A few weeks ago, a parishioner asked me why we take youth trips and what the goals of these trips and camps are. “Does the cost and effort justify the expense?” the parishioner wondered. In considering this question, I thought others might have similar ones, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.
I’ve read many youth ministry experts’ opinions about how to engage and keep young people in church, how to keep them involved as they become young adults. The answer most often given by the youth themselves when they are older, is that they had a great mission trip experience, or a pilgrimage that meant so much to them, or that they loved having the time to get to know their peers and their adult leaders during these experiences. The respondents expressed gratitude and a sense of growing commitment: the opportunities the church presented them began to create a strong bond to that church. I agree with these findings. I see our young people grow so much and in so many ways as they serve others with abandon at HUGS Camp, or on a mission trip to Costa Rica, or at Episcopal Outreach Camp painting the walls of a local woman who is homebound. I also watch them form lasting bonds of friendship and make memories with the other teens in the youth group as they worship together on the beach at sunrise, or watching and discussing a movie during a trip. During the Detroit mission trip, we watched a documentary about the 1967 riots portrayed how one city continues to grapple with systemic injustice and how to be a part of the solution.
I believe that our small investment in the spiritual education of our young people will return huge dividends to our congregation, to the Episcopal Church, and to the world. We are all helping to provide our young people with tools to become successful adults who keep God at the center of their lives. The youth will share their observations from this summer’s trips and camps. Please join us next Sunday, September 23, 9:30–10:30 a.m. in the parish hall for our Summer of Mission presentation.
Lyn Holt, Director of Youth Formation