So this past Sunday was "Youth Mission Sunday" at our church. We do it every year: the middle and high school youth who participated in summer mission trips share their experiences with the congregation. It is uplifting and encouraging - all these young people doing the Lord's work. :)
In recent years, these short-term mission trips have come under thoughtful critique (see Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts) (or if that didn't get your attention), and we have both appreciated and been responsive to the potential downsides while continuing to see benefit from getting our kids outside their comfort zones and community. While on our high school trip, our youth director had a meaningful heart-to-heart with the director of the mission organization about some of these critiques and we were pleased at his receptivity as an organizer.
This past Sunday I had prepared a sermon on Romans 12:1-2 ("offer yourself as living sacrifices... do not be conformed to the world, but transformed..."). Our congregation is waking up to the fact that church is not something we come to but something we are. We are working to see faith not as something (only) expressed within the church walls on Sunday morning, but lived out in all of life throughout the week. But here was the fresh revelation to me as that topic and text were set in the midst of youth mission Sunday: Neither is the "mission trip" a destination faith event.
As with Sunday morning church, there also are carefully attentive leaders, safe boundaries and borders, planned activities, all stuff that adds up to something more resembling a "training camp" than the actual event.
I was and am careful to note that more than training happens during community worship, but still:
What if our Sunday morning gathering, our summer missions, our camps and retreats could be seen not as destination events, but a training/equipping ground for lived ministry and mission: being the church in the world?You can read or hear more about that here: "Life as Worship".