** This post is and excerpt from an article that I am writing for http://ymtoday.com It is that time of year when youth workers of all types start laying out the fall schedule. Everything from parent meetings to bible studies, from retreats to fundraisers needs to be creatively pieced together.
I would like to petition that one more item be added to your list. In November take some time to reflect, relive and reminisce about the summer mission trip. Then send those reflections to the leaders of the place you visited. It helps programs like DOOR reinforce what we are doing right and make needed corrections.
At DOOR, we have the privilege of connecting with groups as they plan their trips. We walk with participants as they experience the week. Occasionally we get completed evaluations from groups.
What we very rarely see or hear about is the longer-term learning. For most people it takes at least a couple of months, sometimes years to fully appreciate and understand what took place on the trip. Taking some time in November to remember and recall what happened and what is still happening will give some insights into how youth in your program learn.
What you hear may surprise you.
Don’t make any decisions on next year’s spring or summer trip until you have gone through this exercise.
Back in my days as a youth pastor some of the programs I gave the worst evaluations for ended up providing the experiences that most influenced the youth. It just took the youth and me a while to process what happened. Working through the cultural bombardment of a service project is not always easy. Getting past agency staff who rubbed you wrong takes time. First impressions can be right 50% of the time but that still leaves a significant margin of error. Time can help you and your group to verify or correct those impressions.
I hope you take the time to go through this exercise. When you do, feel free to let me know how it went!