Teens are not always the most naturally selfless thinkers on the planet, so Christian parents and youth leaders who want to teach them to be mission minded need to aim for instilling attitudes of humility and service in the heart. Effective mission work stems from a deep-seated compassion for others, so when teaching teens about sharing the gospel in another culture, remember that people learn values through practice, not lecture. The best teaching ideas for teens involve the youth in establishing service and evangelism as a lifestyle and make them aware of missionary works around the world in need of prayer, support and supplies.
Encourage the youth to correspond with missionaries, organize collections for specific needs and participate in community and short-term service opportunities that touches hearts and opens ears to hear the gospel.Read letters from currently serving overseas evangelists, biographies and short stories to your teen youth group. Organize a library of ministry stories that the youth can check out. Challenge them to read about the experiences of someone who has served and give a brief report to the group. Pray together for any difficult situations that come to your attention through reading or your church’s news of those they support.
Creative Youth Ideas suggests creating a passport for each teen with a page for each continent or missionary time period. Stamp the corresponding passport page when the teen has read a book or completed an activity to learn about outreach efforts in that locale or time. Offer incentives completing a “world tour” of the mission field with at least one stamp on each page.
Teens can develop long-distance relationships with missionary children and teens around the world through pen pal programs available through many sending organizations. Talk to your pastor about overseas ministries that your church supports or contact your church’s mission board or an agency to pair teens up with a same age pen pal in the field. Ask teens for volunteers to share news and prayer requests from their pen pals. Help meet the ministry’s needs that come up by organizing a collection of money or supplies and sending care packages to the pen pals’ families.
A mission mindset starts with developing a servant’s heart towards others. Remind the teens that gospel service does not just take place in far-away places but starts right here at home, in their own community. Helping people with their needs demonstrates Jesus’ love in a practical way that makes them more receptive to your testimony of the gospel. Get your youth group involved in community cleanup days, food and clothes drives, packing and delivering food boxes to needy families, yard work and simple home maintenance for the elderly or shut-ins and serving at shelters and soup kitchens. Any kind of service to benefit others witnesses of Jesus and establishes a habit of “loving your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)
Personal experience on the mission field is a total immersion learning opportunity that opens teens’ eyes to the reality and heart of gospel service like no distance learning can ever truly convey. Many youth groups participate in short-term trips to Mexico, inner cities or poverty-stricken areas near home to assist the local residents with urgent needs or support their gospel outreach efforts. For more options, work with a mission organization to lead a youth service trip to many third-world areas in desperate need of relief and the good news of the gospel.
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Image courtesy of Steve McFarland – Flickr License