Millennials love social justice.
Give today's high school students an opportunity to serve, and most will take it. They'll readily fork over their money in support of companies, such as Toms, that benefit others. They'll also wield a hammer, make phone calls, raise money, cook and advocate on behalf of others.
In many ways, social justice is in. This makes our job as youth workers simultaneously easier and more difficult. Because serving is in, it's easy to sign up students for summer mission trips. What's hard is connecting their desire to serve with their faith. This is especially true in an age when the church is no longer the only—or maybe the primary—outlet for service opportunities.
As youth workers, one of the best ways we can help students connect their desire to serve with their faith is by digging into Scripture together. This is, without a doubt, a critical part of mission trip preparation. It connects students to the larger body of Christ (and to their history as a people of justice) and challenges them to follow Christ—not just by studying His words but by putting them into action. In so doing, Scripture helps teens see those they're serving not just as poor, helpless people but rather as people inherently worthy and valuable because they, too, are made in the image of God.
To prepare teens for their mission experience, discuss passages that address servanthood and unity. Two of my favorites are Philippians 2:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Rather than giving a talk about these passages, have a conversation about them in order to help students engage with Scripture more effectively, wrestle with their questions and come to lasting conclusions about what Scripture means for their lives. Discuss passages using questions such as these:
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- What students need most when they’re stuck spiritually
- The tearing of the curtain
- How do you not hate them?
- Messy Ashes
- What it means to be a Bradbury
- The (false) unity of 9-12
- Notes from the pandemic: The plight of young (unvaccinated) children & their parents