With great excitement I’m embarking on a great new ministry for kids at Cross Timbers. This July I’ll be taking a team of 40 to Mexico on a missions trip. Although mission trips to Mexico are about a common as Baptist Churches in the South, the unique element of SURGE is that we’re taking 4th and 5th graders.
Honestly, my idea to take 10 and 11 year olds out of the country isn’t because I’m a risk-taking junkie (although some adults may think from the way I run lock-ins). Actually the idea to begin SURGE was birthed in me almost 5 years ago. Having done extensive short-term missions work, there is no doubt I have a heart for the lost, especially the unreached. My passion for missions has undoubtedly influenced my ministry to kids (all the kids are very familiar with T.H.U.M.B. and the 10/40 window). I know that God calls some to full-missions even as young as children… but the opportunities are very rare. Last of all, I know that a mission trip experience can be like Miracle Grow for a young person’s faith as well as an excellent opportunity to plant a vision for world missions. So I concocted a plan for outreach and missions for 3rd-5th graders. First of all, SURGE would be directly connected to our Small Group ministry. This will be for kids who are connected and being discipled. Kids who have completed the third grade would be eligible to attend a 2-3 day mission trip to the DFW area (that’s our location). They’d spend the night on a gym floor and do service projects and some relational ministry to underprivileged kids or the elderly. It would be ministry to people who aren’t that different from us. Then, 4th graders would be eligible to attend a 3-4 day trip to a Native American reservation. We would still be in the United States, but ministering to a different culture. Last of all, 5th graders would be eligible to attend a 3-4 day trip to Mexico. This would be ministering to people from a different culture and a different country. On each of these trips, the leaders are supporting the kids to develop their ministry muscles. Too often kids attend mission trips where they are along to help where they are needed (glorified gophers). This isn’t bad and is still a great experience. However, SURGE turns the table on that model and exists to empower kids for ministry and outreach.
This year, SURGE is a big experiment. Ideally I would have started with the local trip first and added locations each year, but the opportunity for Mexico presented itself first. I scoped out the location last summer and it’s going to be perfect. In order to get some participants, I opened the trip up to both 4th and 5th graders and did not limit it only to kids who are in our Small Group ministry (but next year I will for sure). I’ve got about 20 kids and about 20 adults attending. About 5 kids are going without parents and 15 going with one or more parents.
Here is my main reason for this post. For close to 9 months, I’ve been trying to contact churches and organizations who have experience taking kids this age on missions trips. I’ve been amazed at how everyone has not returned my calls or emails. I didn’t see any reason to re-invent the wheel here, but my hand was forced. I’d love to see more opportunities for kids to grow in this area. I’ll document this entire process on this website and share it with anyone wanting more information. You can also visit our SURGE blog where I post all our meeting information, documents and details. I’m also open to ideas and comments from others who may have experience in this. There is a real vacuume of information on this type of ministry and hopefully this would be the start of changing that.
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I think what you are doing is great. I have always wanted to take young kids on a missions trip. I just hasn’t been the right time. I have tried a couple of times and couldn’t work out the logistics. I would be very interested to follow your journey. A couple of problems I had trouble dealing with were:
1. What to do about chaperons. How many to take.
2. What country to go to where the kids would be safe to minister in.
3. What type of ministry would be most effective for them to do.
4. How long is to long how short is to short.
5. Would it be better to take kids who are in 5th – 7th grade or lower the age requirement to 3rd – 7th and make it a family trip where you facilitate a trip for families to experience together.
I will definitely be reading to see how everything goes. I went on a missions trip when I was 13 it changed my life. I believe every Christian needs to go on at least on short term missions trip.
Lastly – I know you said you were looking for people who have done this before. I know Craig Juntilla used to take his kids to New Missions in Haiti. I don’t know a ton of details, but we did a trip to Haiti and the missionary told us Craig brought kids down there.
Cool, I’ll try to address the problem areas you brought up. Simply put, this is how I’m addressing these things and it’s simply the product of logic, experience and the grace of God, ha!
First of all, there is a family who facilitates family mission trips already. Actually, they do the family trip to the exact same place we will be and will actually be there at the same time as well.We’ll just be there during the middle of their trip. After doing this a few times, they have limited the age to 10 year olds and above. Also, they do work projects and VBS at the orphanage where the adults lead the ministry and the kids help out. This tends to be a great experience… but my desire was to offer a mission trip with a differnt perspective. In this trip, the kids are the stars. The adults simply support the kid’s efforts in ministry. However, we do have a 1 to 1 ratio of kids to adults… so for some this is very much like a family mission trip… just kid centered.
My commitment to the parents from the very begining was that I would have small groups, one leader for every 3 kids. I knew I would have some extra support staff, but the groups would be small. As it turns out, I have groups of about 5 with an adult leader and and assistnat adult leader (no teenagers on this trip). So, my groups are a tiny bit bigger, but I’m doing better than a 1:3 ratio. I have support staff which include a few of my staff and some parents who are gophers, food prep, translaters and extra. My strategy is to personally have a direct line of communication/with the 5 group leaders. The other children’s pastor who is going (who is also fluent in Spanish) will directly lead the support staff. It works out really great this way. If Miguel (the other CP) and I need to get info out, I meet with my 5 leaders who can diffuse info to their assistants and kids and Miguel to the support staff.
Like I said before, we are going to a safe location in Mexico. It’s close, it’s cheap and I feel very comfortable with the area we will be in. With the right connections, I am sure that Haiti or Dominican Republic would also be great locations… I may have to look into that one as well. That was the location of my first trip too!
I’ll have the kids doing lots of relational ministry to the kids in the orphanage. It’s a great experience to see kids trying to interact with other kids who speak another language. They end up communicating with smiles, laughter and usually a good game of soccer! We’ll also do some simple service/clean-up tasks and possibly pass out food they will prepared to poor people in the city. However, my main purpose for taking this kids to Mexico is not for the kids to minister to Mexicans. The purpose is for kids to get a glimpse of the greater world around them, to push them out of their comfort zone and help them to see God’s heart for the lost (over 2 billion unreached still). We’ll take time to learn about the unreached (none of whom actually live in Mexico), begin praying for them and this stuff. I want the kids to become intercessors for global missions. They may never do it again, but I want them to know what it is about, and what they can do to help.
I’m doing a 3 night/4day trip. Not long enough for the kids to really get home sick, but short enough to leave them wanting more. I’d love to make it longer, but I think it could chance on being too long… especially for those who didn’t come with parents.
Last of all, I’m doing 3-5th grade becasue that is my division of grades for small groups in upper elementary. My plan is for Surge to be an opportunity for those who are already plugged into small groups… an opportunity to further build community. Usually these kids get missions opportunities in youth.. so I’m just giving some a head start.
Yes, I knew that Craig did mission with his kids. My hope was to ask the staff more about it when I was to be at PDCM… but it got cancelled. Just my luck. I’ve emailed the staff at Saddleback, but no one has gotten back to me. I’m sure they’re very busy right now keeping it all together.
Well, I’ll provide everything to anyone who wants to know. Schedules, ideas, projects, evaluations and the lot. How great would it be if more began offering trips like this to their kids.
My 10 and 11 year old sons are going with teen missions international this summer one is going to Belize and one to South Africa. They have been doing thaws preteen trips since 1989. Our church will not support them but they feel very called to go and we agree. They do 10 day boot camp and then serve 3 weeks. The Belize trip is a work project building sidewalks. And South Africa is washing the feet of the orphans and doing evangelism.