. This tool can be a big help to you in the delegation process.

If delegation is a struggle for you, if you find that you’ve given away leadership but you’re still doing the job, then get a leadership coach that can help you through this. You’ll never be able to grow your ministry to its full potential unless you’re able to delegate.

Step 3: Less is more

Third, as your ministry grows, it will be critical to prioritize quality over quantity. When you have a small group of students, it’s easy to do lots of high-quality activities. But when your group gets larger, you’ll find that you need to do a smaller number of activities in order to maintain the same level of quality.

This can be hard when so many of us like to do what we did last year. But here’s an area where we need to be disciplined. It’s best to pick your most impactful activities and focus on making them really great.

Step 4: Communicate Consistently to Parents

Fourth, you’ll need to keep communication with parents consistent. More students mean more parents, and more parents mean more questions. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself in need of additional structure or technology to supplement your original plan for parent communication. You might need to utilize Facebook, a texting service, or even a church planning software in ways that weren’t necessary when the group was smaller. When your communication to parents is consistent, they’ll not only support the ministry, they’ll share with others the importance of their students being there.

Step 5: Increase Communication with Church Leadership

Fifth, you’ll also need to communicate more with church leadership. Think through the demand of a larger group on the church facility. You’re going to need more space. You’re going to mess up more bathrooms. And you’re going to require a budget that meets the needs of your growing ministry. Communicating that numbers are up is always going to get you a positive response, but make sure you don’t stop there. Get specific with church leadership about what that growth means and the impact that the ministry is having.

Your group is growing. Praise the Lord! Just remember that growing ministries require change. This change will be hard, but if you embrace the change rather than resist it, your ministry is all the more likely to reach its potential.

The post What to Do When Your Youth Ministry Reaches 25 appeared first on LeaderTreks Youth Ministry.

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A mission trip should be about God first and foremost. But instead, these trips often become more about the location, activities, and fun things that students will see and do. I don’t mean to say that it isn’t important to have fun on a mission trip, it is—but mission trips can be primarily focused on our relationship with God and still be fun.

The best way to keep God at the center of a mission trip is to spend time every day deepening our faith in him through devotions. Devotions are about habits and vision. We want to develop the habits that shape us into fully devoted Christ-followers. This equipping will give us tools to seek God and his vision for our lives. We want to leave the trip with a spiritual work ethic and a daily commitment to seek the One who seeks us. This is where mission trip devotionals come in.

A solid mission trip devotional has three main parts:

Bible Study

The first main part of a mission trip devotional is a Bible study. I believe the best way to study the Bible is to use Bible study methods. I don’t like giving students a text and three questions. I like it when they have to wrestle with the truth of God’s word and apply it to their lives. Bible study methods require them to do this.

Bible study methods are also easy to debrief with students. It’s much easier to get students to answer, “What did you write down for this question?” than “What stood out to you?” in a group setting. When students process what they’ve learned with you, they are able to internalize God’s truth and make it part of their daily life. Additionally, once a student has found a Bible study method that they like, they will have confidence to return home and use that Bible study method on any passage they want to study.

Prayer Journal

The second main part of a mission trip devotional is a prayer journal. A prayer journal helps us organize our thoughts before the King. It reminds us to come into his throne room as humble servants instead of just as lost kids. The prayer journal is a tool designed to bring vision to our lives. Watching how God answers our prayers over a period of time will give us a good indication of his vision for our lives.

While using a prayer journal, consider your pattern of prayer. Lay before the Lord your understanding of his character, adore him for who he is. Confess who you are, a sinner, in light of his holiness. Thank him for grace and your adoption as his child and come to him with a grateful heart, asking him for his will in your life. As God reveals his will to you, stand ready to respond with changes in your character, relationships, and lifestyle. Prayer is not about changing God’s mind—it’s about changing your life.

Growth Journal

The third main part of a mission trip devotional is a growth journal. A growth journal is all about debriefing the mission trip experience while it’s happening so a student can be ready to go home. At the end of a mission trip, your students will either fall off the mountaintop experience or slowly rappel down. Almost all mission trips give students a spiritual high. How can it not—a team of like-minded students, away from home, doing things they thought were impossible, worshipping together, and feeling God’s presence as they serve. The question is, how will your students get down the mountain once they’re back home?

If you debrief the experience while it’s happening, you give students the chance to intentionally rappel down the mountain to a new place of spiritual growth. If you don’t, they will come crashing down and land in the same spiritual valley they were in before the trip.

A mission trip is a great place to build the habit of personal devotions. With all the distractions of life out of the way, students have a great opportunity to connect with God. Create—or find—a mission trip devotional that will help them do this and your mission trip will go back to what you always hoped it would be: a time for your students to go deeper with God.

Don’t want to make your own this year? Try out the LeaderTreks Mission Trip Devotionals. They start at just $5.95 and contain Bible studies, prayer journals, and growth journals. Watch the video below to learn more.

Learn More

Need more than a mission trip devotional to get ready for this year’s trip? LeaderTreks also provides the following free resources to help you prepare to lead a transformational trip for your students.

Before he returned to his Father in heaven, Jesus gave his followers one last command: to spread the good news of his death and resurrection to the whole world. If we truly understand the joy of following Jesus, we are quick to set aside our own desires in favor of our mission to care for the least. This Pre-Trip Devotional is a great resource for pre-trip training for your mission team. The goal of this lesson is to help students understand the difference between living out their own preferences and living out of God’s purposes.

 If you’re just beginning the trip planning process, you know that choosing mission trips for teens can be a daunting task. With so many great and unique organizations to research and choose from, finding the right trip can easily become an overwhelming, high-pressure experience. It’s not enough to pick mission trips for teens based on the price tag or the destination; you’ve got to assess potential ministry partners based on what they value and how well they avoid causing harm to the local community. Use the Find the Right Trip Assessment to help you find the right trip for your group.

If you plan to create your mission trip from scratch rather than go with an outside organization, check out the Mission Trip Builder. The Mission Trip Builder is a How-To Guide for Mission Trips designed specifically for youth workers. You have an opportunity to craft a short-term mission trip experience to be a greenhouse for student development, but you need to be intentional in the building process. This tool will help you build an intentional mission trip experience for your students, one that will give them the best chance for growing into strong and healthy Christ-followers.

If you’re heading out on your trip and you’re looking for ways to keep parents connected, try using Helping Parents Connect. This resource is designed to enrich the journey that parents experience while their student is part of a mission trip. Helping Parents Connect asks questions to get parents thinking about how they can best connect with their student before the trip, during the trip, and after the trip. It is a tool designed to get them involved from the beginning and to help them grow with their kids through this experience. Download Helping Parents Connect in the Mission Trip Prep Kit. 

The post How to Create a Mission Trip Devotional appeared first on LeaderTreks Youth Ministry.

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A Mission Trip Packing List is a must-have. At LeaderTreks we LOVE mission trips. We’ve been leading LeaderTreks Trips since 1994, and we’ve learned a couple of things along the way. We’ve learned to avoid these mission trip mistakes. We’ve learned the value of Pre-Trip Training. And we’ve learned that when packing for a mission trip there are certain things we’d rather not forget. So in hopes that you’ll avoid our past failures, here’s our Mission Trip Packing List for youth workers. While comfort is never the goal, we think that with these key items you’ll be more focused on leading a transformational trip and better prepared for the unexpected.

Download the Mission Trip Packing List PDF.

Mission Trip Packing List Clothing
  • 2 pairs of jeans or work pants
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 7 t-shirts
  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • 10 socks
  • 2 sets of pajamas
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 light sweatshirt or fleece
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 set of church clothes
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 1 pair of shower shoes
  • 1 hat
Bedding
  • 1 sleeping bag
  • 1 sleeping pad or air mattress
  • 1 small pillow
Personal Care
  • 1 towel
  • 2 Water bottles
  • 1 Thermos
  • 1 pair of work gloves
  • Glasses or Contact Solution
  • Sunglasses
  • Toiletries
  • Lotion
  • Feminine products
  • Sunscreen
  • Bugspray
  • Baby Wipes
  • Chapstick
  • Ibuprofen
Miscellaneous
  • Bible
  • Pens
  • First Aid Kit
  • Small Notepad
  • Journal
  • Cell phone charger
  • Head phones
  • Auxiliary cord
  • Duct Tape
  • Multi-tool
  • Plastic shopping bags
  • Dryer sheets

Download the Mission Trip Packing List PDF.

Need more than a Mission Trip Packing List to get ready for this year’s trip? LeaderTreks also provides the following free resources to help you prepare to lead a transformational trip for your students.

 If you’re just beginning the trip planning process, you know that choosing mission trips for teens can be a daunting task. With so many great and unique organizations to research and choose from, finding the right trip can easily become an overwhelming, high-pressure experience. It’s not enough to pick mission trips for teens based on the price tag or the destination; you’ve got to assess potential ministry partners based on what they value and how well they avoid causing harm to the local community. Use the Find the Right Trip Assessment to help you find the right trip for your group.

If you plan to create your mission trip from scratch rather than go with an outside organization, check out the Mission Trip Builder. The Mission Trip Builder is a How-To Guide for Mission Trips designed specifically for youth workers. You have an opportunity to craft a short-term mission trip experience to be a greenhouse for student development, but you need to be intentional in the building process. This tool will help you build an intentional mission trip experience for your students, one that will give them the best chance for growing into strong and healthy Christ-followers.

Before he returned to his Father in heaven, Jesus gave his followers one last command: to spread the good news of his death and resurrection to the whole world. If we truly understand the joy of following Jesus, we are quick to set aside our own desires in favor of our mission to care for the least. This Pre-Trip Devotional is a great resource for pre-trip training for your mission team. The goal of this lesson is to help students understand the difference between living out their own preferences and living out of God’s purposes.

If you’re heading out on your trip and you’re looking for ways to keep parents connected, try using Helping Parents Connect. This resource is designed to enrich the journey that parents experience while their student is part of a mission trip. Helping Parents Connect asks questions to get parents thinking about how they can best connect with their student before the trip, during the trip, and after the trip. It is a tool designed to get them involved from the beginning and to help them grow with their kids through this experience. Download Helping Parents Connect in the Mission Trip Prep Kit. 

The post Mission Trip Packing List appeared first on LeaderTreks Youth Ministry.

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Most of us are seeing grandparents raise students. It’s moved from a rare phenomenon to a new, common, everyday reality. While at times it can seem a little bit of a pain working with the grandparents instead of a parent, it actually is a great opportunity for us to go deep with students.

Grandparents vs. Biological Parents

We’ve got to remember that ministering to students who are being raised by grandparents is different than ministering to students being raised by their biological parents. These differences are subtle but they’re really important for us to know as youth workers.

Grandparents are different than parents in a few unique ways. (1) Grandparents don’t think they know everything. They have seen the ups and downs of being parents and know that they need help. (2) Grandparents tend to be open to somebody else impacting their student’s life; in fact, they welcome the help. (3) They also don’t have the energy to do all the things that students need them to do, including driving them to every activity and every practice.

“Grandparents tend to be open to somebody else impacting their student’s life; in fact, they welcome the help.”
How to Partner with Grandparents

Here are a few of the ideas that I have used while ministering to grandparents that are raising students.

1. Offer to help grandparents

Grandparents don’t have the energy for everything that students are doing. They care deeply about these kids, but they need help. This is an opportunity for us to minister to both the student and to the grandparents. Look for an adult in your youth ministry that has time and space to actually be a surrogate parent. By offering to help with some of the running around, we can have great time with the student and begin to build into their life spiritually. It may take time to find the right adult to take on such a task, but by finding this adult you may be able to rescue a family.

2. Give grandparents a break

Just like we do night out for mom and dad in our children’s ministry, giving our grandparents a break from always caring for the student can also be a huge ministry to them. It shows that we understand their situation and that we’re willing to step in and help. This is a great ministry of the church. Again, giving grandparents a break allows us special time with students and demonstrates to the grandparents that they are not alone.

“Giving grandparents a break allows us special time with students and demonstrates to the grandparents that they are not alone.”
3. Ask grandparents what they need

Often times our grandparents aren’t going to feel equipped to talk to students about what’s happening in areas like technology, sex, gay marriage, or other important topics. Offer to step in and ask grandparents how you might work with a student in these special areas. This will be a huge relief for them, and it will demonstrate that the youth ministry is in it with them.

I’ve noticed that a lot of youth workers are confused about serving students that are being raised by grandparents. It takes a special amount of service on our part to minister to these students. It’s not easy but there is a golden opportunity for us to go deep into students’ lives because we’re going to get a lot more time with them.

Let’s not look at it like it’s impossible. Let’s look at it as an opportunity and come alongside these grandparents and do great ministry with them. The church is design for this!

The post Grandparents: The New Parent Ministry appeared first on LeaderTreks Youth Ministry.

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Discipleship is a lifelong journey. When we hear Jesus’ Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19), we can be tempted to think Jesus is only talking about evangelism. But Jesus doesn’t stop there; he continues, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (v. 20).

Not only are we called to introduce students to Jesus—we’re also told to grow them toward a mature faith.

Over and over, New Testament writers stress the difference between immature and mature disciples. Paul tells the Ephesians that Christ equips his people to grow from infancy to spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:11–14). He laments that he cannot yet walk the Corinthians toward deeper elements of faith because they’re only ready for “milk to drink, not solid food” (1 Cor. 3:2). Peter encourages his readers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).

For ourselves and for those under our spiritual care, we cannot settle for undeveloped faith. We need to encourage students when we see signs of maturity, and we should develop those areas where their faith remains immature.

But what does a mature disciple look like?

Here are a few traces of depth displayed by mature disciples:

8 Traits of Mature Disciples 1. Mature disciples understand their need for a Savior

Mature disciples know God’s core plan for salvation. They have internalized that they are slaves, held captive by terrible enemies: sin and death, and  they see that in this fallen, corrupt, and shattered world, they need a rescuer—Jesus, our savior and redeemer. Mature disciples acknowledge that Jesus gave his followers freedom from sin and its effects when he took them on at the cross.

Warning Sign! When disciples lack depth in this area, they show signs of having a works-based faith or acting entitled

2. Mature disciples know the God of the Bible

Mature disciples know the God that they serve. They recognize that he is too awesome and too complicated to wrap their minds around, but they see that God wants a relationship with them. Taking note of the ways God has revealed himself, mature disciples are continuing learning what God is like. They view the Bible as the story of God’s relationship with his people over the centuries, and they see his fingerprints throughout the world around them.

Warning Sign! When disciples lack depth in this area, they tend to acknowledge more than one God or lack a value for God’s Word

3. Mature disciples recognize that they are made in God’s image

Mature disciples choose their God-given identity over who culture says they should be. Before they determine who they are, they focus on whose they are. They affirm that God created human beings in his own image, and they rejoice that Christ came and died on the cross to offer them a new and redeemed identity. Mature disciples also find in their God-given identity a God-given mission. As image bearers of the one true God, they seek to be his representatives here on earth.

Warning Sign! When disciples lack depth in this area, they oftentimes try to be someone they aren’t or determine their identity based on their environment

4. Mature disciples serve out of love

Scripture is packed with directions for how we should treat our fellow human beings. In Zechariah 7, the prophet chastised God’s people for going through the religious motions—fasting, sacrificing, and celebrating—one minute, then treating others poorly the next. Their worship was selfish. God wanted them to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.”

This gets to the heart of service in a mature disciple’s life. Immature disciples may serve others when it’s convenient or when it makes them look and feel good. But mature disciples follow Jesus’ example by transforming into continuous servants. They serve others by taking God’s love for people and making it their own.

Warning Sign! When disciples lack depth in this area, they can be driven by materialism or show signs of selfishness

5. Mature disciples share their faith story

The Good News of Jesus Christ is the greatest gift we can receive. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we are adopted as God’s children. We are made holy, receive the Spirit, and enter into eternal loving relationship with our Lord. Immature disciples recognize these truths in their own lives. Mature disciples follow Jesus’ instruction to share his Good News with others: “Go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). As mature disciples reflect on the transformation in their own lives and Jesus’ influence on their journey, they yearn for those same things in others’ lives. So they share the gospel and its influence on their story of faith with those who need to hear it most.

Warning Sign! When disciples lack depth in this area, they may be afraid to talk about spiritual things or make excuses for not reaching out

6. Mature disciples worship regardless of circumstance

We sing because we worship. We pray because we worship. We dance because we worship. By themselves these things are not all that special and can even be self-serving. But when they are done in response to God, they become worship played out in our lives. Mature disciples see worship as a lifestyle. Their hearts are aware of God’s constant presence, and they can’t help but marvel at his glory. Nor is their worship dependent on circumstance. Mature disciples worship God even during tough times because they know that God is always worthy of praise.

Warning Sign! When disciples lack depth in this area, they may experience feelings-based worship or have a shallow prayer life

7. Mature disciples defend their faith

The Bible encourages us to defend our faith: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15). That’s the point of apologetics—to explain our hope in Christ to others. Mature disciples are equipped to communicate God’s truth in a world that is hostile towards him. They don’t share God’s truth in an overbearing way, but they display a confidence and a willingness to unashamedly and respectfully engage our culture.

Warning Sign! When disciples lack depth in this area, they might disregard the Bible or be easily swayed in their beliefs

8. Mature disciples join in the community of believers

The journey of discipleship should not be taken alone. The minute we are adopted as children of God, we become spiritual siblings of millions of other people who are on the same journey. Immature disciples might think they can walk the path of discipleship alone. They say things like, “My faith is between God and me. I don’t need to join a church because I get more out of alone time with God.” Yet whenever Scripture describes the life of a disciple, it’s in the context of a community of faith. Paul addresses the members of the church in Corinth as “mere infants in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1) because there is jealousy, quarreling, and disunity among them. Mature disciples seek unity and community with other growing disciples.

Warning Sign! When disciples lack depth in this area, they tend to isolate themselves or be divisive and exclusive in relationships

These are only a few key areas of maturity to look for in your students. These 8 Traits are designed to give you clues and signifiers that allow you to dive intentionally into a student’s life; to ask questions that lead to growth and to offer road signs that help guide students towards Christ. Insight into the depth of a student’s faith will change the questions you ask them, the truth you speak into their lives, and the challenges you offer them. It can bring a new level of intentionality to your limited time with them and help them become rooted followers of Christ.

Ultimately, only God knows the heart of a student, only he can measure faith. And while no one but the Holy Spirit can transform the heart of a student, we are responsible for reflecting, uncovering, and resembling the truth that saves lives and makes disciples.

P.S. Curious how we chose these 8 Traits? These 8 Traits sum up the 8 Roots of Deep Discipleship. Each Root of Deep Discipleship is designed to help students grow in one of these 8 Traits of maturity. 

When we set out to create Deep Discipleship, we started by asking youth workers and pastors what they believed to be the core of the gospel message. These ministry leaders gave us lots of answers. We took those answers, compared them with what Jesus and his followers taught as essential to discipleship. 

We then asked Bible teachers, professors, and Christian publishers which roots were the very core of the gospel. This narrowed the list again.

Finally, from that list, we asked youth workers again what terms expressed these themes best in a language students could learn and understand. And that left us with the 8 Roots of Deep Discipleship

Throughout each year of Deep Discipleship content, you’ll teach and reinforce these core truths of the gospel and avoid graduating students with critical gaps in their knowledge of the faith. 

Students of deep faith understand:
  1. Rescue—God’s core plan for salvation
  2. Knowledge—How to know God
  3. Identity—Who we are as children of God
  4. Kingdom—How to live and serve in God’s economy
  5. Outreach—Our responsibility to spread the good news
  6. Worship—How to encounter God and respond
  7. Apologetics—How to defend our faith
  8. Community—What it means to be a part of God’s family


The post 8 Traits of a Mature Disciple appeared first on LeaderTreks Youth Ministry.

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Choosing mission trips for teens can be a daunting task. With so many great and unique organizations to research and choose from, finding the right trip can easily become an overwhelming, high-pressure experience. Here’s our take on why the right partner organization makes all the difference and our recommendations for the Top 5 Organizations for teen mission trips. 

Download our “Find the Right Trip Assessment”

Finding the Right Partner Organization

You need need an affordable trip that matches your values and prioritizes protecting the local community. It’s not enough to pick mission trips for teens based on the price tag or the destination; you’ve got to assess potential ministry partners based on what they value and how well they avoid causing harm to the local community.

“It’s not enough to pick mission trips for teens based on the price tag or the destination; you’ve got to assess potential ministry partners based on what they value and how well they avoid causing harm to the local community.”
Do Your Values Match?

The best mission trips for teens are the ones that help you reach your goals for your youth group. So selecting the right partner organization is very important. As you look at potential organizations, make sure you know the purpose for the trip and how it fits in your church’s strategy for youth ministry. Maybe your focus is evangelism. Perhaps you’re looking to expand your students’ cultural awareness. Or maybe you’re intent on developing student leaders in your ministry.

Whatever your focus, make sure your goals line up with the expressed goals of your partner organization. In your search, look at an organization’s shared values or the outcomes that they promise from their trip experiences. Talk with other youth workers who have used each organization and ask if, in their experience, the partner organization delivered on their promises.

Will They Prioritize Protecting the Local Community?

Most of us would agree that mission trips for teens have the potential to transform our youth ministries, but we must be careful that these trips aren’t destructive to the communities we serve in. We don’t want our trips to invade existing systems and structures, take away local jobs, or rob people of their dignity. And we surely don’t want our students to undo the work of a long-term missionary or the local church.

The best way to avoid causing harm to the community or church is by choosing the right partner organization. As you look at organizations, look for groups that partner with full-time missionaries. Working with a missionary partner who is long-term in the community is a must! This type of missionary partner knows the local people and can best identify who needs the most help from your group and how to best help them. Get specifics from each organization about who they work alongside to ensure that your trip will help rather than hurt the local community.

Download our “Find the Right Trip Assessment”

Our Top 5 Organizations that Facilitate Mission Trips for Teens

Here are our recommendations for the Top 5 Organizations that facilitate mission trips for teens.

Best Urban Ministry Experience: City Service Mission

City Service Mission “provide[s] an effective urban ministry experience that transforms lives, influences churches and communities, and honors Christ.” According to their website, they lead mission trips for teens in 9 cities across the United States and are committed to helping integrate your students into a “variety of hands-on ministry opportunities” that “[supply] substantive help to God’s people in the city.” They offer Urban Ministry trips for Junior High Students, Senior High Students, Mixed Groups, College Students, Adults, and families. You’ll find their Core Values listed here along with their Statement of Faith.

Why We’re Fans: CSM is committed to introducing students to how God is at work in the city, and they choose to partner with “the indigenous organizations that operate on the front lines of urban ministry.”

Best Relational Outreach Experience: Camp Barnabas

Camp Barnabas is a one-of-a-kind camp experience for individuals with special needs or chronic illnesses. According to their website, their camp “provides ministry and social experiences that increase spiritual knowledge, social learning and human dignity.” Groups are invited to serve and participate in daily relational ministry during the various weeks of camp at Camp Barnabas. You can learn about their Mission and Values here, and don’t forget to see what youth workers have to say about taking their students to Camp Barnabas.

Why We’re Fans: Camp Barnabas give students the opportunity to step on their campus and immediately “be the hands and feet of Jesus.” Students who serve at Camp Barnabas learn to choose purpose over preference as they serve a group of people that many would describe as “the least of these.”

Best for Leadership Development: LeaderTreks Youth Ministry

LeaderTreks Trips are missions trips for teens designed to grow students as disciples and leaders. On a LeaderTreks trip we desire to see students move from fear to faith. We challenge students to study and apply God’s Word, and we invite them to embrace the risk of leadership. LeaderTreks Trips take the typical mission trip activities activity and turn them into leadership laboratories. Through our service projects, relational ministry activities, and age-appropriate responsibilities we provide real leadership experiences for students. Read our Statement of Faith, discover what makes LeaderTreks trips unique, and explore our various trip sites.

Why We’re Fans: We believe that the church is one generation away from a leadership void, and we’re committed to raising up the next generation of Christian leaders through our trips, training, and curriculum. We’ve been running trips for 25 years, and we have no greater joy than to watch the students on our trips step outside of their comfort zones and learn to lead in God’s Kingdom.

Best Large Group Experience: Group LifeTree Adventures

LifeTree Adventures prioritizes “meaningful service projects at carefully selected and prepared sites,” on their mission trips for teens and, in doing so, they’re able to accommodate groups of up to 450 students at their domestic sites. Trips with LifeTree Adventures also include mystery excursions, such as scavenger hunts, as well as unique cultural experiences to help your team take it the “locale and its individualized, deep heritage.” Click here to learn their History and see their LifeTree Adventures Guarantee.

Why We’re Fans: For several decades, LifeTree has been serving the church and dozens of communities both domestic and international. They offer a variety of experiences and are uniquely positioned to serve larger student groups.

Best for Individual Teens: Team

Team offers over 200 short-term missions opportunities for individuals. Short-term opportunities range from 2 weeks to 8 months and span 30 countries over 6 continents. According to their website, Team provides “a professional and personalized experience for each short-termer through one-on-one coaching, individualized placement, [and] in-depth training and debriefing.” Click here to learn more about TEAM’s Purpose and Vision as well as their Core Values.

Why We’re Fans: Team has a driving passion to equip missionaries to enter the mission field. They’re committed to partnering with existing churches to promote church growth worldwide, and they do the hard work of setting individuals up for successful ministry.

The post Mission Trips for Teens (Top 5 Organizations) appeared first on LeaderTreks Youth Ministry.

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We all want to have successful, safe and fun mission trips this summer. We’re eager to build more meaningful relationships, see our students learn about themselves, and even witness some students make a life-long commitment to serving others.

So how do we take this good week of service and turn into a special week that will help students grow deeper in their faith?

Here are 10 Pro Tips to do just that:

10 Pro Tips for Leading a Student Mission Trip  1. Have a Purpose for the Trip

What do you want your students to look like when they return? How do you want them to be different? Once you have answered this question, develop a theme for the trip that articulates your overall goal. Then you’ll be able to create intentional experiences with your end goal in mind. Be sure to share your plan your adult volunteers, cast vision to parents, and inspire students with the purpose of the trip.

2. Stay Connected to God

You can’t impart what you do not have. If your spiritual tank is empty, you can’t expect students to fill theirs. We must work first and foremost to have intimacy with Christ before, during, and after the trip. Acts 20:28 says, “So guard yourself and God’s people.” Giving to others starts with having something to give; it starts with you having a deep, personal relationship with God.

3. Train Your Volunteers

I’ve led over 200 student mission trips, and the #1 problem I’ve seen is adult volunteers. Most volunteers don’t know what role they’re supposed to play while on the trip. We can change this by offering pre-trip training, setting clear expectations, and having a clear purpose for every adult volunteer on trip.

Just a quick note: I’ve found over the years that the one group we forget in planning our mission trip is the adult volunteers. The truth is we seldom have any problems on mission trips with students, but we often butt heads with adult volunteers. While there are different reasons why, I’ve found most fall into two categories: 1) Adults want logistical roles and not relationships with students (sometimes they just don’t know how to build relationships with students), and 2) Adults want to rescue students and not challenge them. It is very difficult to train adults on the actual trip; so I focused the pre-trip training on helping volunteers have more impact with students through the experience.

“I’ve led over 200 student mission trips, and the #1 problem I’ve seen is adult volunteers.”
4. Remember Your Volunteers’ Spouses

A great way to show care for your adult volunteers is to not forget the spouse at home. Send a note with a small gift card and thank them for their sacrifice. When we care about what our staff cares about we grow their commitment and we grow our leadership.

5. Inspire Spiritual Growth

A mission trip is a great place for a student to encounter God in a new way. Students will likely feel a need for God while on the trip, and this is a great opportunity for you to inspire spiritual growth by introducing them to spiritual disciplines. Set aside time on the trip for devotions and prayer. Provide a tool like a Bible Study Guide or Prayer Journal that students can use. You might even encourage students to continue spending time with God at home by giving them a Post-Trip Journal.

6. Find Teachable Moments

Teachable moments happen when you mix a student’s experience with the truth of God’s Word. On mission trips, students will encounter many different experiences, and they will be challenged to think in new ways. Look for the moments to help them make applications for changing their lives back home. We have the opportunity to help them connect the dots between real life and God’s Word.

7. Challenge Students

The best way to challenge students is to start from the top. Usually we want to challenge the students who don’t “get it,” but challenging your high-performing students is much more productive because it gives those who are struggling a model to follow. Challenge can be as simple as asking students: Is there a better way? How can we improve tomorrow? These questions will require students to think about their performance and how they can grow.

8. Get Sleep

Trips become increasingly ineffective as team members become tired. I am amazed by how many teams come on trips with the idea they are going to stay up all night. Years of experience have proven this to be true: Students can’t be challenged or learn if they haven’t had enough sleep.

“Trips become increasingly ineffective as team members become tired.”
9. Boundaries = Love

Don’t give students what they want; give them what they need. If you raise the level of expectation, your students will rise to meet it. If you set low expectations for your students, they will meet that as well. Start now before the trip and ask more of students than you think possible. Challenge their potential and see what happens.

10. Going Is Not Enough

We must be intentional with a student’s mission experience in order to see transformational change happen. Often we think that it’s great the kids are doing a service project. This is shortsighted. We don’t just want them to go, we want them to grow. By being intentional with the mission trip we could see students return with a desire for a daily quiet time, or we could see them want to spend their whole lives in service to the needy. God can do so much through our students; let’s not sell Him short. Plan a time for students to process what they’re learning. Make space for them to debrief their mission experiences each day. And don’t forget to debrief the trip as a whole.

The post 10 Pro Tips for Leading a Student Mission Trip appeared first on LeaderTreks Youth Ministry.

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The mission trip parent meeting can be one of the most dangerous meetings for a youth worker to lead. How you approach this meeting can make or break the trip. If it goes well, parents will buy in. If not, you’ve got a problem on your hands.

Think about it this way. You’re taking their students on a mission trip (1) to get them outside their comfort zone, (2) to help them learn about service, and (3) to allow them to see what God is doing in the world.

Translation for parents: you’re taking their students on a dangerous trip.

Your idea of a growing experience may be their idea of a death march!

“The mission trip parent meeting can be one of the most dangerous meetings for a youth worker to lead.”

Most parents believe mission trips are a great way for their kids to experience new challenges and see what God is doing in other parts of the world (in theory). But when it comes to where their student is sleeping, showering and ministering…things can change.

I have had the chance to lead many of these meetings. Let me share with you what I have learned both from my mistakes and from my wins. Here are a few pro tips for leading a great meeting:

1. Start with safety

We often times like to start these meeting with all the potential great results that can happen on a mission trip but when we do we only reinforce parents fear that we don’t see the danger that is all around us. Instead, start by acknowledging that there are safety concerns and you have made it you’re number one priority to keep students safe. Then list all the safety measures you have put into place. Don’t forget driving, locking of team quarters at night, keeping track of the team at all times and a plan for regular communication back home. Explain the sleeping arrangements, the shower schedule and the dining situation. These items show parents that you are focused on their students. When you start here, you’ll put parents at ease and give them confidence that you understand how they feel.

2. How ministry will be done

Take some time and share about the ministry aspect of the trip. You’ll want to communicate why it’s important, how it helps people in need, and the specific safety precautions that will be taken at the site.

For work projects, let parents know who is going to be on the work site and how you know its safe for them to be around their students. Share what tools will be used and how students are going to be allowed to use them. If power tools are part of your project, make sure to explain to parents how training will be conducted before the trip starts. Discuss ladder safety and what precautions will be used if students need to leave the ground. Falling of ladders and roofs are always a point of concern.

For ministry sites, it’s important to let parents know that students will never be alone and that students will work in teams with one adult always having their eyes on students. It’s also important to let parents know who will be on site and how you know its safe for them to be around their students.

3. Share expected impact

Let parents know what you expect the impact to be of their students’ service. Make sure to focus on what their students will learn. This is the key for parents. They tend to care more about what their students will take away from the experience than who the experience helps. This is not to say that they don’t care about the mission or the people your team will help, but their primary concern is likely their own student’s growth and development.

As youth workers, we’re planning the mission trip because we know how students will grow and the impact they can have on a town or in a neighborhood. We also know how a trip can help a student grow close with the Lord and in some cases it change the trajectory of a students life.

As you host your parent meeting, be careful. While all this is true, it’s not the way a parent looks at a trip. Start with safety, communicate how ministry we’ll be done, and share the expected impact on the lives of their students. If you do, you’ll avoid the potential pitfalls of a parent meeting and leave parents feeling supremely confident and entirely bought in to the trip.

The post How to Lead a Mission Trip Parents Meeting appeared first on LeaderTreks Youth Ministry.

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Graduation season is upon us and if your inbox is like mine, it is filled with the newest graduation gift, four-week curriculum, or party planning pack.

In my years of youth ministry, I feel like I’ve been a good, “plan-ahead” type of youth pastor, but graduation always seems to catch me by surprise. May rolls around, and I scramble to find the right gift, say the right things, and end the last night of youth group well.

I’ve tried many options, too: the senior-led youth group night, the senior celebration party, a graduation lunch with parents, and even the “Big Church” celebration. But the most impactful and long-lasting “graduation thing” I ever did wasn’t one of these. It was a single conversation, and it happened long before my students even started their senior year.

“But the most impactful and long-lasting ‘graduation thing’ I ever did was a single conversation.”

As part of our summer conference, I arranged a group discussion with all of my soon-to-be seniors. I shared 2 Peter 1:15 with them: “So I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone.” I explained that Peter’s purpose was for the Gospel, and he wanted the churches to spread the Gospel long after his imminent death. And I told my seniors that I wanted them to make a commitment for the next year to leave a lasting impact on the youth group.

This conversation set the tone for our entire year. In the next school year, I had multiple seniors weekly pouring into underclassmen. I had others who would show up early on Sundays to help me plan and pray over the night. Several seniors served as junior high small group leaders on Wednesday nights, and almost every senior invited their friends (and even underclassmen!) to join us for youth group.

By the end of the school year, the graduation celebration still “came out of nowhere” for me. I can’t remember what gift I gave them, but I do remember gathering my fifteen seniors into my office, re-reading 2 Peter 1:15, and saying with tears in my eyes, ” Well done. Good job. I’m proud of you.”

“The best gift we can give our graduating seniors is the gift to be on mission.”

I’m not trying to minimize celebrating seniors. It’s important that we give gifts and send them off well, but I think the best gift we can give our graduating seniors is the gift to be on mission. As they start their senior year, we should challenge and inspire them to make an impact for Jesus that long outlasts their time in our ministries.

So, as you prepare for a new senior class, circle a date or two on your summer calendar to cast a compelling vision that helps them see how they can have an impact that outlast them. Invite them to lead so that the underclassmen will be able to “remember the things [they] taught them, even when [they] are gone.”

Kyle Isabelli has been in youth ministry for over ten years as a volunteer and youth pastor. He has been the Student Pastor at the Christian Church of Clarendon Hills in the heart of the Western Suburbs of Chicago for the past two years. Kyle has been married to his high school sweetheart, Maria, since 2011 and they have two amazing kids, Nora who is four and Max, who is two and a half. Kyle’s main ministry passion is to introduce students to Jesus so that every student feels known, cared for, and loved. He also enjoys networking and connecting other youth pastors and youth leaders in unified prayer and mission. In his free time, Kyle actively roots for “his” Chicago Bulls and New York Yankees! 

The post The Best Graduation Gift: Mission appeared first on LeaderTreks Youth Ministry.

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