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Intergenerational mission trips are better

Tim Schmoyer is a top-rated youth ministry blogger. He just wrote this blog post after a trip with AIM to Haiti. When I felt like I needed to return to Haiti, I announced I was willing to take whoever wanted to come with me. I worked with Adventures In Missions and together we put together a c…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Tim Schmoyer is a top-rated youth ministry blogger. He just wrote this blog post after a trip with AIM to Haiti.

When I felt like I needed to return to Haiti, I announced I was willing to take whoever wanted to come with me. I worked with Adventures In Missions and together we put together a custom trip and soon teens, parents, single adults, my brother, and a bunch of “random people” all jumped on board. That intergenerational mix turned out to be so healthy – I never would’ve imagined it to be so incredible. In fact, our summer Mexico trip and then this past Haiti trip we did just last month were also family-based, intergenerational trips. I’m convinced that is absolutely the best way to do short-term missions. Every student and parent who participated will tell you the exact same thing, even the ones who were skeptical.

While I have nothing against youth missions trips, we may never do one again.

Why?

Here are just a couple reasons why the intergenerational trips seem to be so much more effective both on the mission field and at home.

  • There’s built-in accountability for both the kids and the parents when they return home.
  • The spiritual high doesn’t wear off nearly as quickly when both the parent and the student are living with someone who knows what the other just went through..
  • They return to a home to live with someone who “gets it.” There’s no conversations like, “How was your trip?” “Good.” “What did you do?” “Nothing.”
  • The perception of missions in the church moves away from “something cute the youth do” and becomes something the church takes ownership over.
  • The shared experience is something the teens and parents will have in common for the rest of their lives. It’s fun to watch that special bond form. The “remember when” stories will never end.
  • When both the student and parent are uncomfortable and stretched physically, spiritually, and emotionally, they tend to cling to each other while depending on God. That dynamic is absolutely invaluable.
  • Every teen needs to see their parent stretched and vulnerable. Missions (when done well) has a tendency to do that. When the kid sees that vulnerability in their parent, a connection takes place that is amazing to watch.
  • It’s a significant opportunity to integrate teens into the life of the church body as a whole. It helps break down the youth ministry silo.
  • Parents develop a deep respect for their kids when they watch them serving so selflessly.
  • And so much more, like relationships between parents and single young adults, young adults on the teens, and more. I even gained some committed youth leaders who normally would never have attended a trip except that it was a church trip and not a youth trip.

Comments (5)

  • Thanks Seth. You are a grand friend and I am pretty sure Jesus would corral all the errant bloggers speaking on behalf of Him. I always love your voice and heart.

  • Timely post. My daughter went to a “rah rah” youth event where the sponsoring organization also organizes youth missions trips. She was disillusioned that the guy never called back when he said he would after being unable to connect with her after several previous phone calls. After investigating the organization more, I decided I wouldn’t let her serve with them anyway. We are also in a family church transition time. While I was in lay leadership and ok with the balance of frustration and glimpses of hope in vision casting within a church that isn’t always ready, it was our frustration with the youth program that has prompted me to take our girls to worship elsewhere. It is, in my opinion, very insulated, narrow and internally focused, although I suspect the leadership would disagree, but my girls were not connected there at all. My daughter then expressed an interest in going on a trip, and my response was that maybe we should just create our own and I could act as a point person. And this model makes the most sense. My family situation precludes me from leading a trip like this at the moment, but I believe there is much value in an inter generational trip like this.

  • As a member of an inter-generational church, I can attest to the importance of processing faith experiences with multiple generations. What an amazing thing it would be.

  • Inter-generational “anything” is healthier, more stimulating, and better!
    And, that includes, from my perspective: living arrangements!
    I wouldn’t trade these last seven years living with young people three and four decades younger than me for all the tea in China!
    Whee-hoo!
    ;o]

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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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