As we move toward the summer months, I'm certain many ministry leaders have faced the inevitable question of whether mission trips should happen this summer. Over the past year, countless youth and young adult gatherings have been canceled or moved online. This was a serious challenge for age-and-stage ministries that rely so heavily on relational connection. With some promise of moving back to normalcy in the months to come, people are asking the very challenging question, "Should we stay, or should we go?" I'd like to suggest the answer to both of those questions is the same: "Yes."
Let's start with staying. All thing considered, you should definitely stay. But by "stay" I mean you don't need to leave your town for a mission trip this summer. That doesn't mean, however, that the people in your ministry shouldn't be engaging in mission. Christ called us to a life vocation of bearing witness. Truth be told, summer mission trips shouldn't be the only time our congregations engage in mission and service. Serving others is meant to be our way of life as Christians and there are certainly many chances to demonstrate our love of neighbor within the boundaries of our own contexts. Thus, by "stay" I mean that, sometimes, when we really look in our own neighborhood, town, or city, we'll see that there are abundant opportunities to serve.
Unfortunately, we often relegate local mission to soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Not that those are bad places to show Christ's love, but there are so many other local needs, as well as organizations that seek to address those needs that could use some help. There are many social service–oriented nonprofits that could use a handful of folks to help with long-overdue tasks. Even closer to home, there are typically plenty of elderly and/or homebound members of our churches who would love to have a small mission team come and help them do their spring cleaning, tidy up their yards, or repair a dilapidated fence. Whether helping a nonprofit or serving the folks in your own congregation, there are plenty opportunities to STAY and serve folks locally.
Yet I know for some of your ministries, you just need to go somewhere and you've been given the "okay" to take a group out of town (with obvious caution). The challenge is that so many mission organizations are still not up and running this summer, so where can you go?
Perhaps, consider partnering with another church (from your denomination or just one you know about). I know there are plenty of smaller churches that could use a mission service team to help them accomplish some much-needed tasks around the church property. Partnering with churches to help them prepare for ministry is at the heart of mission service work. It may not be the most exciting trip in the world, but relationships are built through service, not only through a road trip to another town. Additionally, by serving a sibling church in their mission, you also will establish a relationship with that church, giving your team a chance to see ministry through the eyes of another context. In the end, regardless of whether you stay or go, know that there are ample opportunities to serve God's kingdom by helping existing ministries.