by Heidi Aspinwall
The story of Samuel’s call, 1 Samuel 3, is a simple story of a young man given to serve in the temple by the mother who kept her promise to the Lord. One night Samuel hears God calling his name. Young adults yearn for such a simple call. They hope for an audible voice, even a whisper. Most young adults begin to consider the possibility of mission service as a result of a short term mission trip they went on, and they apply to serve in the mission field because they were encouraged by their pastors, campus minister, or youth director.
You could be the voice that calls a young adult into mission service.
God is doing amazing work. Ministries in cities and small towns, rural villages and ocean side, have all kinds of needs. There are many options for young adults of all skill levels to serve but the variety and number of opportunities constantly reminds me of Christ’s words, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few…” (Matthew 9:36-38) Undoubtedly every church has a young man or woman every year who should serve.
Many young adults need more than their high school education to prepare them for college. Service for a semester or a year can provide tools like refined interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, and office protocol. A year of service, and often simple living, can provide these very basic and increasingly marketable skills.
A year of mission service might be done in their particular field of interest. Many young adults wish to use language skills they’ve been studying in school. Others hope to discern between majors. Even if they are just answering the phone all day, a year of working in a low income medical clinic can help decide between pre-med, nursing, business, or social work degrees at all once. It may certainly convince a young adult the importance of higher education and good health care.
Serving in missions, they begin to see the church and the world as a much larger community. It reminds me of the cell phone service advertisement with the crowd of technicians standing behind. The participant may be introduced to the larger church structure within a denomination or will begin to see the relationships of the local church to their supported ministries. The act of raising financial support begins a new relationship with the elders not only in support but also in monthly reflection letters of the work being done.
Whether young people have over protective parents or they are just comfortable in the nest, eventually they will need to make the transition to adulthood. For some, that switch happens by moving away to a four year college. For parent and student alike, a term of service can provide a meaningful bridge to adulthood in both life experience and spiritual growth.
Some accelerated high schools are leaving our students completely burned out on school before they even reach college. A year of intentional Christian service not only reinforces the academics of the previous school work but also sparks the questions that lead to better students. Many universities will allow a year of deferred enrollment and some offer special scholarships for service prior to entrance.
Finding these opportunities is not difficult. Most denominations have programs just for young adult service. Some are for 18- to 20-year-olds specifically. All church organizations have long term missionaries and ministries available. While gathering these possibilities isn’t necessarily a youth director’s responsibility, the encouragement and development of youth people ready for God’s call is. To that end you have my respect and my prayers.
Heidi Aspinwall is the Associate Executive Director of DOOR Network.
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.