Ask Rooted: How Are You Re-Thinking Summer Mission Trips in Light of COVID-19?

As circumstances surrounding the pandemic continue to change from week to week, we asked Rooted writers to share their developing plans for summer service experiences with students. We hope these responses will be helpful to you as you recalibrate your plans.

Join us for a Zoom webinar entitled “Re-Envisioning Summer Mission Trips in Light of COVID-19” next Thursday, May 21 at 12:00 CST. Hear from Rooted Steering Committee emeriti, Rebecca Heck and Clark Fobes, along with other members of the Rooted community, and brainstorm together as we seek God’s wisdom for the summer ahead. Register today!

Chris Li, Director of Student Ministry at Living Hope Community Church in Brea, CA

We have cancelled our youth summer trip to Honduras. We have worked with Compassion International going on three years. Typically we go in the summer with our high schoolers and run a VBS program at the church plant we helped build. All the sponsored children at the church in Honduras are sponsored by people from our church, so we have a special connection with them and an ongoing relationship. Our elders have decided to cancel our trip because their country was on lockdown and the church has been temporarily closed. We are still considering how to connect with the church in Honduras and the families that send their children there, whether it be a care package from our youth group, an evening we devote to praying together for their community, or perhaps opening up a trip later this year.

Rebecca Lankford, Youth Minister at Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, AL

The organization we have partnered with for years for our summer mission trip has wisely decided to cancel all their summer camps. While we are so sad to not go on this beloved trip, we know that an out of town trip with students from all over the country would have placed our students in a vulnerable position to the coronavirus. Now, we are thinking and praying about how we can still engage our students in a service opportunity locally, especially considering how we can serve those who have been affected by the virus in our city. One idea we have considered is to host a drive-through food drive, with students collecting and (safely!) distributing canned goods to those in food-insecure communities. While we wish we could go on our summer mission trip, perhaps the Lord is giving us an opportunity to think about those who are suffering right in our back yard.

Mike McGarry, Youth Pastor at South Shore Baptist Church in Hingham, MA

I was excited about our summer missions trip through LeaderTreks as we start to establish a student leadership team within our youth ministry. And yet, in the midst of this quarantine, I made the difficult decision (after multiple discussions with church leadership) to cancel our trip with LeaderTreks. Our desire is to lighten the load of expectation on students, parents, and youth leaders during this season while prioritizing local ministry once quarantine is over. We do not yet know what this will look like, but it will probably bring about multiple local service projects in our community.

Skyler Flowers, Student Ministry Director at Orlando Grace Church in Orlando, FL

The way we are approaching this current summer is with an emphasis on relationships. Missing two months (as of right now) has been a real challenge for us in maintaining the relational momentum we had been building over the semester. Instead of trips and a plethora of activities, we will try to use this summer to get back into the rhythm of being around one another again in loving fellowship to the extent that the government recommends. We will try and meet weekly for games and Bible study – maybe with specific grade groups for size purposes. Our hope is to move from pandemic distance into relational closeness over the summer, before moving back into normal rhythms in the fall. We will try and do things in and around Orlando, but in everything we do, we will be taking a special eye towards reestablishing the community that we have all been missing.

Kevin Yi,  College and Young Adults Pastor at Church Everyday in Northridge, CA

Because nearly all of our summer plans are a moving target, we’re thinking about a few different options based on what is a possibility for the summer. As a best case scenario, we would like to be able to do a late summer trip with a nearby community we love and have been serving for a number of years already. Because of our familiarity and relationship with the community, it would be possible for us to put together something fairly quickly, and it would be a two or three day trip. If an overnight option is not possible, we have two local organizations that could use volunteers packing food boxes, and we would coordinate a local family food drop, where families of our students would volunteer to drop off the food boxes locally for families in need. This would allow for teenagers to have their own serving opportunity, while pulling in families for the actual drop off which will hopefully lead to some good gospel conversations. If neither of these options are possible, we will offer students opportunities to serve from home, sending letters to missionaries overseas and engaging in evangelism with their friends. Our training surrounding these spiritual conversations will help to prepare students for future trips.

Chelsea Kingston Erickson, Pastor of Youth and Families at First Congregational Church in South Hamilton, MA

We made the difficult decision to cancel both of our summer mission trips to Portland, Maine and Nassau, Bahamas in effort to protect our students as well as the vulnerable communities we serve alongside in each location. These are long-term partnerships for us, and there is a great sense of sadness in having to be distant from one another. We have asked both of our teams to hold a week in August when we hope we might be able to facilitate a local “trip” that involves staying overnight at our church. We invited students to join in a Zoom call, recruiting them to help us dream about what that week could look like. Students expressed their thanks that we were still willing to find a way to serve together, public health restrictions permitting. They brought incredible ideas to the table for meaningful work we might do together, as well as for the culture of warm friendship they’d like to create that week. We will continue meeting with this team on Zoom for monthly training and planning meetings, praying that God will open the way for us to serve together.

Advancing Grace-Driven Youth Ministry

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