Today's guest Back to School post is from Alan Mercer, Executive Pastor of the Leawood campus of Christ Community Church in Kansas City, KS. Alan was part of the 2011 Sticky Faith Cohort.
During our time in the Sticky Faith Cohort, we heard a number of times how successful service projects were at getting multiple generations together in a way that could help foster sticky faith. Our church has often done service projects where families are invited to participate. We have even done a few mission trips where parents of students were invited to participate. These have always been good, but they have not been intentional intergenerational opportunities.
This June that changed.
Last winter we decided to cancel our plans for student-ministry-specific mission trips this summer and instead organize a church-wide experience. The decision was not to do a “family” trip, but rather to intentionally open the trip up to everyone in the congregation and see if we could pull together a group of people who were of all ages and types. When it was all said and done 81 members of our congregation, ages 11-67 attended. We had entire families, singles, students with no parents, college students, parents with no kids, and grandparents on the team. It was beautiful.
The experience was new for me. I’ve never led a trip with adults before and, frankly, it was a bit intimidating. With students, when you arrive on site and the bathrooms are not super, you roll with it. With adults, you wonder if the older ladies are going to be okay with less then optimum conditions (sorry ladies, it’s what I was thinking). With students, when you are diverted from a “fun” project where you are excited to help to a manual labor job that does not fully utilize your abilities, you roll with it. With adults, I felt a great pressure to steward their time and abilities. But more than all these, I felt a great responsibility and opportunity to pull people from all generations together in a way that would have a lasting impact on the lives of those involved. I think we accomplished this and it was great to see everyone learning from each other.
One of my greatest regrets was that more students did not participate. In our attempt to attract the entire church, I believe we failed in our promotion to students. While we had a handful of students participate without their families, we had hoped for many more. We had our student ministry volunteer staff on board to lead these students, but for many, they felt they were not welcome if their parents did not attend. For others, they did not care to attend with their parents. In both cases, we lost students we could have brought along. Lesson learned and adjustments will be made.
Will we do it again? Yes! Will we do it different? Yes! We learned a few things along the way, but all in all, I would highly encourage you, as you plan next summer’s mission trips, to consider pulling more than just your students into your group.