Discerning Youth Participants for a Mission Team

Yesterday’s Mission Monday blog post was postponed until today to allow for a day of rest after last weekend’s Episcopal Youth Event 2014 (EYE14) Mission Planning Team meeting. We are excited about the planning going into EYE14 and look forward to sharing more details in the coming weeks. In the meantime, happy Mission Tuesday. 

Mission Mondays

When a faith community or a diocese discerns that they are called to engage in a mission experience or pilgrimage, people often jump at the chance to go on a “trip.”  It sounds exciting and fun to think about going on a mission trip, and it also makes people feel good to think about going somewhere to help others.

There’s no doubt that mission experiences are exciting! They represent a hands-on opportunity to serve God and to feel useful. However, it’s important to remember these are experiences within another culture whether in your own community or a faraway place. They require a tremendous amount of preparation and personal sacrifice from all participants.

Recognizing this, you will want to carefully choose who participates in your mission experience or pilgrimage. An application process conveys the message that this opportunity is for individuals serious about their spiritual journey. Establishing basic criteria can help youth who are not yet prepared for a mission experience select themselves out of the process. Criteria could include:

  • Age and maturity. Often, mission experiences to faraway places are for high school youth while more local experiences may serve middle school youth or youth in both phases of human development; younger adolescents and older adolescents.
  • Faith community membership. Not only should you consider who to include from your faith community, but also decide if your mission experience will be open to youth outside your congregation or diocese.
  • Youth group participation. Decide whether regular participation in a youth group, Confirmation class, or J2A program is necessary to be included.
  • Ongoing commitment to regular Sabbath and spiritual practices and to holding their ministry and the ministry of the Mission Team up in prayer.
  • Commitment. Participation in programming established to prepare for mission experience or pilgrimage, including Team meetings, Bible studies, retreats, and fundraising.

There is debate in the youth ministry community about whether or not to include youth with identified eating disorders, extreme psychological issues, or behavioral problems. Know your youth! You need to make the decision about what best serves the young person, your faith community, and your Mission Team.

It is entirely reasonable to decide that a particular young person is not yet ready for the intensity of a mission experience or pilgrimage. If this difficult decision is made, be careful in conveying the message. Make sure you are in communication with your church leadership and the parents/guardians and meet with the young person, their parents, and your Rector/Vicar to talk through your decision. More conversation is better than less in this circumstance. Know that, even though this seems difficult, your honest reflection is best for the Mission Team as well as the young person involved.

Most importantly, be prayerful when putting together your Mission Team. Listen and watch for the movement of the Spirit and you will discern the Team meant to be together for this experience.

This post is an excerpt from the forthcoming Episcopal Youth in Mission Manual, now available in draft form. The final Manual will be released sometime before EYE14.

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