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Confessions of a youth minister seeking good STMs

Youth minister Lizzy Robblee sent me the following email in response to the blog on the faddishness of short-term missions: I have been in youth ministry for 16 years. I have served four churches now and have taken my students on a variety of mission trips. But I have noti…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Youth minister Lizzy Robblee sent me the following email in response to the
blog
on the faddishness of short-term missions:

I have been in youth ministry for 16 years. I have served four churches now and have taken my
students on a variety of mission trips. But I have noticed this problem – this
sickness really – related to short term missions (STMs). I love missions. I love what it does for my students and what
my students are able to do along side others.

But I have also seen firsthand the destruction of so
many hands not well-prepared. I have gone behind and cleaned up the mess of
teams before me. I have been “the last team we will ever accept,” and left
hoping that maybe we changed their minds or at least fixed some of the damage.

I spent months preparing my students for mission
trips. We study about the area, the culture, and the people. What is going to
be different, and what they can expect that will be the same. What our
standards of behaviors will be. If where we are going has a set of rules – what
those are- and the fact that we will follow them.

This last summer I took my students to the Navajo
Nation where we spent 8 days living with the people. After the 8 days the
pastor of the church invited us back. I thanked her and explained that I try
hard not to do the same thing each year, but to give different experiences to
my students. She went on to explain that they have returning groups every year,
not because they are invited back, but because that is just what they do. She
said, “in fact that you are the first group I have ever asked back and wanted
back because your students respect the culture of the reservation.”

I was shocked and then heartbroken. How hard is it for
8 days to lay aside your wants and desires to serve someone else? My students
knew what was expected because they were taught. They also knew the culture
because I took the time to teach it and brought people in ahead of time to
teach it.

I loved what you said in all 4 of your blogs. REAL change needs to happen on STMs. There
are really good STMs out there, but I am sad to say that this story is one of
many I could share of the last 10 years of ministry and STMs.

I have taken my group as “the last group” a place will
ever accept in the hopes we can at least heal a wound. In August God started stirring in my heart
that change needed to happen – I have been in so much prayer about this.

*Kudos to Tim Weisemann who took these pics – the one at bottom is the best STM pic I’ve seen – note the reflection in the mirror.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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