Teens reaching out to the world
For the last ten years, youth leaders in a Swedish church have been training teens to serve local people and churches around the world. This is the second part of the story about how TeenStreet became an inspiration to develop a fruitful youth programme equipping young people in missional discipleship for Christian leadership and missions.
What do you do with a group of teens when they come back from TeenStreet (TS) – filled with God, excited, and eager to serve the Lord? Ackie Lowry (Sweden) shares her story of how she and other leaders in her church (Ryttargårdskyrkan) started to send teens on short term mission (STM) trips to different countries as a means to further develop a servant attitude for their local community and the world.
“[Coming back from TS] we realized that we needed to serve the people practically in the city where we live,” Ackie says. They explored opportunities to engage in outreach, and in 2009 OM presented the possibility of taking a team of young people to Moldova. Another church joined them, and the team went there during their Easter holidays. This week allowed the teens to experience what missionary work could be like, and as a result some of them went out on missions later on. On returning, one of the teens said: ”I was brought up in a church with a missionary focus, and still I have never pictured myself as a missionary, but after this week I think mission work is great.“ Later on he went out to serve with OM.
“That got me thinking”, Ackie says. “Maybe this is something we should continue? Let’s say that when the teens are 16 years old and are a little more mature, and they have experienced more of God, we offer them to go on an STM to a different country over the Easter week as a continuation of TS.”
Consequently, the following year they prepared and brought a team of 16 youth to Istanbul, Turkey. Before going out, they realized the need for training. “The teens needed to be ready to share their testimony if someone asked. If someone would come up saying ‘I want to receive Christ’, what would they do?” Therefore, they put together some important ingredients and met the teens a few times to practice and go through some teaching. “They needed a little knowledge of the culture and some language – a few phrases like ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’. We knew that in order to go out and serve, these were tools that we needed.”
Because of the good fruit, they have continued to send teams to other countries in the Easter holidays. Over the past ten years 24 teams have served people in 14 different countries. This year four teams were sent to different countries in north Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Representatives from these countries report that God truly used the teens to bless the people and churches in these places and that they are so welcome to come back.
Their guideline and aim for these STM trips is “to go out and humbly serve other people and through all glorify God. That’s the core that brings it all together,” Ackie shares. “So whatever we do, whether it’s picking garbage, praying with people or painting a wall, the core value is continually in the back of our mind.” She points out that the trips are “an important tool for young people to experience God and to experience the meaning of serving someone else”.
The Easter trips are a way of challenging the older teens after experiencing God at TS. “They have experiences from TS: They are more confident in speaking English, and they understand some of the challenges of how to adjust to another culture. That’s excellent!“ Ackie says.
So how do you know whether or not you are doing the right thing? ”Are there more young people with a missional perspective and being transformed now than before? Are there more young people serving and blessing others than before? That’s a quality guarantee,” Ackie sums it up.