I'm going to acknowledge from the get-go that this post is simply a reflection of some of my current thinking. I've got tons of questions and very few conclusions. My question is this: Is it time for a new paradigm for youth group missions projects?
Others have raised this question and it has been addressed in numerous articles, forums and youth ministry circles, and my response has been what it typically is when people begin to question long standing institutions: 'Show me something more effective, and I'll consider changing'.
But for some reason, I am beginning to feel a strong desire to change how we do missions sooner rather than later, to begin to move toward change even though I'm not sure what the 'something more effective' is.
I believe in short-term missions. I know first-hand the impact they have on the lives of our students (I felt called to youth ministry while on a short-term missions trip). I recognize that the efforts of students on these trips does impact those we serve. But is there more to it than that? Could there be more to it than that? SHOULD there be more to it than that? Certainly Rick Warren's PEACE plan is one effort at a new paradigm, but I'm struggling with how to flesh it out in a youth ministry setting.
Like I said, I haven't reached any conclusions. My only conclusion is that there must be a more effective strategy than a youth group showing up in a bunch of rental vans once a year to run VBS and paint houses. I know this isn't the only paradigm, but it seems like it's the prominent youth ministry strategy. In fact, I'm not sure if 'strategy' is even the right word. 'Tradition' is probably a more correct word. I think it's time to question the traditional approach and come up with a new, more effective, strategy.